There is a lot of evidence and policytalk about the benefits of Lifelong learning - both for the individual and society.

"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives."
'Adolescent literacy: A position statement for the Commission on Adolescent Literacy of the International Reading Association'. Moore et al. 1999

If you don't use it,you lose it.

My definition of education is supported engagement in learning. Education must be stage appropriate.

Ages and stages - To each according to their needs, from each according to their abilities
Early childhood: Until 8 years, that support comes from close relationships - reciprocal and responsive relationships (Te Whariki) and engagement comes principally from a rich environment.
Middle childhood: Until 14 years, support comes from active supervision and teaching, and engagement from hands-on, relevant tasks.
Adolescents: Support comes from negotiation of boundaries and engagement from following passions and dreams.
Adulthood: Support from the availability of resources and engagement from meaningful, acknowledged contribution.

Education based on the NZ curriculum provides a framework based on learning areas. Literacy, numeracy and IT literacy should be integrated and equal value placed on performing arts (visual arts, music, dance, drama), practical skills (technology), learning language (english, NZ sign language, Te Reo and any other relevant language - i.e. language spoken in the community, ancestral language), and the academic subjects - science, mathematics and social studies (now defined as the study of people). Proscribing education through learning areas enables focus, structure and assessment but undermines holistic, integrated, responsive learning - the needs and interests of the student should drive their own personal curriculum.

We have had compulsory schooling in NZ since 1877. This was to ensure that all children had the opportunity to learn essential skills - it was an investment in the future of NZ. Children at that time often did not go to school because they were put to work at home or parents thought it too expensive. Education is an investment and often not appreciated. It is necessary to make education compulsory - there are too many competing ways to spend our time and it is Human nature to look for short term returns on our efforts.

My compulsory education system is:
Te Whariki from 0-8 years, Community based experiential learning i.e. hands-on, real-life experiences with rich language providing the vocabulary to give a good grounding of important concepts for science and social science.
From 9 years old, the NZ curriculum fulltime until "graduation" - achievement of minimum standard of literacy, numeracy and IT literacy - currently the law says that this is the equivalent of a competent 10 year old's ability (no ref, from memory). This provides a definition of permanent disability as society is/will be/should be designed with the assumption of these minimal standards for independent living i.e. as defined in Reading Association quote above. If we design our Modern villages so that a 9 year old can be safe, secure and self-reliant, then we will be providing for the able population including the elderly and invalid.

We know brain development is still very active until about 25 years when the prefrontal cortex really kicks in. This affects the ability to consider the long term impact of not engaging in education. It is in society's interest to make considerable efforts to engage young people in education until this stage because it is programmed into them to take a short term view and they are often not self-motivated to learn. Also, longitudinal studies show that this lack of judgement leads to crime and other risky behaviour, so keeping them busy helps keep them out of trouble.


Less is More - The Move to Educate on a Human Scale by Mike Davies