Just being in school, however, is not enough. In 2016 there was a global shortage of 2 million teachers, making the average teacher-pupil ratio 1 to 23. Moreover, classrooms are often cramped and lack resources. Of those children in school, millions may never see a book.
This resource problem reinforces rote-based and didactic pedagogical practices. Students are often told to memorize equations textbooks, or blindly repeat in unison what’s written on the board, instead of thinking critically, asking “why” and gaining deep understanding. The effect: the most docile therefore receive the greatest societal rewards. Higher-order learning skills that favor criticism and imagination languish while rigid institutions reproduce themselves. And even worse, these children grow up to be adults who care little for knowledge and wisdom.
Enduring but evolving challenges make this status quo increasingly untenable. Climate change means the frequency and intensity of drought and natural disasters, which effect the poor most profoundly, will rise. Population growth and the threat to the wage of low-skilled labor by automation, as well as the increasing nomadism of poor communities (see refugee crisis), are other examples. The interplay of new technology and new social contexts today invoke moral dilemma that cannot be solved by appeals to numbers or inherited truths.