The privilege of education

Zeynep Kevser Şahin is from Istabul, Turkey. Please read her entry and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela said, but is this weapon available to people all over the world? The ideal answer would be yes, but unfortunately, I firmly believe that education is a privilege.

This essay will contain my explanation of why I believe education is a privilege, starting with the most idealistic answer, and ending with the most realistic one.

Socrates defines education as “The kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Today, however, schools and courses focus on filling the students’ brains without actually teaching them, either by force or with consent, with little to no exceptions. This form of approach makes the students see school as a burden and a source of anxiety. Young people tend to love learning, but absolutely despise anything to do with school. This is mostly because of the universally accepted education system.

With the avoidance of real-life topics, or lessons that would make students inquire and question, the general education system lacks in kindling the flame of students. Systematized tests and exams dull the students’ ability and motivation to learn. This, after a while, makes the students lose interest in learning, and start memorizing, or in other words, start filling their vessel instead of sparking their flame.

Furthermore, the students who choose to further their education in this system are expected to pay excessive amounts of money to be able to receive an education. In many countries especially and most drastically in the United States, many undergraduates and Ph.D. students get in enormous debts to enroll in proper schools. According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, as of the second quarter of 2018, student debts have reached a total of more than 1.5 trillion dollars. This number alone proves that achieving a proper, beneficiary education is a privilege. Even though almost all the countries in Europe provide a free education, or at the very least provide scholarships.

Malcolm X once very wisely said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” He was, of course, absolutely in the right while saying this, but in some cases, avoiding education in order to be financially stable may be a smarter way to prepare for tomorrow.

Having stated that even in fully developed countries educational opportunities are quite slim, and students need to make grave sacrifices to receive an education, there are some countries where girls do not get a proper education. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics global databases, as of 2016, 34 million young girls are not enrolled in a primary school. That is multiple generations of daughters, sisters, mothers, and most importantly individuals whose flames are left unlit. Those young girls are unable to get an education, proper or not. While this will have catastrophic results on future generations, like the previous generation’s lack of education affected the current one, it will have even a bigger and a greater effect on the individuals.

Aristotle states, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” While in some places in the world people have at least a chance to educate themselves and take the place of the living, these 34 million girls are doomed to be dead.

Moreover, the children who are denied an education are not only girls, according to UNESCO, as of 2016, 53 million children of primary school age cannot go to school. These children are an enormous part of the future.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines privilege as, “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Education is a privilege because the quality or even the existence of it differs according to the student’s gender, wealth, and nationality.

To summarize, I firmly believe that education is a privilege, not a right. Millions of children around the world are not enrolled in school, while the luckier students have to get in debt to receive a higher education. Even if they manage to get educated, the universally accepted form of education is not right, as it only fills the vessel.

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