Friday, February 8, 2008

Education... for what purpose?

An article in today's press reveals that Australian universities are ranked by foreign students as the third best in the world (just behind the UK and the US) as a preferred location for studies. This was the conclusion of a report produced by an independent research service called the International Graduate Insight Group, based in London. In view of the identity of the essentially English-speaking clients of this organization [display], this conclusion is hardly world-shaking. In fact, it smacks of what the French call nombrilisme [from the word for navel], which designates the pleasant activity that consists of acquiring narcissistic joy by admiring at length, and in depth, the beauty of one's own navel.

A distinguished member of Australia's academe stated that the study was "a positive reflection on Australian education". I don't wish to squabble with that point of view. But wouldn't it be more meaningful to evaluate Australian education, not through the opinions of foreign students, but in terms of the annual number and quality of brilliant graduates joining the creative and productive work force in Australian science, industry, technology, business, etc?

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