February 17, 2013

When education is a business

This past weekend I met a large group of teachers through a friend, which lead to typical sharing of teacher stories. And one teacher was complaining about the changes to her school in the past few years. Originally, she loved the school and thought that it had great programs and goals. But lately it has become increasingly apparent that the school is for-profit and money has become it's number one goal, rather than education. The new principal, for example, refers to students and parents as "clients."

If you've ever worked retail (or been a self-entitled/unsatisfied customer,) you know that the client is always right. But the problem with applying that principle to education is that the client is rarely right. Education is full of being wrong, then being told that you're wrong so that you can fix it. But if I can't tell you that you're wrong, how are you going to become educated?

Many children have learned to take advantage of this system. Worst case scenario, a child knows that he cannot be kicked out of school (since his parents pay for it) and he also knows that he cannot be failed (since that would displease the parents.) So no matter how much trouble he causes and how little work he completes, he will always get a passing grade. And his parents are one of two types. One type just doesn't care about the education of their children. The other type spoils the child mercilessly and thinks he can do no wrong; clearly its the teacher's fault that he is misbehaving and not getting better grades. In either case, the child doesn't suffer for his mistakes, and gets to keep coming back to school and moving up the grades with his friends. It is entirely possible for the child to learn absolutely nothing, with zero consequences.

And nobody wins when that's the system.


  1. I can totally relate to this post. I heard about a professor whose student told him that because she paid tuition, that made her the professor's "boss". Students like that (and the ones that you described) have a strong sense of entitlement; they don't realize that they have to earn (rather than buy) their grades.

  2. If that is the norm in Abu Dhabi, then I fear for it as a country. Even in retail, where the saying "the customer is always right" seems to come from, employees tell customers that they're wrong all the time!

    And as an educated person, I will never comprehend why some people think that education is not important.

    1. It's not the norm for the whole country. And the public schools are trying really hard to be tough. Most of the education has the right idea, they're just not quite ready to do it right yet. It is a new system, after all, especially when compared to Western countries with their hundreds of years of education-making.

      And like Chantelle said, some of the prestigious private schools have built up a reputation and can be more strict with their standards. (Although they still do cater to the royalty and super rich.)

  3. That's a typical problem in Seoul, but one way to get around it is by building a strong brand. If a school has an excellent reputation - it's easier for it to kick bad kids out, because there are always others waiting to fill their spots.

    On the other hand, though, if someone has enough money, he can pretty much buy anything (friends, houses, some success) and doesn't have any real need for a job - so it's no surprise that some kids act like that because it's probably the way their parents were raised too.