I recently posted a point of clarification that education is not an industry and caught flack from business folks who make a living by creating or propagating products and services designed to serve the space. These are bright people who work for (and even run) fantastic organizations and while I respect their opinions, I figured I’d take the time to be deliberate in explaining what education is (according to economists) since it seems we have a semantics issue.
Investing in Humans
If you’re here for the answer, I’ll make this quick so you can go about enjoying your socially-distanced summer. Economists view education as an investment in human (capital).
As with any investment (like those in physical capital) there are investment costs, returns on the investment, and effects on productivity.
- Costs accumulate, as human capital requires investment in the same way physical capital does
- There’s a potential return on investment in the form of higher incomes
- There’s an increase in productivity as people accumulate the skill(s) required to produce more output – as measured by Gross Domestic Output (GDP).
‘Human Capital’ is by no means a new term. It can be rooted back to 18th century Economist Adam Smith. How we view and measure education as an investment has been radically challenged in our lifetimes, though (if you’re an adult reading this in 2020), because of…you know….climate change, cloud computing, AI, IoT, long-awaited social unrest… oh – and a global pandemic, to boot.
2020 just became 20?? and I’m focused on Education.
Here in the United States, primary and secondary education, better known as ‘K-12’ has (for the most part) reached the end of its ‘school year.’ Edtech is surging but parents have notes and school leaders are getting ‘guides to the guides on reopening.’ Many in the industry (🤭) are theorizing, philosophizing, imagining, re-imagining (could one more ‘re’ could do the trick 🤔) about what’s going to happen as schools try to reopen in the fall but if we’re being honest, my friend Lauren pretty much explained it all here:
…seriously though, friends – be safe and follow the advice of trusted sources regardless of who you are or what you do!
In the forthcoming ‘part 2‘ I’ll go a little further into topics like the:
- Three Sector Model of the economy (hint: there’s more than three, now)
- Why Thomas Friedman made a meaningless graph …and
- Purple People and Indigo Children
And finally – I’m going to explain why more schools should seriously evaluate and consider leveraging technologies traditionally thought of as ‘business tools,’ to manage their organizations in Business Tools and K12 Schools.