Over the last few generations, the number of people attending institutions of higher education has exploded. Attending college in the U.S. has become more of a rule than an exception, and ever-higher degrees seem to be required in the workforce.
The rise of technology, increasingly complex jobs, and a shift away from an industrial society have encouraged this change. Yet, it seems to be a self-feeding cycle, with more jobs than ever requiring a degree from an institution of higher education, where a high school diploma used to be sufficient.
As it seems more and more necessary to attend college, the increased costs of college seem more daunting. Much debate has raged over who should pay for education, especially at higher levels. (Here in the U.S., K-12 public education is payed for through tax payers' dollars).
So, while it may seem like I'm bringing all this up to start a debate over higher education, that's not my intent. It's certainly a good debate to have, but it's better suited for other arenas. What I'd like to talk about is how we can use these concepts in our stories to create a more realistic world in our stories, and how it can introduce conflict into our books.
How are people educated in your world? Is there formal education? Or is it something that families do?
How long does school/education last in your world? How soon do kids/ adults have a choice over what they want to study? Are there expectations for you to follow in your family's footsteps? Are you expected to obtain more extensive education than your parents?
Are men and women both educated? Is there any type of segregation in learning? How are those lines drawn--race, gender, religion, economic classes, intelligence?
How is the progress of students assessed? Are there standardized tests? Is there a rite of passage for students for their graduation?
What doors does education open for your characters? Do people have prejudices against those who have a lesser education?
-At some medieval European universities, students actually voted how much to pay their professors.
-Education has looked quite different through the ages; during the Medieval period, a common set-up for a day in higher education involved lecture in the morning, followed by an afternoon in which students and teachers would debate different questions.
-College debt has replaced credit card debt as the largest source of debt in the U.S. (Source. This is a really interesting article if you're interested in this subject, albeit from a more informal site).
What is education like in your country?