Current literature has vastly recognized that the lack of accessibility to education exclude population and promote the deterioration of their human capabilities. However, one may wonder if current educational trends, specially in the higher education context, are actually emphasizing the elements that contribute to student’s empowerment and therefore human development.
Traditionally, development is a concept that has been measured in terms of the metric of income or access to material goods as with the economic growth approach (Fraser & Naples, 2004; Sen, 1985). Human development, however, “is a process of expanding the real freedom of persons to lead the kind of lives they value and have reason to value” (Keleher, 2007; Sen, 1997). The capabilities approach assess human development as an alternative to the traditional economic growth-centered development theory (Nussbaum, 2011). It also recognizes that individuals are free to employ their own agency as they chose to achieve certain functionings/capabilities (Keleher, 2007) Sen/Nussbaum describe, such as education, employment, among others.
It follows from this understanding that human development is assessed within the capabilities approach in terms of what capabilities a person is free to achieve (Keleher, 2007). I operationalize capability as the several alternate functionings combinations a person is free to achieve to live a valued lifestyle (Keleher, 2014). With this context, it is important to recognize if current educational systems are actually promoting the expansion of capabilities and freedom of their students. Is it within our educational curriculums that we learn about the injustices in the world, and the available tools to overcome them? If it is not the case, one may question current education to human development.