“Education and Development”

By Paul Sullivan
Georgetown University

If one were to look at just about all of the countries that developed their economies, not just grew them, one would see great strides in education. I do not mean just university education or graduate schools development. Some of the most important educational development can be found in primary education and what we in the United States call the “Three Rs”, which are reading, writing and arithmetic. Never mind that they do not all begin with R. It is the point that these three skills are some of the main building blocks of development of any country.
One of the problems of deciding what to put a government’s money toward involves what is the return to that money. For education the real return, if it is done correctly, could take many generations. Immediate returns to Mongolia, for example, would look a lot better investing in mining and refining, for example, but the serious long term returns can be found in the intangibles, such as education and the development of creative and critical thinking.
By education I do not mean rote learning. I also do not mean just copying the ways other countries educate their children and young adults. It is important for Mongolia to find its own way. For example, educating the children of nomadic herders might best be done via the internet and long-distance learning. There may also be great benefits to home learning in some Mongolian environments.
However, it is very important that all of the children of a country at least have the opportunity for improved education. The real key to a better life for anyone is education. Without it, especially the basic “Three Rs”, a person would be lost in any competition in many fields in Mongolia and certainly with the rest of the world.
Some in leadership in Mongolia may want to look at how Ireland moved from a relatively poor and agricultural country to an information economy which became globally competitive. I was in school at Trinity College in Dublin when the Irish focus on education really started to take off in the late 1970s.
What an eye opener. The incredible stress the government put on statistics, computer training, and engineering really paid off. Indeed, they did get caught up in the housing bubbles of the mid-2000s and the financial problems of the Euro zone. However, they will be able to recover a lot faster now with such an educated population than if they did not have one.
China’s economic development had a lot to do with major policy changes directed at investments, incentives, and so forth. China also massively benefited in the development of its international competitive advantage via its increased investments at many levels of education. It also built on a long history of respect of education that was lost for a while during its “Great Leap Forward”, but was regained after the educational and other policies that Deng Zhao Peng and others forwarded.
The United States in its early years was fairly poorly educated on average. At the time of our beginning as a nation our literacy rate was about 35 percent. We had very few good universities and our primary and secondary education systems were a wreck or non-existent. Over the years through very good leadership at the local, state, regional and federal levels we have developed the most powerful higher education system in the world.
China is coming up fast, but how many of their universities can truly compete with Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Georgetown, Columbia, Princeton and the like? The answer is: more and more as time passes and Americans should wake up to that.
The French have their great universities. So do the Germans, the English, the Swiss and others in the EU. Norway and the other Scandinavian countries have superb universities.
Can one think of a great university in Sudan, Kenya, or n the Democratic Republic of Congo?
India is another education powerhouse with its IITs and other excellent universities. These universities have helped develop, amongst other things, high tech centers such as Bangalore. This was done in a similar fashion to how the Route 128 Technology Corridor was developed with the help of Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, BC, Tufts and others. Silicon Valley in California likely would not be there without Stanford, Berkeley and other great universities nearby.
Also important in the development of the great universities in the US has been the amazing investments by the private sector and philanthropists over the years. Stanford, Yale, Carnegie Mellon and more were named after industrialists. The University of Chicago and other universities are there in great part due to the financial and other help from the Rockefeller family.
Maybe the major investors in the natural resources sector of Mongolia should also invest in the most important natural resource of any country: its people.
Mongolia can look at the many ways education has developed in many other parts of the world. It can also import some of those methods and scholarship, such as via an American University. I taught at the American University in Cairo for 6 years. I am still in touch with many of my former students from even 20 years ago. I know how much that university has added to Egypt. AUC, as it is called, is one of the brightest lights of the education scene not only in Egypt, but for the entire region. If such a university could be started in Mongolia it could make a very big difference in many ways.
Education, education, education….
It can make all the difference if it is done right – even if it does take a long time to see results.
Americans and Mongolians need to take note of the strong connections between competitiveness and education. They are not static. We all need to continue to worker harder and smarter on this.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=105

Posted by on Jul 26 2012. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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