…….Education as an influential factor in developing countries?…..Version II_

……….Education has over the years grown to become perhaps one of the world’s greatest catalysts for growth. Acquisition of knowledge and skills is regarded as an essential step towards enlightenment, empowerment, and a catalyst for change towards better ways of life. In most economies, education is seen as an essential equalizer, and an important way of reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Given the centrality of education in enhancing development in the modern world, it comes as no surprise that many governments spend a huge chunk of their annual budgets to finance the education sector. Development agencies and donors continue to channel resources into education, much as the private sector has identified this as a viable sector to invest in. Likewise, there is renewed interest in the role of universities and other institutions of higher learning to produce better yielding crop varieties to feed the growing populations in the developing world. There is growing demand too for more research to ensure better treatment for Malaria, and other preventable diseases, for instance, which hinder the access to education by children in rural Africa and other developing countries.

Proactive Strategies
In the modern knowledge-driven global economy, there are innumerable growth and economic opportunities for people who continuously seek to provide ingenious and more affordable ways of solving problems. This was a crucial reality that countries such as China, Brazil and India saw coming and prepared their populations to take advantage of the same. As a result of huge investment in educating their populations, mainly in ICT and manufacturing technologies, the three countries are today global centres for outsourced services and manufacturing.

Conversely, countries in the less developed parts of the world that have for years been engaged in political wrangles and other ills only wake up to realize that the ground has already shifted, and what they previously considered as strategic advantages long ceased to matter in the new global equation. The only way left to the majority of the developing world is to up their game by bringing up more enlightened citizens who are able to compete on a global scale. Otherwise, statistics show that no country has ever achieved rapid and sustainable economic growth with literacy levels of below 40 per cent.

Back to the Basics
So, if developing countries are to bring up such a competitive workforce, where should they start? Of course, the most logical place is at basic education level. Consider that in the more developed world, education is a universal entitlement and engagement for each school-going child. Majority of them have access to technologies that make learning both easier and fun.

If these are the same people that children of Africa and other less developed parts of Asia and South America will come to compete with in the years ahead, then much needs to be done to improve the quality of education in these parts of the world. Further, given that, one out of four children in Sub-Saharan Africa does not attend school; and that one third of those already lucky enough to be in school will unfortunately drop out before completing primary school, then strategies need to be instituted to ensure that more pupils not only complete basic education, but that they also transition into secondary schools and later get professional career training.

Career Misalignment
Sadly, even with the growing numbers transitioning from secondary schools to institutions of higher learning, career misalignment remains a huge challenge. Research shows, for instance, that up to 57% of graduates in most developing countries are un-employable for various reasons. Top on this is the fact that majority of the graduates were placed in training programmes that were different from the careers that the individuals would have wished to pursue. This is thanks to rigid national and institutional policies that hinder rather than facilitate one’s pursuit for careers that naturally fall within one’s natural abilities.

For instance, admission to public (government-funded) universities in most developing countries is coordinated by a single body. This body sets the cut-off points for university admission and for each course. The body then decides what courses each candidate should proceed to do, mainly based on one’s performance in the national examination. In most cases, the process of revising the courses becomes overly complicated for those intending to shift to other courses, and one ends up caught up in a line of profession that wasn’t his choice. Sadly, such are the people finding their way into key decision-making positions in corporations and government institutions. These are the people supposed to implement strategies and steer growth in areas they have little if any passion for.

Ultimately, education stands to play a great role in the development of many economies across the globe. Good policies will create greater awareness of the role of education in widening the socio-economic space for all. However, governments and all participants in the education sector need to review the educational systems to eliminate the existing challenges and ensure proper alignment of training programmes to individual preferences as well as the demands of the modern global job market.

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