My Inspirational Teacher: by McKinsey & Co. Global Managing Director Dominic Barton

Picture: World Economic Forum

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on September 27, 2012

The teacher who inspired me most was Miss Stubson from my high school in Sardis, about 50 miles out of Vancouver in Canada. She was phenomenal, because she raised everyone’s aspirations.

She used to drive in from Vancouver, from the ‘big city’, to teach in this school no one had heard of. She’d say: “You can do a lot in the world – go for it!”

At 13 or 14, she opened my horizons. And she was pushy about it. She started up a debating society, which the school had never had, and then entered us for the regional championships, then the provincial, then the national. She said: “You need to do more than just school work. Debating is going to develop you. And anyhow, I’ve already entered you – you’re going!”

I think that education is the fundamental driver of everything. When I look at any issue we have, if you look the root cause and try to actually deal with it, it always comes down to education.

If you look at healthcare, a more educated public will play a very big role. If you look at youth unemployment, it’s about education for employment. How do we educate with the right skills? If you look at religious tolerance, education is key. If you look at the resource scarcity we are going to have on the planet because of the two billion-plus people moving into the middle class, it’s going to require a lot of innovation, in food, energy usage and water usage – that will ultimately come from education.

If people are educated they will have a better life. And it is getting more vital, as technology changes at such incredible speed. If you don’t have the basics, you are out of the system.

The returns from education in pretty much every dimension are huge. Yet we don’t seem to invest enough. And that is what I love about what Gordon and Sarah Brown are trying to do. We are doing things from a broad business point of view in healthcare – why aren’t we doing the same in education? Getting some scale effort behind education, getting access to parts of the world that are going to be really important for the future, that is key.