What is education worth? What benefits does education bring for society and individuals?

“In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. In others – they are starving for education. It’s like a diamond.” Education is the oxygen for opportunities. It’s a crucial social resource. But not everyone can estimate the chance of such a gift.

Education is the process of learning, the obtainment of new skills, knowledge, values, and habits. As we know, a person gets knowledge not only during the learning process but throughout the whole life cycle. Our world changes every day. Previously acquired skills become obsolete. If you don’t study every day, you will noticeably lag behind modern society.

The history of education

From the beginning of the 3500 B.C., various writing systems started to appear in ancient civilizations around the world. The oldest alphabet was developed in Egypt, around 2000 B.C. from a hieroglyphic prototype. People wrote hieroglyphs on monuments or papyrus. Latin alphabet originated in the 7th century B.C. in Italy and had changed over the last 2500 years. The Latin script is the most popular alphabet across the globe. The first ancient schools began to arise since the invention of writing. The method of learning was memorization.

Memorizing Text

However, not everyone had got the privilege to study. The process of studying was available only for children of the upper classes (such as priests, Pharaohs and so on), and very rarely– for ordinary people. When children were 6-7 years old, they started to go to elementary school and learned there reading, writing, and counting. The graded schools had appeared only throughout the Roman Empire. Then, the Germanic tribes came and destroyed the ancient world. Most of the students were the future clergy members. Church schools were preparing pupils for life beyond the grave. People studied mathematics to count dates of religious holidays and to sing in church services. The old schools were oriented not for ordinary children. Such schools were intended for clerks and clergymen. The school was typical for children of every age. But medieval education had some big problems as well. There were few materials for learning, and the influence of the church was very high. Chivalric education was prevalent at that time. Young men had to study poetry, national history, manners, and customs. During the 17th and 18th century the most schools were in the situation of stagnation. In the 17th century, philosophers began to develop various learning theories (J. Locke, J. Rousseau, Herbart, and others). In the 19th and 20th century schools had a lot of significant changes. Children finally went to grade school. Non-classical secondary schools had appeared by that time. As for the higher education, the first universities began to arise in England, France, and Italy. During the Middle Ages universities were not only institutions, where people could get knowledge but also places for various scientists researches. The university turned out to be a fundamentally new phenomenon for medieval Europe. It was a kind of a professional section for people with common interests. They gathered and studied a lot of sciences. As we can see, the history of education is complicated. It covers almost the entire world history.

Education for individuals and society

An individual’s financial profit from investment in education counts by comparison of the education costs. They include direct costs (tuition fees) and missed earnings throughout the study. Various nations charge different fees and use diverse financial models in their education systems. For example, the USA and U.K. give a lot of personal fees for education, while Scandinavian students make almost no contribution for studying at all. In France, tuition fees are low, and as well as the country’s support. In Korea and Japan, tuition fees are high. So, we can consider state support during the process of the individual’s education. The level of university fees depends on its relation to the country’s education structure. High earnings and future perspectives may be a stimulus for individuals to continue their education.

Students support

Over the last years, tuition fees at colleges and universities have increased to satisfy coming up demands. Despite this fact, university/college tuition fees still vary in different countries. A lot of universities suggest monetary grants. It helps young people to pay an available sum of money. Students borrow money for education and investigate it in their future. Earnings differ by a type and subject of the university. In the US the highest incomes are connected with an engineering degree and the lowest – with humanities subjects. The quality of education also influences future earnings. So, the type of subject and institution are essential facts when calculating the benefits of higher education. Governments have been investing in the learning process for many years. Public contribution in the education remains stable in many countries. For example in the U.K educational sector is the third largest for spending. China, India, and Brazil have increased their public investments.

Government expenditure on education

Government invests in education to raise the country’s economic growth, to contribute to personal and social development, to reduce social inequality, and to increase citizen’s productivity. Many available facts show how education can stimulate economic growth with an improvement in productivity. The governments not only spend money on the education of their citizens but also make money from investments in the education of highly skilled people. Workers can enhance the tax they pay at work. The rates of return from public investment into education calculate by estimating the education costs. But of course, male social benefits remain much higher than women’s. It highlights imbalance between male and female earnings at the job market. The country’s returns also differ in the type of education. The highest human returns have students with academic titles. Learning process ensures some other social advantages. Such profit includes high life satisfaction, lifetime extension, less crime in the society, and active involvement in public life.

The future challenges of education

During the next 10–20 years the education system should overcome several essential problems. It includes organic, demographic, automation, technological and other challenges and their effect on people’s future workplaces. The educational system needs some modifications and adaptions to satisfy people’s demand and to guarantee the knowledge development at the future workplace. The education market is at the period of stagnation right now. Demographic and technologies factors lead education to the significant demand. It means that the educational system needs to improve its efficiency and productivity. The problem of productivity is that people want to graduate more qualified students with stable and fewer amounts of expended resources. But it’s almost not possible in today’s world reality. Automation in manufacturing and global industrial powers means the evolution of economics and can’t count on the manufacturing sector for growth. They need to pay attention to services. People’s spending offers an essential way for many developing countries to improve their economic growth. However, such a large number of potential students require high costs. Demographic trends in such countries as Brazil, China, India, and Chile will increase both enrollment rates and financial resources. Effective use of resources causes frustration in education. As expects, over the next 15-20 years the education demand will rise. Colleges and universities will graduate a significant amount of students. It would require a lot of teachers, and as well, financial funds.

Characteristics of Effective Education

So, two factors need to take into account when assessing the productivity – completion, and costs. Completion efficiency of higher education is a measure of a particular institution. It’s also important that universities can rule their costs. That helps to improve institutional mechanisms and research opportunities. A growing challenge is one of the principal social problems. Education should be equal and sequential for everyone. Without practical training in childhood, you can’t claim to get an efficient tertiary study. Access to the learning process depends on the level of parental upbringing as well. In some developing countries, it also differs between urban and rural regions. Educational inequality also remains a fundamental educational issue. For example, let’s see the difference between men and women imbalance when getting a higher education.

Tertiary Education

And, as well, in the United States, the minority groups are over-represented in less selective tertiary institutions and under-represented in more selective universities. In the U.K. – the minority groups are also less likely to achieve a top degree in universities. Technological challenges will influence future education too. There will be essential changes in skills, needed for various professions. It’s a problem because nowadays we don’t have enough knowledge to prosper the digital area. The education system should make everything that people would be able to re-train and re-learning themselves during life.

What is education worth? Education is a substantial resource for getting new knowledge. You don’t need a necessity to stop self-education. Learning is a life process. It should be available to everyone. The more educated people – the more money and financial benefits the country has, and the more civilized the land is. The more qualified people we have in the country – the better service people have in different life areas.

Author: Alexej Pikovsky

Passionate about investing in private and public companies and a successful track record across different industries and geographies. German Academic Foundation Scholar and Research Affiliate at the Centre for Global Finance and Technology at Imperial College London. Addicted to reading and sharing industry deep dives. Enjoy!