Last year, Canada, a country of 33 million people, spent 42 billion dollars from its public purse on elementary to secondary level education. This expenditure is meant to produce a smart, adaptive, and creative population that could remain on the leading edge of innovation and progress. This expenditure is inspired by our beliefs that: 1) the best way to ensure equity in the society is to give equitable educational opportunity to all children until they reach an adult age, and 2) human resource is the greatest of all resources when it comes to eliciting development and progress. These rationales have proved to be effective and have brought sustained improvements in educational and economic indices for more than six decades in Canada. However, today we are trying to re-define our place in the 21st century, which is unfolding differently than the past ones. While the competitive capabilities of our competitors are on the rise, our functional literacy level is at an alarming state . While we are struggling to make education interesting and exciting to students in Canada, a country like Nepal with about the same population size but double the population under 18 years of age spends only 60 million dollars a year in its elementary and secondary level education from its public purse. Imagine the scale of difference and opportunities!
While we are in need of making our education meaningful and want to increase our level of awareness about the rapidly changing and evolving world, so many people in developing countries carry so much potential to be inspired by us, helped by us, and in return, be source of unlimited knowledge for us. While we are struggling to discover ways for making our children inspired for education and be competitive in the ever evolving world, poor and marginalized people of the world struggle to educate their children in face of discrimination and neglect. Therefore, there must be golden opportunity for us and the neglected people of the developing countries to collaborate to produce win-win scenarios for all.
Whereas our governments are attempting to build a fair world and are attempting to help the developing countries through consultants and military means, the marginalized people of the world face debilitating state in many fronts: qualified teachers, system of educating the educators, nutrition, sanitation, health, equipment, materials, research facilities, methodologies for collecting objective and scientific data, scientific publications, educational material, and what not. The need is so enormous that it will be virtually impossible to solve this problem by simply pouring some dollars here and some dollars there. We have already tried that approach by first pouring the aid through the governments and then through NGOs of the developing countries. However, the aid largely stayed in the hand of elites and hardly ever reached the grassroots. Today, the rural poor remain in as dissolute state as they were ever, with small exceptions here and there.
If we, the people of the developed nations, had means to directly communicate with the grassroots people of the developing countries, and if we had a mechanism to assess their needs, we could give them to our children as problems for them to solve from now to their lifetime. They could be challenged to come up with new means to build a better world and build economic paradigms in the tomorrows connected world. They could possibly discover new tools, techniques, knowledge, and thoughts helpful to children around the world who are less fortunate while discovering utility of their own thinking faculties. They could implant a new vision and inspirations while being forces of change in the lives of disadvantaged people in the developing countries.
Rather than making mere users of the technology, we would find better citizenry in our children if they could learning to use the technology to explore new opportunities and potentials created by modern telecommunication, computing, multimedia, Internet, and broadcasting, and other technologies. They may them be able to develop new applications and tools useful for their own future. They may learn to capitalize on the most profound tools required to feed the human mind ú the knowledge ú that is increasingly becoming readily and abundantly available to us.
While we elicit knowledge into our own children, we could build an infrastructure and know-how of applying our knowledge in freeing masses of people who are living in state of discrimination and humiliation in their own societies. We could inspire the poor and the disadvantaged people of the world and empower them in gaining functional literacy, basic education and livelihood. We could discover new techniques for acquiring and developing tools, techniques, knowledge, and skills useful to our respective societies.
If the developing countries were to be connected to the developed world through high-speed Internet, so much freely available knowledge resource could have been made cheaply accessible to even the poor and disadvantaged population of the developing countries. The most profound effect of networking and information access infrastructure would be felt quickly in deprived region of developing countries because, in those regions, the educational institutions are faltering for long. With the increase in the mobility of people there has been constant brain drain from rural parts of the countries. The illiterates or poorly literate left in the villages are unable to alter their own academic or economic standings in any significant way. If these communities could be connected to the national, regional, and global networks with respectable communication links, a new era of academic collaboration could be started in the world to create an entirely new and fair world order – at least in the knowledge front. It would be possible to uplift the world of education and research with the use of online education, collaboration, and access to publications, data-banks, and speedy sharing of research ideas.
Once people living in distant parts of the world start communicating and directly sharing ideas at the grassroots level, the dynamics of the international collaboration is going to be altered. Developing countries will benefit from the access to the global scientific network, whereas developed countries can advance research in ecology, environment, biodiversity, economy, human psychology, sociology, anthropology and what not for their own advantage.
The collaboration will alter how international diplomacy is going to be played in the future. The power will shift from the top heavy superpower governments, career diplomats, and giant multinational corporations to the grassroots people and entrepreneurs. When citizens of various countries start working together on collaborative projects, they will give birth to a new world order not achievable by any government sanctioned organizations.
Through small efforts, we are already able to show some promising results. While USAID like giant organizations had hard time operating in rural Nepal due to people’s suspension towards the motives of the US government in meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs, grassroots citizens of the USA not belonging to such organizations are freely roaming and doing development works in Nepal. At times US foreign policies are perceived unfavorably by the citizens of the developing world, the ordinary citizens bear tremendous potential and hope in salvaging some of that lost image. Whereas George Bush as a US President using state fund, CIA, and the rest of the state machinery would produce lesser quality of world peace, the same Gorge Bush doing philanthropic work from his own pocket and by his own desire would be admired highly. This is because people-to-people relationships are more resilient, trust building and driven less by ulterior political motives. Collaborating grassroots people bear a better potential in developing a more connected and more peaceful world than achieved by the best of fighter jets, atom bombs, tanks, and the most elite of the army ever raised in the world. Thanks to information technology and the advent of Internet! Thanks to the people of the world who are always in search of new ways of building a better world!
 Dan Bjarnason and Alex Shprintsen: Education: Canada’s shame, The National, CBC, Canada, May 24, 2006; [http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/education/canada-shame.html]