Education, training and wellbeing
The famous English writer and social commentator, G. K. Chesterton, once described education as '. . . the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.' While some may find this metaphor broad, few would argue the importance of education to our personal identity and to social wellbeing.
Education and training are directly related to the concept of social capability outlined in Chapter One. Learning even the most basic language, social and practical skills can give an individual the capacity to live an independent life. Higher learning allows people to interact even more fully with society and to pursue more ambitious goals. At its most powerful, education may provide an individual with a fulfilling and financially rewarding career and/or the capacity to contribute to society in areas such as politics, science, journalism, design, literature, engineering or other professions. In other words, education and training provide an individual with the potential for full participation in social, cultural and economic life.
Education and training can allow individuals to enhance their wellbeing over time by helping them understand the options available to them, and guiding them in choosing pathways that will benefit them the most. Appropriate education or training can be vital in breaking a cycle of poverty, where employment opportunities may be limited by low educational attainment, and educational attainment is limited by the lack of funds, experience and other benefits that come from secure employment.
WELLBEING OF SOCIETY
While the acquisition of knowledge and skills can be fulfilling, and beneficial to individuals, it is also integral to the production of the goods and services that are used by society as a whole, and contribute to the nation's wealth. The economic wellbeing of the nation is, therefore, also dependent on effective outcomes from education and training. The greater the proportion of well educated and skilled individuals within a nation, the greater its capacity for economic output and gain, and the more competitive it can be internationally. It has become an important aim of governments to educate Australians to become more economically competitive in a dynamic global economy.
While education and training have a key role in improving Australia's economic competitiveness, they have an equally compelling role in contributing to the creation and maintenance of a positive social environment. Because education and training can ensure individual citizens are informed, skilled and able to make positive choices, they are important tools in reducing social problems such as unemployment, crime or ill health. Education is also a key factor in promoting and nurturing attitudes and values that support a cohesive and cooperative society, and in socialising children to live in a civil society.