Should education be free?



I came across this image on Facebook in which Noam Chomsky explains how the current, fee-based education system perpetuates a self-defeating consumerist society. He’s talking about the American system where students have to get in debt in order to get higher education. By the time they are out of college, they are in big debt and paying it off becomes an immediate priority. This doesn’t give them much space for independent thinking. They get sucked into the rat-race and then become a part of it.

A higher fee makes education mercenary, it turns it into a commodity, from a pursuit of enlightenment. But then resources need money. Educators and administrators need to be paid. Buildings, infrastructure and upkeep require money. From where does this money come? Mostly from students, and partially from donors, sponsors and government subsidies. What if students don’t have to pay anything?

There can be many outcomes. In India the amount of fee you pay depends on the type of higher education institution you are attending. Some often lament that most students don’t take education seriously because they have to pay pittance, and it might be true. How people claim, proudly, that they mostly bunked classes in college. Would they have bunked them had they been paying a hefty fee? I doubt that.

Does a higher fee instill as sense of seriousness both among the educators and the students? To a great extent it might be true.

So the problem is not with a higher fee or the debt students incur in the process. The problem is the approach we take towards education. It no longer remains an intellectual pursuit. Neither teachers nor students these days understand the true meaning of education. Instead of becoming a stairway to a particular career (there is nothing wrong in that inherently) education must become a stairway to enlightenment and a higher form of thinking. Since current education system completely focuses on the certificate that you eventually get, the important part gets lost, the learning part. What matters is the degree, not the education we have attained. What matters is the numbers and grades we have acquired, rather than the values we have developed.

This pretty much sums up what I intend to say:

Contemporary education system

The value-based education system will stand us in good stead in every field, whether it is science, humanities our technology. With a better frame of mind we are in a better condition to contribute, even if we have lots of debt to pay. The message from Chomsky comes out of his leftist leanings and not from a true desire to find a lasting solution. The lasting solution would be to make the education a state of being, rather than a certificate. Expensive or inexpensive education doesn’t really matter.