Education and economic growth

| Updated: October 23, 2017 10:15:12

Education and economic growth

Economic theories developed since the 1960s embrace endogenous growth that introduces human capital - education - as a means of ensuring economic growth. Almost similar to this argument is Amartya Sen's human development paradigm that stipulates that education can play an instrumental role in production as well as social change. Of late, education's role has been expanded as a contributor to food security. 
It is being argued that 'especially basic education and not training or vocational education, can improve the capacity of individuals to live a decent life and to escape from the hunger trap. The basic idea is that being educated improves rural people's capacity to diversify assets and activities, to access information on health and sanitation and to enhance human capability in addition to increasing productivity in agricultural sector. These are all essential elements of ensuring food security in the long-run'.  
According to Harry Patrinos, lead education economist at the World Bank, "the profitability of education, according to estimates of private rate of return, is indisputable, universal, and global. The principle holds true particularly for women, who can expect a 1.2 per cent higher return than men on the resources they invest in education. Providing one extra year of education to girls increases their wages by 10-20 per cent. This increase is 5.0 per cent more than the corresponding returns on providing a boy with an extra year of schooling".
Women's education has particularly captured the centre-stage of attention in recent years. The reasons are possibly not far to seek. In addition to total economic growth, women's education is believed to increase equitability of distribution of wealth in a society. Increased women's education is important for achieving this as it targets the impoverished women, a particularly disadvantaged group. There is also evidence that lower gender disparity in educational attainment for a developing country is correlated to lower overall income disparity within the society. 
Women's education leads to significant social development. Some of the most notable social benefits include decreased fertility rates and lower infant mortality rates, and lower maternal mortality rates. Closing the gender gap in education also increases equality, which is considered important both in itself and because it ensures equal rights and opportunities for people regardless of gender. Education has cognitive benefits for women as well. Improved cognitive abilities increase the quality of life for women and also lead to other benefits. One example of this is that educated women have better capacity to make decisions related to health, both for themselves and their children. 
Cognitive abilities also are translated to increased political participation among women. Educated women are more likely to engage in civic participation and attend political meetings, and there are several instances in which educated women in the developing world were able to secure benefits for themselves through political movements. Evidence also points to an increased likelihood of democratic governance in countries with well-educated women. 
While discussing the trend of education, one can hardly overlook commendable comments of former President of India and world famous scientist A.P.J Abdul Kalam: "Creativity is the key to success in the future, and primary education is where teachers can bring creativity in children at that level. Almost half of the population of the world lives in rural regions and mostly in a state of poverty. Such inequalities in human development have been one of the primary reasons for unrest and, in some parts of the world, even violence".
Bangladesh has made good strides in primary and secondary level education with regard to school participation. According to the latest field-level data, almost all children aged between 6 and 10 have enrolled in and attended primary school irrespective of their gender. This also supports the national level statistics. One of Bangladesh's biggest achievements has been in the realm of gender equity in school enrolment. In 2013, among the 11-16 age group, about four-fifths were enrolled in secondary level with females outpacing the males. 
Unfortunately, the higher school participation rate could not be sustained up to college level.  Firstly, in 1988, girls were lagging behind boys in enrolment in primary schools. By 2013, the difference tapered off to make them equal. Secondly, in secondary schools, girls outnumbered boys in enrolment although they lagged far behind in 1988. Thirdly, in college and higher levels, only one-fifth of the female group are enrolled compared to one-thirds of the male group. By and large, it appears that there has been tremendous progress in primary and school enrolment especially for girls. However, dismal performance of both groups in the enrolment at the tertiary level points to the perilous level of drop-outs. In other words, most of the primary and school-going boys and girls drop out before they could enroll in tertiary education.
It is now well-recognised that Bangladesh has made tremendous progress as far as education at primary and secondary levels is concerned. One of the recent writings on education argues that although the list of successes is not long, some improvements could be in evidence in the backdrop of steps taken after 1990 by the successive governments.  
Net and gross rates of school enrolment have increased. Of 6-10 age children, 87 per cent are attending schools as against 60 per cent in 1990. In secondary level, the rate of enrolment doubled during the last seven years. The dropout rate of children declined and completion rate of primary level increased. About 75 per cent of primary school children complete education cycle.  In primary and secondary level, enrolment of boys and girls is at par. 
At the same time, the researchers also point to the perilous position in some areas as far as quality of education is concerned:
 In general, 60 per cent remain present in classrooms. If all join, there will be space problem.
 40 per cent  of primary-age children drop out before reaching Class V.
 Of those who complete primary education cycle, two-thirds can meet government-determined criteria although it is 60 per cent for all.
 After studying up to Class V, two-thirds remain in illiterate or pre-literacy stage. Even after completing five years, they fail to meet minimum standard of literacy criteria. This means they are entering the age of youth without preparation for livelihoods.
 Of those admitted to Class VI, only 30 per cent of them pass exams taken at the beginning. Of those admitted in Class VI, one-fifths succeed in SSC or Dakhil exam (boys 26 and girls 15).
The writer is a former Professor 
of Economics at 
Jahangirnagr University. 
[email protected]

Share if you like

Filter By Topic