‘Utility’ of education and the role of transformative agency: Policy challenges and agendas
Over the last two decades, increasing participation rates in post-secondary education in many countries have been accompanied by decreases in aggregate economic growth and raising social tensions. It is obvious now that education does not ‘automatically’ produce more well-being (at least, if conventionally measured through income or gross domestic product) either for the individual or for society. This puts the question about education’s ‘utility’ in a new light, especially in relation to funding, which is central to the policymaking process. We briefly review literature on various rationales for supporting education and analyze existing evidences concerning the effects or consequences for societies of such investments in education and its related expansion. We outline two alternative agendas for positioning education in the framework of broader socioeconomic development. These agendas stem from different answers to the core question: can education drive the change in other spheres of societal life, or does it only respond to and follow the logics of larger institutional transformations? We suggest greater recognition in policy and public debates of the possible contribution that education may have to shaping transformative agency, and outline related prospects and potential pitfalls.