What constitutes education is controversial. Unfortunately the formal education system has been in a state of declining marginal returns to complexity for some time.
Standardization of curricula and testing have too often led to dysfunctional programs - propaganda in the guise of objective information, material presented in ways that do not fit with the minds or age-appropriate interests of young people, an emphasis on linearity of thought rather than holistic creativity, spoon-feeding of answers rather than encouraging critical thinking, teaching to the test, and encouragement of box-ticking and hoop-jumping as opposed to real learning.
If we cannot measure what is important, we make important what we can measure, and this takes all the substance out of education.
In higher education we encourage people to learn more and more about less and less, and pay dearly for the privilege. A reductionist approach discourages any development of synthesis or big picture thinking. Prevailing paradigms become entrenched and defended from new ideas through the funding system, so that it can take years, if not longer, to challenge received wisdom effectively. Money drives research agendas.
Too often conformity and orthodoxy rule, while intellectual curiosity and creativity are not rewarded. Toxic academic politics can dominate departments to the detriment of any genuine meritocracy, and junior staff can become trapped in exploitative positions by a rigid tenure system from which they are excluded. Publish or perish leaves academics with so little time to read the work of others that ideas do not propagate and build on each other as they should.
We need to rethink the concept of education from the bottom up, for learners of all ages. For children, education must fit with the way their minds work for them to retain information. That information must have some direct relevance, and there must be flexibility in the manner of its presentation.
For older students and aspiring students, encouraging intellectual curiosity is vital. We are capable of learning most things by ourselves given free reign. We do not need to dig ourselves into a debt hole from which there may be no return in order to learn.
We need to reassess what skills and information must be taught, in light of a changing world, and how information is to be preserved for future generations. This will be our major challenge. An oral tradition is very likely to re-evolve as we seek out and learn information that does not come from a formal curriculum, and as information storage become as major issue.
We need to begin the conversation as to where education should aim for and how it might get there in order that we have a hope of preparing future generations for the world they will be facing.