Plato argued that there is nothing wrong with turning education over to élites, as long as they lived on the chance to help students ask meaningful questions, rather than give half-baked answers.
So far, education has a completely different scope than being a privilege for few.
Through MOOCs, scholarships and merit prizes, we are trying to expand the audience of universities as much as we can. We encourage students to get to university and make the most of it.
Europe pushes us forward too, and it fixed a ratio for graduates to be 40% of the population of each member country by 2020, but Italy is (and will be) still far behind that figure. Of course, a good orientation is essential, but the point is that the university in the 21st century is far more inclusive that in Plato’s times.
However, the point on the purpose of education, from Plato to our days, is still there. As educators, what is our role? Should we give answers or ask more questions? In the age of the Internet, the one in which we do not necessarily need to go to the school building to have the information we can easily find elsewhere, education is changing too. And it does because it integrates – or at least, should integrate – aspects that make the educational path unique and still fundamental. Because it asks more questions and searches for less answers.
Companies require graduates who have the skills, more than experiences, and flexibility to learn some new. Who can work in teams or manage a project; who are willing to never stop learning.
School and university are the places where this is still possible and desirable, because here is the place where the personality of a student is developed as much.
Yes to education, then, but by training to critical thinking and not (just) giving answers.
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)