Education funding: not just a question of how much
A recent American study has pointed out that in recent times there has been more spending growth in healthcare and education than in any other sector of society. Despite this major focus on these sectors, there is more dissatisfaction with both than with almost anything else. Healthcare demand always seems to outstrip supply regardless of expenditure, and there are constant complaints about the quality of the service and the effectiveness of its delivery. Education spending growth is followed regularly – or so it seems – by a general perception of the decline of standards.
These are, however, the two issues that will dominate public awareness over the coming decade or two. Every foresight exercise looking at future trends – like this one from Luxembourg – identifies them as key to planning for the medium term future.What both have in common is an explosion in demand: in health because of various demographic issues, and in education because of government policy, demography and a desire for up-skilling. Both sectors use methods of distribution much more appropriate for lower levels of demand.
In higher education we are faced with scarcity of funds coming alongside growth in demand, and the system is creaking because institutions are trying to meet this challenge by doing a whole lot more of the same with declining resources, a trick that nobody can really pull off. The time has come to look at how teaching, and teaching methods, and educational platforms can be adapted to these new times while also enhancing quality and standards. The answer seems to me to be that we must use more new technology and say goodbye to some very labour-intensive classroom practices. I doubt we have many other choices. Unless exhaustion and collapse is a valid choice.