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EDUCATION MATTERS A LOT, HIGHER EDUCATION IS EVEN BETTER

By Guest Writer

EDUCATION MATTERS A LOT, HIGHER EDUCATION IS EVEN BETTER, BUT WHAT MATTERS MOST IS THE VALUE SYSTEM. STOP DISCOURAGING YOUNG PEOPLE FROM SEEKING KNOWLEDGE

I watched a video clip going around, in which my brother and the old man of the clan, Mr. Andrew Mwenda seemed to suggest, that higher education does not help to create wealthy people. I do not agree with this notion. First, because he doesn’t tell us his understanding of education, otherwise such arguments can easily mislead our young generation for seeking education. We need to differentiate elitist schooling that promotes a few privileged people from genuine education.

i. ELITIST SCHOOLING-liberal capitalist education, which instills in learners negative values of individualism, utilitarianism, materialism, consumerism, primitive wealth accumulation and corruption, greed, idiocy, privacy, and silly competition; just scan around, the so-called wealthy public servant and private businessmen; can create oligarchs, and powerful plutocrats, economic growth without developing a country. They only create good schools for self-reproduction on one hand, and poor schools for mass reproductions for their servants; which now seem to be the case in Uganda.

ii. While true Education, from ‘edu-care’ (Latin), is a process of enculturation, acquisition of skills for individual good (Ubuntu/community spirit), and common good ethos (Republicanism/commonwealth). Educational action is therefore a life practice informed by historical and cultural precedents that promote cooperative collective values called ‘polity’. While formal education may be through schools, such education is driven by the socialisation of people. It is this education that we are lacking to improve our welfare.

iii. In addition, Mr. Andrew Mwenda, by referring to Uganda’s millionaires who didn’t go to school or never attained high education in comparison to the poor graduates seems to suggest that most Ugandans are not enterprising or innovative enough, after school, and that is why they are not wealthy. But he forgets that just as recently as 2015, a report by B2B Marketplace Approved Index named Uganda as the most entrepreneurial country in the world. So, why don’t we have more millionaires then?
Against this background, I would like to encourage Ugandans to avoid such misleading arguments on the following grounds.

1.0. KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY NEEDS EDUCATION

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Even if education’s impact on growth and wealth creation in our country has been meagre so far, we need to factor in the idea of the knowledge economy. With ideas becoming the main source of wealth, it makes no sense to imagine education does not perform a much more important role in determining a country’s prosperity.

There is no doubt that a country’s command over knowledge or lack of it makes it rich or poor. China, for example, was the richest country in the world during the first millennium because in possessed technical knowledge that other countries did not have. It had paper, transferrable technology, gunpowder, and compass education.

China shifted from an empire to meritocracy, meaning the actual work of government and wealth creation was done by highly trained civil servants. From the 7th century, civil servants were chosen by exam. Only the very best passed exams-this system is known as a MERITOCRACY. If you wanted to be a government official, you had to study for years at university. The exams were fiendish. Only 1 in 3,000 people passed. Those who passed were given a junior job in government. To get to the very top, they had to pass nine more exams.

Another example is Britain. It became the world’s economic power in the 19th century because it came to lead the world in technological innovation. When Germany’s economy collapsed after the Second World War, it wasn’t reclassified as a developing country, because people knew that it still had command over technological, organisational, and institutional knowledge that had made it one of the most formidable industrial powers before the war. In that sense, the importance of education has not changed in the recent period.

Also well known are the exceptionally high educational achievements of the ‘miracle’ economies in East Asia-such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The educational achievements in these countries are not manifested in quantitative terms as high literacy or enrolment rates at various levels of education, but the quality is so high.

These countries rank right at the top of the league in international Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for fourth and either fith graders and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures fifteen-year-olds ability to apply maths knowledge to real-world problems.

Need to say more? Look at the data. For TIMSS, for 2020:

i. East Asian countries: Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong were top performers.
ii. In mathematics, led by Singapore, the five East Asian countries outperformed the other TIMSS countries by substantial margins in the fourth and eighth grades.
iii. In science at both grades, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan also performed well and were joined by the Russian Federation and Finland.
No, here lies the reality and the role of education and wealth creation, based on Global Economic Competitiveness ranking, taking the case of Singapore the leads in TIMSS, considering the twelve pillars performance of:
i. Institutions
ii. Appropriate infrastructure
iii. Stable macroeconomic framework
iv. Good health and primary education
v. Higher education and training
vi. Efficient goods markets
vii. Efficient labour markets
viii. Developed financial performance.
ix. Ability to harness existing technology
x. Market size—both domestic and international
xi. Production of new and different goods using the most sophisticated production process
xii. Innovation

Just because Singapore invested so well in quality education, and heavily, since 2008, Singapore has only ranked the 5th in 2008 and 2020, but 2nd in 2009 to 2016; 3rd 2017, and 1st in 2019; and the top TIMSS countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Hongkong, USA, UK, and Taiwan are always among the top 15 best-performing countries; while Uganda, which was better than Singapore, in 1962, ranked number 115, with a score of 48.3 in economic competitiveness.

2.0. KNOWLEDGEABLE DEMOCRACY

We are badly managed because of ignorance. Democracy which presupposes people’s power i.e. “demos”, for people, and “cracy” cannot be attained with people who cannot deliberate and think well and logically. The education we are given does not encourage this sense of awareness.

First of all educational action should be understood as praxis (Aristotle); and according to Professor Bertrand Russell (19016), education is a political institution, and because ‘politics is the highest science (Aristotle & Plato), which needs wise and knowledgeable policymakers and responsible citizens, you can practice true politics without genuine education.

Additionally, in ‘Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century’ by Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels; Polity 213 (105-8), we learn that governing a country well requires: knowledgeable democracy and intelligent electorate are part and parcel of good governance. It goes with, accountable meritocracy, ethical accountability, and a good society. To realise the values, there is a need for heavy investment in social science, humanities, and civic education, besides the natural sciences.

Berggruen and Gardels, also use Singapore as a very successful case study of intelligent governance. In the same vain the Worldwide Governance Indicators show how Singapore in a success story in its six pillars of good governance. For example, 2020 scores for Singapore and Uganda, which were:

i. Voice and Accountability: Singapore 38.2%; Uganda 28.99%.
ii. Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism: Singapore 97.2%; Uganda 19.34%.
iii. Government Effectiveness: Singapore 100%; Uganda 30.29%.
iv. Rule Law: Singapore 98.6%; Uganda 42.18%.
v. Regulatory Quality: Singapore 100%; Uganda 36.54%.
vi. Control of Corruption: Singapore 99%; Uganda 15.38%.
The above data is self-evident that a well-educated population not only boosts the level of efficiency but even the quality of economic institutions and the human capital necessary to sustain development.

3.0. WHAT CAN UGANDA DO?

Rethinking the obsession with higher elitist schooling in our country, and why its performance in productivity has been meagre will require us to:
i. Have a radical change in perspective and expectations created in them to believe in utilitarianism, materialism, and individualism.

ii. While we expand education in Uganda in order to prepare our youngsters for a more meaningful life when it comes to the question of productivity increase, Uganda needs to look beyond the individual academic credentials and pay more attention to building the right institutions and organisations for productivity growth.

iii. What really distinguishes Uganda and countries like Singapore/rich countries is how their well-educated citizens are organised into collective entities with high productivity in firms such as Boeing or Volkswagen, the smaller world-class firms of Switzerland and Italy.

iv. Development of such firms needs to be supported by a range of institutions that encourages investment and risk-taking – a trade regime that protects and nurtures firms in ‘infant industries.

v. There is a need for a financial system that provides ‘patient capital’ necessary for long-term productivity-enhancing investments; institutions that provide second chances for both the capitalists and good bankruptcy law.

vi. Uganda must institute public subsidies and regulations regarding Research & Development and training. In rich countries, Billionaires like Bill Gates, multinational corporations, the Silicon Valley, power Chinese private corporations have been facilitated by their home governments and other institutions. In Uganda, we only tax the people but share the revenue with few privileged people. We now keep referring to as millionaires.

vii. Uganda needs to debunk false conventional economics abstract models that the answer to our success lies with the private sector entrepreneurship. According to economics Professor Mariana Mazzucato, of the University of Sussex, in her book:” The Entrepreneurial State” (2014), case studies ranging from the iPhone to clean technology reveal the reality, whereby in rich countries, the private sector only invests after the entrepreneurial state has made the bold, high –risk investments. The Professor calls for more symbiosis where the taxpayer not only socialises the risks but should also share in the rewards of state enterprises.

4.0. ORGANISATIONS ARE THE HEROES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, NOT INDIVIDUALS

Economists, Herbert Simon and John Gabriath; Prof. Ha-Joon Chang (2009), point to what really makes rich countries rich is their ability to channel the individual entrepreneurial energy into collective entrepreneurship. While, Jean Tirole (2017), in “Economics for the Common Good” argues that education should focus a passionate ideology that teaches a world in which economics can help us improve the shared lot societies and humanity as a whole. I think these are the lessons Uganda is missing in its education system.

In the final analysis, education is very valuable, we cannot afford to ignore it, but its main value is not in raising productivity as such, it is more than that. It lies in its ability to help us develop our potentials and live a more fulfilling, independent life and in dignity. If we expand expanded education in the belief that it will make our economies richer- worse still education without value- we will be sorely disappointed, for the link between education and national productivity is rather tenuous and complicated. In addition, our over-enthusiasm with elitist schooling should be tamed, and, especially, far greater attention needs to be paid to the issue of establishing and upgrading productive enterprises and institutions that support our school leavers to be more productive.

 

The author is Steven Birija the Former Masindi district Chairperson

Disclaimer: We as UG Reports Media LTD we welcome any opinion by any one if it’s of a constructive use to the Development of Uganda. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not of UG Reports Media LTD but for the author of the article.

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