Scientific reasoning may well be an innate ability of the human mind. Furthermore, individuals who have the potential to become innovators in science and technology will do so regardless of the education system. Some of the top scientists in history, such as Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, were self-educated on the topics that were most important to their scientific breakthroughs. And some of the world's top innovators, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, were university drop-outs.
However, a serious barrier to self-education is the cost of subscription required by many of the best university libraries, something that is limiting the potential of science itself. Scientific research, journals, and data should be freely available to everyone. Ideally scientific works should be published under legal tools such the Creative Commons. Already the Public Library of Science is providing journals like Plos One, an inclusive, peer-reviewed, open-access resource that is free to everyone.
If all scientific data can be made available on a free open-access basis it is quite possible that Independent Citizen Scientists may make significant contributions to science. And since they will be driven by their own passion, even those who do not make a major contribution will derive satisfaction from the enjoyment of scientific discovery - the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Creating conditions conducive to self-education and Independent Citizen Science may unleash the innate creative potential of young people determined to secure their own future. Ultimately, the more independent initiatives we have, the greater the chances that some will make fundamental breakthroughs that could solve the problems we face in the near future. Working without funding and driven by their obsessional passion, large numbers of Citizen Scientists could make a significant contribution to science at very little cost to society.
Free online self-education resources are growing exponentially. Search engines such as Google Scholar and Google Books makes research for sources very efficient. Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikispecies now give us free access to basic knowledge. The Khan Academy provides free video tutorials for science and mathematics education. The growing network of Wikiversity and the Open Courseware Consortium provides university courses available free online. Harvard and M.I.T. have teamed up to offer free online courses with edX.
You can explore options for free self-education here: