[CASE STUDY PROVIDED BELOW]
A subject which isn’t getting enough attention nowadays is the growing cost of education, a cost which is placing significant burden on families wanting the best for their children and / or on the children themselves who incur long term debt in the hope of securing a future for themselves.
There really is little choice as getting a job almost anywhere nowadays requires some qualification and / or experience.
And even then, these graduates don’t have practical knowledge and so their chances of gaining employment are minimal (I suspect most employers are like myself, seeking practical experience as a pre-requisite).
Unfortunately, many educational systems are experiencing major shortcomings and are not too dissimilar to what is happening with global economies at the moment – i.e. bursting at the seams ready to implode leaving many high and dry.
The rich schools and those who can afford to send their children there are doing OK … but there has to be a new approach which caters for the less privileged or progressively we may find ourselves with an inadequately trained workforce to tackle continued economic change.
At the moment, many less privileged students are working their way through University in some cases doing un-related tasks such as waitressing just to survive. In the Philippines, a recent report stated that 18% of students at one University are working in bars / prostitution just to pay their way through. That’s really a sad plight to be in – and prompted me to write this post.
Yes, Governments can pitch in and make a major contribution. However, at the end of the day, it is best that private enterprise drive initiatives in order for any new system to work effectively.
Following is a post I submitted on Google+ two months ago which provides a snapshot of a system which I’ve always admired … and believe is very appropriate for less developed countries in particular, but which could also be applied in developing countries in a modified way.
THE REASON: It encourages practical skills rather than academic skills … at no cost to the community, the individual or family!
This particular example relates to agricultural and engineering related skills / education.
However, there is no reason why the same principles cannot be applied to other areas where the children are taught skills in a formal classroom and then apply those skills in practical commercial roles – an apprenticeship scheme approach driven by a school rather than a private enterprise.
This can easily be applied to areas such as graphic design, web development, software development, language / translation services etc. In fact, any sector where practical skill sets are the end objective / outcome.
Graduates have a “body of commercial work” which they can subsequently use to secure real employment. This overcomes the biggest obstacle graduates face!
Yes, you can always employ students privately and help them develop commercial skills that way. However, the big problem in less developed countries is that many children with potential never get to be students in the first instance … because they simply cannot afford to do so! The model below addresses this.
Please read this with an open mind and think of the possibilities it opens up…
Diyagala Boystown – Sri Lanka (An Amazing La Salle Facility)
I did three trips to this facility in the 1990’s when working with Boystown Australia. The Diyagala Boystown facility is perched in the mountains behind Columbo and in those days you had to drive up a pot holed dirt road to get there.
Their concept is superb:
- They accept only children from poor families in nearby villages and bring them up the mountain to live and learn.
- They provide formal classroom education – in agriculture, engineering, baking etc
- This formal education is supplemented by practical skills learnt in factories which they established on the premises.
- After 4 years, the boys graduate and are ready / qualified to get jobs back in mainstream Columbo.
It’s the same model which many technical training schools around the world adopt with one big difference…
THIS SCHOOL IS FREE YET IT IS ALSO TOTALLY SELF-FUNDING!
There are no government or community grants here and so the school had to find a way to fund the education process for the kids – in the mid 1990’s this ran at US$50,000 / month.
To get around this, they took a commercial position:- the produce and products the children generated during their practical training is packaged up and sold! Quality was therefore imperative and so the boys were taught “quality control” procedures from Day 1.
- In the 1990’s, they somehow would get rusted shipping containers up the mountain, the boys would be taught how to re-furbish them, and then the finished product would be taken back down the mountain and sold back to shipping companies. The boys learnt milling, welding skills etc.
- They acquired an old wire machine which had been tossed away by a company during the 1980’s, they re-furbished it and set up a wire manufacturing facility which produced wire which they then sold. The boys learnt the art of making wire.
- The land component is quite large so they also leased tracts to foreign companies to establish their own manufacturing plants as well which were run independently and employed local staff (not the students).
The focus on quality meant that students from this school always managed to secure work when they graduated. (Remember, these are poor kids who would not have had a chance any other way.)
This is a TOTALLY NOT-FOR-PROFIT CENTER run by the La Salle Brothers. Any extra funds generated were always channeled back into developing better living quarters for the children, more educational options, etc. I imagine those same principles apply today (I have not been back there since the 1990’s).
It’s an incredible initiative by the La Salle Bros.