Tuesday, August 6, 2013


 In his book the “Origin of Wealth” author Eric D. Beinhocker deconstructs the concept of wealth and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is the origin of wealth; the more you know the wealthier you are or at least can be.

So professors should be the richest men around? Not necessarily.

Beinhocker’s thesis could be applied to individuals but it is easy to see this applied with the collective knowledge of a given society. The more knowledgeable societies are the richer ones.

"You are poorer than the next man because you do not know something he knows. And we are not talking about book knowledge. He has years of experience that allow him to take advantage of circumstances or he knows somebody who can help or he is at the right time at the right place and he is the right person because of the cumulative weight of his learning, experience and personality...

So to create a wealthy society we need to focus on accumulating knowledge, which would then bring our education system into sharp focus.

Our education system has not fundamentally changed much in the last century or at least it is not keeping up with developments around us.  But we need not feel so bad, we are not alone.

In the US for instance manufacturing jobs are being shipped abroad to low cost labour centers in Asia. Manufacturing is the biggest driver of jobs in developing economies and this has served the US well over the last two centuries of its existence. The US has moved up the value chain with jobs to be found in the high knowledge industries in services and technology.

As the wealth disparities in the American society widen they are forced to look harder at their education system.

Earlier this year New  York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that in the future—and it has already begun, people will not look for jobs but will have to invent their own jobs.

He said the current system is aimed at building “college ready” and not the necessary “innovation ready” students.

The former are pumped full of increasingly obsolete information while the latter are primed to be curious, creative and willing to take risks, prepared for an ever changing world where learning is a continuous process.

Education specialist Tony Wagner told Friedman, “Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ”

The three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic, will continue to be the basis of any knowledge but if you think about it, those are more less sorted out by the time you leave primary school. So what next?

In training children Wagner said in the article, “We need to focus on teaching and skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.”

The teachers’ job shifts from imparting rote learning to helping graduate learners.

It is a hard concept for us to wrap our minds around, us who have been brought up through our traditional systems, but we really have no choice.

Which brings us full circle to the issue of wealth creation and future income disparities.

"Given the above we can already tell by looking at who goes to which school, who will be falling behind the rich stakes ten-, 20-, 30- years from now. The winners will be the kids whose perspectives are being widened by exposure to many things, are introduced early to the concept of research and working in teams – all critical skills in the world now but will be even more so in the future....

For those who cannot imagine a world without tons of homework and burning the midnight oil for exams they should look to Finland, which is arguably the most innovative country in the world and well geared for the future.

In Finland, “They learn concepts and creativity more than facts and have a choice of more electives – all with a shorter school day, little homework and almost no testing,” Wagner says.

Your children’s success will be determined by what they know and reliving your own academic journey may not necessarily be the right thing for them in world, which will place more emphasis on what you can do and your adaptability than what you know.

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