One of the most unfortunate things about quality education is that you can never see the benefits straight away.

In a world where everything must occur instantly, gratification must be immediate and results must be delivered yesterday, quality education will always be on a hiding to nothing. When this is coupled with a requirement to link expenditure to education, thus rendering it a commodity, education (which, paradoxically, is an experience that is rarely tangible) becomes a widget. Simple.

There are hundreds of thousands of sales people and business development managers out their who have extensive experience at selling widgets. The old phrase of ‘selling ice to eskimos’ is so often used to describe some sales staff because they are highly skilled in what they do. These skilled artisans can convince/persuade/cajole an individual or a company to buy copious numbers of widgets sometimes regardless of the price. But this, unfortunately, is where we come unstuck with education.

Education can never be a widget. To do so, would be to expect that every student of an educational provider are widgets as well. Let’s use manufacturingas an example. In this industry we have widgets that can fit into/onto other widgets to make the whole ‘new’ widget perform more efficiently, more effectively. Of course, the reality in education is that every student (read human), is unique. Therefore, trying to suggest that a human is a widget is ludicrous. Widgets are widgets because every single one is exactly the same. Why then, do governments and some educational providers insist on developing educational widgets that are never going to work on humans. Unique humans.

Easy. Money. Or at least money is what is hoped to be made or saved…

And this reason is a reality. Without money there can be little else, particularly education, let alone quality education. But of course, if money were the only issue and all we had to do as a society was sell widgets, than it would be a no brainer. The difference though, is there must be a difference in the widgets. Mercedes Benz and Kia Motors both sell widgets called cars. One is more expensive than the other, but one cannot match the other for quality and reliability and society knows this. Dyson, the vacuum manufacturer, only sells vacuum widgets (or products that work on cyclical air). Electrolux, also a vacuum manufacturer , sell refrigerator, washing machine and dryer widgets and yet who produces the best vacuum? Its a rhetorical question… Dick Smith Electronics just used to sell electronic widgets, then it tried to compete with Harvey Norman and others by expanding its product (widget) base and now is in serious danger of closing down. Something is awry here. I’m sure of it.

So why don’t some educational institutions focus on the educational widgets that they are good at and have a proven track record for and and tailor the widgets to fit the learner rather than trying to be a Dick Smith or a Kia Motors? Why don’t these providers aim to excel at a few things rather than be mediocre at a lot? Why not think about the student experience rather than the amount of revenue that comes through the door? Surely, if the student experience improves, the revenue will take care of itself. Mercedes Benz and Dyson have proved that (and they are just two examples).

Unfortunately, we need results yesterday. Humans and Education can never provide that.

And so the cycle begins again.

Its time to get off the hamster wheel…

Shane Mallory

Shane is a performer, emcee, host, communicator, creative, mentor and innovative theatre director. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland with his wife Natalie, who are almost 'empty nesters' providing a home for their two daughters' dog and two cats.


Jodi · March 3, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Well said Mr Mallory and I agree wholeheartedly. Education is an experience. It is not a matter of pay your dollars- pop your head open and pour the knowledge in. The concept of knowledge being power moved when technology provided the masses with the opportunity to access information (=content) anytime anywhere and anyhow for free ( or at least the cost of a download).

The focus of education for this age must be on building skills- critical reflection, critical analysis and research and application application application in the real world!!

Content is important but not the most important. It’s what you do with the content, the knowledge that matters. Focus on the resource= education is a commodity. Focus on the experience , the process, the sharing and collaboration , the building of knowledge by many and applying this knowledge – then you have change. You have people who can make change. Harder to quantify, harder to align a ‘money’ formulae to work out the cost but what an exciting world to live in!!

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[…] Education is not a commodity […]

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[…] slip silently away in a morass of inertia. I have spoken previously about this in my blog post on education not being a commodity and I am seeing the same scenario being played out more recently in the Dairy […]

Learning Culture – Shane Mallory · December 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

[…] public or private funding). It ensures that we can produce widgets (Don’t get me started on education not being a commodity as I’ve already ranted about that previously). It does not, unfortunately, focus on […]

Creative Business? - Shane Mallory · March 26, 2018 at 4:25 pm

[…] and creative in her own right) recently provided a way forward in a reply to one of my previous posts. Her advice was simple. We need to focus on the experience , the process, the sharing and […]

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