Sachin Nandha, 2010 Published in HPD Magazine, March 2010

The Education Factory
Millions of students are churned out of our education system every year, but are they being educated?
Plato, a Greek philosopher in the 4th century B.C. wrote that education must have a “telos”; an end in mind; an end that allows each individual to “flourish” in his or her unique way. To flourish he meant to find eudemon, that’s happiness to you and I. Education for Plato was about equipping each person with the right knowledge, and skills so that they would have a shot at finding happiness. What’s the telos of our education? where do we want to take our education? We spend most of our early lives going through the education system. Quite literally tens of thousands of young people are going through an identical process. This is mass education. We are the products in this system; you are it; I am it; ones that may have gone a little wrong, but near enough what was intended. And just as any mass produced good, we too are made in a factory. A factory where blank three year olds (indeed, I’m assuming the idea of table rasa) are supplied, and after a minimum of thirteen years on the conveyor belt, they are tested for quality called GCSE’s to mark them as approved, or are “encouraged” to carry on down the conveyor belt to get a free upgrade. Quite literally schooling is a factory – an enlightening, totally necessary, and a useful one, but nevertheless, it remains a factory. Mass produced goods are the output of all factories, the schooling system is no different. We are all mass produced, give and take small variations. Just as on any conveyor belt flexibility is in short supply, and so any great variation in the production process is not a viable option. I also realised the schooling system had similar issues to that of industry – there are suppliers of raw material (in this case human beings), factory floor workers (we have Why are we studying, accumulating thousands of pounds worth of debt? Where will it take us, or more importantly

teachers), a process (we have a curriculum), tight quality control (we have examinations now for six year olds), different conveyor belts for slight variations (we have options for 14 year olds and we distinguish the better products from the rest) and the products must be pushed onto a customer (an employer) once quality control approve it as suitable. What is the
“point” of our education factory? It’s here that Plato’s issue with a telos comes into play. This is an instrumentalist approach, something which Plato deplored because it neglected the “spirit of living”, the human aspects of life, love, death, pleasure and happiness. Most people spend the best part of a quarter century in this factory because they believe that it’ll lead them to a better job or vocation. The government too wants this. It’s what mass education is. It’s a medium to supply industry, commerce, the free market with educated

material (labour) so as to drive the economy even further. All products, including you and I,
are going to be shipped off to a company or organisation, which would use us for their own ends. In return we would be paid, given a pension, praised and given the opportunity to progress within the hierarchy of the firm. The telos, the end goal of our mass education

Sachin Nandha, 2010 Published in HPD Magazine, March 2010 factory is to serve the economy. You and I are mere commodities to be traded within the market. Adam Smith was right. The law of supply and demand would come to rule all aspects of our existence. Is this how we want to be valued? Surely, every person has an innate talent, a talent that if nurtured would bring us Plato’s eudemon, even if the market doesn’t quite value it. Ultimately, we want to cultivate the skills and talents that will bring us maximum happiness – well, what are those skills? One thing is for sure; it will not be found or nurtured in the education factory. What is the alternative? Is there an alternative? I certainly believe there is an alternative. The solution is a non-instrumentalist way of looking at our education. Education must focus on living a Platonic view of lifelong learning. Thinkers such as Ken Robinson, ex professor at the London School of Economics, now in California has been proactively working with the “powers that be” on developing and exploring new ways of educating a population to live, not merely work. The problem seems to be that there is no appetite in our society for great educational revolution. And there lies the greatest threat to our standing in the World – the Romans lost their appetite to reform; as did the Greeks before them; and so it seems with us – educationally speaking!