Education is one need in life which is close to my heart! Is it simply because I don't have anything, but this?
Education plays a crucial role in shaping a person's career path and professional growth with the end view of becoming successful someday, i.e, getting better jobs and earning more.
However, most of us know that even in the field of education, obviously there is a rising social class and inequality. Talented students whose parents can afford to send them to top-tiered schools would have better job opportunities and potentially could be accepted to occupy managerial posts in multinational corporations and other large organizations vis-a-vis struggling but equally talented and conscientious students who could not afford to go to the best schools due to limited funds, left with no choice but to go to a low quality school, be contented with a non-bachelor degree course and if lucky enough would land probably in an entry level technical position.
This is also true in elementary and secondary schools where the said gap between the rich and poor are being experienced particularly in developing countries, where affluent families send their children to private schools with good teachers and comfortable state-of-the-art facilities compared to certain public schools where classrooms and facilities are most of the times dilapidated with no repairs or maintenance, no field trips for students, no smart boards and most of all insufficient good “quality” teachers, and all of these are due to lower budget allocation for public education.
The sad reality these days is that an educated man with higher learning would absolutely have the competitive advantage over another who have not been able to reach high school or college, in so far as access to employment are concerned. However, there are exceptions naturally to the rule where quite a few willingly college drop-outs obviously make it big in the outside world such as the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs who became very successful in their endeavors because of their business acumen and technological know-how. Their decisions to pack up their bags out of college could have been in effect a blessing in disguise! It was considered an opportunity for them to pursue their dreams and do what they would love to do. As I said, these people and incidents are exceptions to the rule. It is not applicable to all, unless you have the necessary technological skills and that the same kind of opportunity knocks on your door.
For poor people, education is the only available weapon to battle the misery of poverty. It paves the way for majority of them (even middle class families especially in these trying times) to uplift their standards of living. As such, poor (and uneducated) but responsible parents who got no large tracts of lands , no money in banks and no businesses to give away to their children, would very much would like to see their children go to school, earn an education, be employed someday and save them hopefully from the bondage of poverty. To them, that's the best gift for their children, same thing for the latter to their parents. Thus, they would exert best efforts to go out of their way to look for ways and means to resolve the problem. Some would go to small lending institutions or even resort to “loan sharks” (this is the sad part), i.e. obtaining loan at an exorbitant interest rates but where small amount of loan repayments could either be made on a weekly or monthly basis. These families would also engage in small businesses, as food vendors and the like or join farmer, fisher folks or cottage industry cooperatives, just like what Lydia did, the widow in “my useful tips” earlier post about “Conditional Cash Transfers”, (check this link: http://www.myusefultips.com/?p=2453). Despite their hard work and patience, they are still faced with the problem on how they can sustain and cope up with the rising cost of education and related expenses particularly when their children reach high school, college and beyond.
But not all poor parents are high-principled like those which I have described earlier. There are some poor parents who do not regard education as one of their basic needs. Looking for food for them to survive is absolutely what is in their top most agenda. For most of them, education is secondary and only if it is offered to them for free, a decision will then be made on whether or not to send their kids to school. I think this is one aspect where Government and private sectors' investments are needed, primarily to help educate first the parents themselves on the importance of education for their off springs, that is from early childhood, to tertiary and so on. Empowering the parents as decision makers (e.g. sending their kids to school) will eventually make them feel part of the society as a whole.
This is precisely why there is importance in investing in education. Obviously, policy makers these days are being encouraged to re-assess and re-consider the subject in view of present policy discussions on poverty alleviation. Investment in education from both the Government and the private sector including non profit organizations is being regarded as a tool to increase productivity and thereby help build a strong economy. It is envisioned that Governments, particularly those in third world and developing economies and where budget for education is scarce, are inclined to partner with the private sector to offer “quality” education to all students, rich or poor.
Initial talks on private sector participation (PSP) in social services such as education under the third wave of privatization have been broached many years back, as such this so-called investment in education is not new. However, further discussions on the subject were either postponed or set aside due to some oppositions and resistance from certain stakeholders. As a matter of fact, one study prepared by an investment bank was placed on my table for review when I was still a public servant. I recall the consultant's findings and recommended strategies were elevated to concerned policy makers for consideration but the said recommendations were freezed to attend to some more important matters. Apparently, the consultant's recommendations were not seen as a possible solution to the country's problem on education at that point in time. It was seen to be politically incorrect and a bad policy to test the same given the wrong timing considering that it was an election year.
While the said proposed PSP recommendation could have resulted to better education system, it was seen as a bad move (anti-social) as the said proposed policy reform may not be embraced by majority of the people in the streets. The proposed strategy was not even a complete privatization of the education sector but only a portion of its operations, how much more if it was a full privatization. As such, partial or full reforms such as this could be shelved due to resistance from certain sectors, including the Government itself, primarily due to lack of political will.
Since then there have been emerging privatization strategies for the education sector considering that most Governments are of the view that an improvement in this sector would have beneficial impact on the life of the poor. As such education reforms have been adopted in various parts of the globe even in developed nations. In the U.S. for instance, there are parts of the country which have attempted considering the voucher system although it has not gotten to be successfully implemented, but some have adopted the so-called “charter schools” which have actually been helpful in a way based on studies undertaken by experts. It is seen as one way of bringing better education to under privileged group and a help to over crowded public schools.
Other developing countries are likewise making moves to fix their poor educational systems. Governments are placing more emphasis on education, finding all kinds of investment forms from all stakeholders as an alternative approach to privatization, mainly to enhance educational standards. One strategy on how to market these education-related programs and attract possible investors is to hold conferences, seminars and fora to provide a birds-eye view of a particular Government's plans and programs.
For instance, I got this invitation from the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev, formerly Ayala Foundation USA) thru its President Victoria Garchitorena to attend the forthcoming forum to be held on November 7th in New York to discuss on possible strategies regarding private sector participation in education and which of these are applicable to the Philippine setting. Briefly, PhilDev is a non profit organization based in U.S.A. and the Philippines (check phildev.org for more info.) of which its main thrust is "building an ecosystem of science and technology-based entrepreneurship and innovation for social and economic development in the Philippines."
For some who is not familiar about the Philippines, it is a small country in South East Asia, but it already ranked as the 12th most densely populated country in the world, approximately 99.9 million. While majority of its citizens can read and write, there are still plenty of improvements to be undertaken for its education sector.
Based on Phildev's account, the Philippines is one of the countries with lowest investment in education and “ranks very low in terms of global competitiveness”. As such the said forum is expected to be attended by people in Government, academe, business, non profit organizations, philanthropy, and other interested private individuals (non-Filipinos included) to explore ways and means to thresh out the issues and come up with doable solutions, e.g. looking for funding to strengthen education in science and technology or the so-called “strategic giving” for this endeavor, focusing on the strengths of its peoples, their technological skills specifically in science and math subjects at all levels.
Some of us may still have reservations about further investments in education but we all agree for sure that education is one of the keys to open our doors to economic recovery. Present administrations of both advanced and developing nations are formulating policy reforms that are geared towards investing in education, among others, as it has been found out that this is an effective way of lifting up our poor brothers and sisters and for them to get out of poverty, to make them competitive in the outside world, and contribute to build a robust economy.
For now, I shall leave the rest to our economists and scholars to formulate economic models and continue studying on the subject, particularly to show some analysis on how said investments on education could impact a particular economy as a whole. But even without the economic analysis/econometric models, I still believe (in hindsight) that pursuing investments in education, either from the Government or the private sector, would have a positive impact not only on a poor man's personal growth but also on the whole country's ailing economy. Thus, this is a global call for all Governments to stand up for this policy reform endeavor.