“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
The Oxford Dictionary defines Education as, “The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.” As a noun, it is described as, “a body of knowledge acquired while being educated.” So in essence Education involves the imparting of knowledge to a person and then the consequent knowledge gained through this process.
Education is seen as integral to enabling sustainable development around the world and especially so in developing countries. From fighting poverty to providing food security to curing diseases – education provides the tools needed to improve quality of life both economically and sociologically in modern society. So a lot of faith is placed in Education as a tool or weapon to change the world.
There is no denying that Education is at the heart of global developmental planning. Quality education is, in fact, one of the key goals on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But how does it actually have an impact of change?
Education changes a person
Learning quite literally changes a person. On an anatomical level, when a person is exposed to new experiences, the brain modifies its connections and creates new pathways. Known as ‘brain plasticity’ this process illustrates that our brains are wired to change as we learn. Exposure to new concepts and ideas through Education also influences the way we see the world. New perspectives break through pre-conceived barriers, changing mindsets. This change in how we see the world leads to a behavioural change, especially when it comes to how we interact with our world and with others. It is knowledge that empowers individuals to act or respond to circumstances they usually would not have.
Education changes society
Education, especially higher education, teaches individuals the skills they need in the workplace. This has a direct impact on the socio-economy of a community. In fact, The World Taskforce on Higher Education came to the conclusion that, “Higher education is no longer a luxury: it is essential to national social and economic development.” Education promotes political participation, social equality and environmental sustainability. It offers a solution to social and economic development. And it is the application of newly learnt skills that shows the power of knowledge in action.
Education changes the world
Through Education individuals learn how to solve problems in society. And applying learnt skills in the workforce of course leads to experience and acquiring new knowledge through this experience. When this new knowledge is applied, it has an impact on an individual level as well as an impact on society at large. And so the process continues, creating new solutions for our world today and its future.
We live in a knowledge based economy, where we probably have access to knowledge more readily than ever before. But knowledge is deemed powerless if it is not interpreted or applied correctly. And herein lies the “power” of Education – it is a tool or a ‘weapon’ that shapes us as human beings, spilling over into society through the actions of individuals who apply their acquired knowledge. The application of knowledge in real life scenarios lead to problem solving, which in turn affects the socio-economies of countries and eventually it contributes to world change.
Therefore Education has the latent potential to initiate change, not only at the heart of a person, but in society, and in time the world. It is this deep-rooted nature of change that makes Education one of the most powerful weapons to impact the human race – to change the world.
 World Bank. (2000). Higher education in developing countries: Peril and promise. Washington, DC: The World Bank.