This paper addresses the topic of education and its importance in the development of a country. The topic will be explored and the argument considered in the following manner. First, there will be a definition of the words education and development. Second, will briefly consider a country where the education system has yielded positive results; the country that will be considered is Germany. Third, the paper will examine what happens when a country does not invest in the education of its citizens; the country considered will be Afghanistan. The thesis presented in this paper is the following: It is not possible for a country to be classified as a developed nation unless the educational system is an important part of the country’s domestic policy.
This topic was researched by reading peer-reviewed journals and grey literature about education, sociology, and, political science. The search terms used were the following search terms: ‘education development’; ‘education success’; ‘Germany education’; ‘Ireland education’; ‘Canada education’; ‘social impact education’; and, ‘economic impact education’.
While lengthy, the following definitions are worth considering in answering the thesis of this paper. There are various definitions of the word education, but pertinent to this paper is that used when looking at the focus of education. Cohen (2006) note that simply focusing on linguistics plus mathematical literacy is not enough, but “…that research-based social, emotional, ethical, and academic educational guidelines can predictably pro- mote the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that provide the foundation for the capacity to love, work, and be an active community member” (Cohen 202). In other words, education is not a mechanical, rote learning academic process, but is a system that is holistic and inclusive of other disciplines, thereby producing a student, at the end of the process, who is well placed to take his/her position as a responsible member of society.
When we consider the meaning of the word development, the words of Alkire (2010) perhaps best illustrates the relationship between education and development: “People are the real wealth of a nation. The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to live long, healthy and creative lives” (Alkire 2). In other words, the ability to enable an environment that lets individuals live their lives that are beneficial. When these lived lives become mutually beneficial, a nation is born. Carayannis, Pirzadeh and Popescu (2012) in looking at how best to define the nation-state, references Guehenno who states that “…[a nation] … bind[s] together the citizens of a nation … [and] is the product of a unique combination of historical factors, and can never be reduced to a single dimension, whether social, religious, or racial …[what] bring people together …[is] the memory of what they have been” (Carayannis, Pirzadeh and Popescu 8). Essentially, the latter point binds the argument that communities are driven by relationships that are bound by shared history and experiences. Communities need education to be the binding force that supports and creates a nation of people driven by common aspirations and goals. Without an education, it is not possible for a nation to hold itself together successfully.
Successful Education Practices
One particular nation comes to mind as an example of how education is used to build the success that allows a nation to develop economically. Germany has an education system that is bound tightly to the economic needs of the country’s success. From childhood, students are accessed and steered into courses and programs for which they have the skills, and these skills are directed into the industrial and economic need of the country. The result is that Germany is one of the most envied educational systems and one of the most envied economies. In reference to development, the German government notes that the country’s “development cooperation takes its lead from the concept of lifelong learning. Education does not stop after the first graduation certificate … People of every age must be given the opportunity to learn and develop. Education never ends” (BMZ 4). This concept of education as an element of social, cultural and, ultimately, nation building, is not uniquely Germany, but Germany has created a system that is responsive to its economic needs. Kotthoff (2011) describes the challenges in the German education system as tensions between selectivity vs. comprehensiveness; equity vs. excellence; and, academic subject knowledge vs. the didactic teaching skills of the educational professionals (Kotthoff 30; 38; 46; 55). In other words, there are constant priorities that need to be balanced in order to maintain an educational system that is responsive to the needs of the country. German evidence of success is found in the manner in which the vocational arm of the educational system, ensures work for students. Upon completing vocational schools and then completing training contracts, there is usually a job. German industries “pro-actively select the work on offer .. ensuring the system’s popularity for decades and [it] underpinned the rise and rise of the German manufacturing sector” (Hirst).
When Education is Not a Priority
A country where education is not a priority is Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the political unrest of 30-40 years ago produced a social and political system that resulted in almost 30 years of war. During this time, education was not a priority, particularly for women. Women were either not educated or given minimal education. The result was the primary caregiver in the household raising children, but being unable to even help these children learn the basic elements of literacy. While not the sole cause, this practice of limited education enabled a political and religious fundamentalism that threw the country back to almost medieval standards. Since the American led Allied intervention of Afghanistan, in spite of many ongoing difficulties, schools are being built, some girls are able to acquire an education, and the country is slowly emerging for the medieval warfare that has plagued it for many decades (Human Rights Watch).
To conclude, the above arguments support the thesis of this paper. The thesis is that it is not possible for a country to be classified as a developed nation unless the educational system is an important part of the country’s domestic policy. The examples of the impact of education on two countries with histories of devastating wars, Germany and Afghanistan, support this argument. Where a nation has proactively engaged its educational policy in support of the country’s economic development, there is success. Germany, in spite of the terrible history of wars in the twentieth century, reinvented itself through education. Whether or not Afghanistan can do the same thing remains to be seen. The evidence in Afghanistan suggests that the changes in that country have been significant since the American led intervention. Non-governmental organizations and national governments around the world have poured money and resources into the country, since that time, in an effort to stem the political and social regression of that nation. There have been changes, some of them small, but provision of education for the girls of Afghanistan is one of the positive outcomes of the intervention. This may put Afghanistan back on the road to independent nationhood one day. Germany was able to recover from the ravages of the Second World War. It is possible that through education Afghanistan will be able do so as well.
Alkire, S. “Human Development: Definitions, Critiques, and Related Concepts.” 2010.
Bundesministerium fur wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung. Vocational educataion and training in German development policy, BMZ Strategy Paper 8. BMZ, Division Education. Berlin: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperationa nd Development, 2012.
Carayannis, E., A. Pirzadeh and D. Popescu. Institutional Learning and Knowledge Transfer Across Epistemic Communities. Vol. 13. Springer, 2012.
Cohen, J. “Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education: Creating a Climate for Learning, Participation in Democracy, and Well-Being.” harvard educational Review 76.2 (2006).
Hirst, T. What is the secret of Germany’s success? 11 July 2014. 24 October 2017. <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/07/germany-economic-success-world-cup/>.
Human Rights Watch. “I won’t be a Doctor, and one day you’ll be sick”: Girl’s Access to Education in Afghanistan. 17 October 2017. 24 October 2017. <https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/10/17/i-wont-be-doctor-and-one-day-youll-be-sick/girls-access-education-afghanistan>.
Kotthoff, H. “Between Excellence and Equity: The Case of the German Education System.” Revista Española de Educación Comparada 18 (2011): 27-60.