Let’s look at your investment in education.  If you graduated from high school, you spent about twelve years in a structured, organized, and a managed school program.  Excluding homework and travel to-from your school your in class time may have consumed 2,100 to 2,200 days or about 10,800 to 11,000 hours of your life.  If you have a four-year university or college degree, you may have spent another 36 to 45 months in school.  Add to your school time hours of your life spent in other training and education programs for specialized work related certifications, licenses, and professional recognitions and four  things become evident.

  1. Education and training have already taken many hours of your life. Investing your time in education may lead to your continued successes.
  2. The investment in your education, considering time and money, is significant as you consider finances during your span of life.
  3. The infrastructure delivering educational programs, services, products, and a range of opportunities are huge, complex, and financially very significant in the economy of most every nation and society. Education and training are large and profitable businesses.
  4. Education is hugely important and everywhere we find advanced and complex systems designed to deliver teaching-learning programs within a bureaucratic structure we call a system of education.  The bureaucracy of education stretches into all levels of education and even into learning and teaching programs beyond institutions considered schools.

With this complex system touching us all there is risk. The following comments may be more specific to the United States of America but they may be applicable in all settings with comprehensive programs supporting education.

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform is the title of the 1983 report  of considered a landmark in modern American educational history. The report contributed to the ever-growing, and still present, sense that American schools are failing.  It touched off a wave of local, state, and federal reform efforts to make things better.  Now in 2013, we may still consider risks in education significant and we may agree improvement is necessary.  The news is positive because our continuous improvement initiatives continue.

Education Next is a report issued by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.  In 2003 an Education Next report from the KORET TASK FORCE on K-12 education explored the significant amount of activity to further build quality as process and result in schools but they identified three risks why educational successes were lacking:

  1. The resistance to change from the organized interests of the K-12 public education system, at the center of which were the two big teachers’ unions as well as school administrators, colleges of education, state bureaucracies, school boards, and many others, was underestimated.
  2. The underestimated tenacity of the “thoughtworld” of the nation’s colleges of education, which see themselves as owners of the nation’s schools and the minds of educators.  These educational institutions, these colleges, took the position they were free to impose their ideas on future teachers and administrators regardless of evidence about their effectiveness.
  3. There was, and still may be, an underestimated large number of Americans, particularly in middle-class suburbs, believing their schools are basically sound and academically successful.  This misapprehension may arise from a lack standards-based information, honest information and data, from objective outside sources concerning the true performance levels of schools.

We can wonder about the impacts of our educational systems.  If we the people stand back and allow the system to drift, falter, and even fail, we will pay the consequences.  The priorities for education, preschool through the universities and colleges, must be clearly understood and delivery of results is to be demanded.

We are at risk if our systems of education and training are not delivering results. If deliver is not on standard then corrective action needs to be taken.  The education issues extend beyond schools into training programs for workers on the job, and entering the work force.  Our system of education is life long.  Pre-school, K-12 school, home-schooling, colleges, universities, trade schools, marketed training courses, online learning opportunities, on-the-job training, and even self-education “for the fun of it” is a very important activity.

Risk exists when we pay little attention to confirming outcomes. Expectations need to be high and confirmation expectations are met is necessary.

Our biggest risk in education is to sit back and just allow the program to happen. Confirmation of outcomes meeting standards is necessary.  Involvement in the setting of the standards is important and we are at risk if we just sit back “allowing those other people” to set standards.  Our systems of education serve us and we need to be involved.

Are you at risk if your physician has an inadequate education?  What are the risks of the mechanic repairing the breaks on your automobile has inadequate training?  Is the pilot flying the airplane current on training with usable knowledge related to the flight conditions?  Is the teacher at the neighborhood school trained and does that teacher perform at a level in compliance with standards set by us the people?

Did you read the January 14, 2013, report posted at the Bloomburg Business Week site where we learn that, “As many as 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs remained vacant across the U.S. due to shortages of skilled workers, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s most recent skills gap report.”  Is there a deficiency in our education and training systems?  Are we in need of a reform?  What actions are needed?

Stop and ponder, for a moment the risks faced by an inadequate system of education.

Share ideas with colleagues and friends on ways we all can be involved with the continuous improvement of education.  And, be involved with the delivery and facilitation of education and training programs because it is fun.  And, the teacher may learn lots by helping others discover and learn.  Deliver results and share in the benefits.


Education Next and the Harvard University Program on Education and Governance

Are We Still at Risk, KORET TASK FORCE on K-12 Education, Spring 2003, EducationNext

“The Coming Shortage of Skilled Manufacturing Workers,” Harold Sirkin, Bloomburg Business Week January 14, 2013.

Background on Jerry Brong – – – Jerry is one of those old guys that has stepped forward into retirement.  He earned his BA in Education and Psychology in 1961, MA in Educational Media in 1965, and an EdD in Curriculum & Instruction in 1973.  He has served on university faculties, been a consultant to big and small businesses, put in miles to-&-from speaking engagements, he has served as a Malcolm Baldrige Award Judge in Washington State, and he continues to be politically active as he argues for quality as process and result in government programs.


  1. Would you please give a look to Ivan Illich’s book “Shadow Work”, Marion Boyars Publishers, London, New York, 1981. Thank you.

  2. Yes, Ivan Illich shares many interesting insights we can check. The continued improvement of our systems of education deserve attention. The just released THE SCHOOL REFORM LANDSCAPE – – FRAUD, MYTH, & LIES by Orlich & Tienken will also be an attention getter. [Jerry Brong]

  3. Risk – – Hiring College Grads Not Prepared for Jobs

    OK, here is a punch at a controversy related to job readiness of the current graduates from our colleges and universities. This report is shared as a thinking piece. It is shared as one of the hot-button issues being explored in the media about the quality of current education programs.

    There are risks here especially if the issues raised are not explored. What is the real situation? Are students prepared and ready for employment? Are our educational programs delivering predictable outcomes in helping students learn? The risks here are many especially if the issues raised are not addressed.

    Agreement? Disagreement? The risk is not addressing the question and offering proof in support of a response.

    “A College Degree Sorts Job Applicants, but Employers Wish It Meant More” is a March 4, 2013, post at THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION web site. The report by Karin Fischer presents results of a recent survey.


    Jerry Brong – – – March 4, 2013
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