This Is Why We Need Leaders

An Essay About Education — And Why Donald Trump Is Not An Option

Dead Poets Society (1989)

There are hundreds of different approaches orbiting around the word “leader”. Starting with sophisticated sociological perspectives and finishing with indispensable self-help manuals, the dilemma revolving around the question “what makes a leader?” is still and open thread.

However, it seems our present society knows a lot about what makes a leader, but too little about how to turn theory into practice. A simple glance thrown at world’s present state of affairs proves it.

Europe, not to say the Western world, has no true leaders anymore. And this is not a problem itself, but rather judging by the consequences it breeds: intolerance, anger, bad shortcuts, emotional choices, etc.

In 2014, the Nobel committee announced the Nobel Peace Prize would go to Malala Yusafzai. A teenage Pakistani girl became, from her hometown in Swat Valley, a symbol of resistance, fighting for her right to education.

In the meantime, in the Western world, open access to free education is not questionable. Formal education is compulsory for all children up to a certain age. The UN announced that in the next three decades more people are going to receive formal education than in all human history.

Meanwhile, extremism is expanding, intolerance is flourishing, and so does ignorance. We prepare our military. We adjust our social security systems. We practise political correctness. But we to do too little for our education systems. In spite of emotional speeches and speculative manuals, Alexis Tsipras and Donald Trump are everything the Western world was able to give in terms of leadership. The world needs no education reform — it needs a whole new frame of reference.

My home country is Romania. I grew up here, I was educated here. I have been hearing about reform in education since I was 10. Now I am 30. And even if I still hear about reform in education, nothing seems to have changed. Even more, statistics are worsening. Almost 45% of the total population has a low education level, 41% medium education level, and only slightly over 14% a high education level. To make a brief comparison, in 2010, the working population in the UK had: 19,20% low education level, 44,40% medium education level, while 35,40% had a university degree.

Romania is among the last five countries in the European Union based on the budget allocated to education. The public expenses assigned to education values approximately 4% of the country’s GDP. The average of the EU is of 5.34% of GDP. Romania is still below that, despite having increased the ratio in the last couple of years. The highest spending on education is recorded in Denmark, with 7.8% of the GDP, Cyprus, with 7.2%, and Sweden, with 6.67%.

Yet, the problem is not about my country or any other country. To the same extent, the problem is not about the amount of money, but about how money is spent. The reforming of the education system should result in innovation, value and game-changing leaders.
Dead Poets Society (1989)

Leaders play a key role in supporting learning, structuring social settings and mitigating external demands. Their goal should be to boost a country’s strategic position, reduce disoccupation, and improve economic growth.

But improving learning and teaching is the only way to creating leadership.

There is still much to learn about who provides such leadership, how it is distributed across the system, and what stimulates it. To the same extent, there is still a lot to learn about how schools respond to state policies, how states respond to the necessities of the 21st century, and how or if they are able to deliver strong innovative thinking, which is key to sturdy leadership education.

Nevertheless, any system, small or big, is made of individuals. So, until a better solution comes up, there is a strong possibility that reform starts with each of us taking a stance and daring to make a difference. Uncomfortable as it may be.

***

Cronian Academy is the first university technology accelerator program in Romania, a non-profit with a vision for a more effective formal tech education. In the past five years, we grew a strategic partnership with the University of Bucharest, namely the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, centred around advancing the curriculum and course delivery. Since 2016, Cronian Academy started teaching Computer Science in Creative Industries to high school students, namely at High School Of Architecture “I.N.Socolescu”, in Bucharest.

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