Society in the age of knowledge forgets to invest in school

We have long since entered what is called the knowledge society. A society in which scientific research and the application of its results have acquired extraordinary and pervasive economic and social significance. Which we sometimes do not realize because we take it for granted. It seems obvious to us to use the location features on our smartphone (and we get angry if it takes a few more seconds to locate us on a map) without reflecting on the extraordinary amount of scientific and technological knowledge that has allowed us to place satellites. in orbit, and which allows them to connect to devices that we can hold in the palm of our hand. Not to mention what is less obvious to us but no less relevant to this; such as the technological revolution taking place in diagnostic and treatment systems or in production and logistics processes. It is a revolution with a very significant economic and social impact, as it spares almost nothing of our lives, from work to leisure. In the knowledge society, the basic economic resource is the quality of human capital and therefore of education. Of course, the physical infrastructures are also relevant, which has been much discussed in recent months in relation to NRP’s resources. But physical structures are not capable of unleashing their potential in the absence of an equally significant investment in human capital. Saving time when traveling has value if it is worth people’s time, which depends on their productivity and the latter on the level of education and training. The same goes for information or goods; fast and sophisticated communication and transportation systems make sense if you have valuable goods to trade or sell. And the value of goods, whether tangible or intangible, increasingly depends on the quality of the work used to manufacture them. At all levels: from what is used for their design and design to what is needed for production and distribution. In an economy and a society moving in this direction, one would expect the main topic of discussion and investment to be the education system. At all levels: from primary school to university; and in all forms: from colleges to vocational schools up to the areas of lifelong learning. Conversely, the public debate on education is generally distracted and resigned. Distracted because we discuss it in convulsions and resigned because we live in the sense of an unshakable and unreformable system. This is incomprehensible when one considers the accumulated inadequacy of our education system to the challenges of the knowledge society. There has been further proof of this from the publication of the results of the Invalsi tests conducted by the candidates for the final exams, to which this newspaper dedicated ample space in last Monday’s edition. Marche is relatively well placed in the national context. But this can not comfort us, as the average data for our country highlights a situation that has been defined as an ‘educational disaster’. One in two students does not reach mathematics, Italian and English. A catastrophic average figure, corresponding to a high variation, between areas of the country and between institutions. A situation where the children’s level of preparation increasingly depends on the conditions in the family to which they belong. With all due respect to art. 34 of our Constitution. It is no coincidence that Italy has the lowest level of education of the youth population in the EU (excluding Romania) and among the highest rates of youth unemployment and inactivity. In this context, the education system should be the primary investment area and occupy the front pages of newspapers every day. On the other hand, it is likely that we will only hear about it at the reopening of schools next autumn (due to the long-standing problems of class formation and the coverage of professorships). And with the usual attitude between the distracted and the resigned.

* Professor of Economics at the Marche Polytechnic and Coordinator of the Merloni Foundation

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