The reality is that nearly 50% of the world’s population are under the age of 25 – that’s almost 3 billion young people. The numbers continue to increase on a daily basis. One of the big concerns regarding the increase in youth population is education and employment opportunities. It is a fact that as more young people are added to the world population, the higher the demand is for relevant education systems and employment opportunities.
In South Africa, thousands of young people graduate from schools, colleges and universities throughout the country every year. These are the people who are educated to take jobs in the corporate world in order to earn money and sustain themselves into the unknown future. However, the majority of them simply go back to their parents’ houses to sit and wait to get a job. I have met many of these young people with certificates and different qualifications but they are discouraged because they cannot find employment. From my interaction with them I have learned that one of the shortcomings of the public education system is that it educates young people to be job seekers and consumers.
I strongly believe that the education system should stimulate and give young people direction to a better future. This will enable them to use their talents and abilities in a manner, which serves others and respects the planet. Everyone who goes through the education system should be able to discover what he or she is good at and what he or she wants to do. The sad reality is that while the majority of graduates sit and wait for a job opening to become available, they are adding to the number of unemployed.
A big challenge is that the education system is not designed to help young people discover what they really are capable of doing. It actually squanders talents and abilities by encouraging good grades and obtaining academic certificates. I believe that if the young people can learn to know themselves and to understand what they are capable of doing, they will not have to look for jobs but they will create many new job opportunities. The truth is that there are so many gaps in society that young people can contribute to bridging. It is sad that they are not being equipped to fill the service gaps but rather feel they have to wait for someone to give them a job.
The reality is that the public education system continues to create more individuals who are takers. These are people who are seeking to acquire more and more because that is what they are taught to believe education is for. They are taught to believe that education will help them earn money in order to acquire the material things of life. That is why career choices are more about “how much am I going to get paid if I do this?” It is hardly about service and giving back. Those careers like community development, that encourage service and giving back, are looked down upon. In addition young people who choose to follow them are ruthlessly discouraged.
Part of the reason our society is experiencing climate change is that millions of people are not aware of the consequences of their consumer choices. The education system continues to shape more individuals who are consumers uninformed about their choices on the future. I believe that if we are to address climate change and other environmental challenges facing the present and future generations, we have to redesign the education system thoroughly. The focus should be on shaping individuals who understand and care about the fact that we are all part of a living planet system. This means that whatever we take out of it has to be given back – one way or another.
Martin Lurther King Jr said: “We all can be great, because we all can serve.” I believe that the public education system should focus on encouraging self-awareness, tolerance, understanding, care and service more than acquiring certificates and earning money. This will help young individuals to understand the significance of service for the benefit of fellow human beings and sustain the planet we all live on.