Developing economies shall remain on course only if our education systems are primarily aimed at emulating and developing “First World Culture and Tradition”. What I mean here is that the mind-set of our educational planners must be informed by a high performance culture and philosophy which would enable our nation, especially sub-Saharan Africa, to compete with the best in the world. Ideally, the impact of education can only be felt if it is flexible and plays a facilitating role. For our education systems to have a meaningful impact on the economic and social welfare of our people, many people who are creative and innovative must be trained. Certainly, our people are born with creative abilities and inclinations, but for them to be useful citizens; those who are at the forefront of education, they should provide quality teaching and research and instill in students a positive learning culture. This, largely, should be the nation`s culture and it should continue to inspire and not stifle its people. Creativity in its nature is dynamic and not static, therefore our education gurus must be agents of change at all times. Innovation, calls for a major mind shift in our contemporary world. Our people, including traditional and political leaders ought to hit the ground running or else we are doomed.
Sound education as well as innovation has divided nations of the world into two groups, namely, those who innovate and those who consume what others have produced. Nations which believe in innovation and invention progress and become richer, while countries that are static and pay less attention to innovation become increasingly poorer and poorer. Developing nations are urged to emulate the approach of Asian Tigers to education and training. Clearly, these newly emerging economies have invested heavily in education, technologies, materials and processes which, in turn, greatly improve the quality of their products. The corollary which can be drawn is that their Education systems have helped propel their economies to achieve development goals and national visions. Certainly education is an expensive undertaking, but there is no shortcut to peaceful coexistence and prosperity thus developing nations have to invest heavily in education especially in Digital Information Communication Technology (DICT). We need to urgently create efficient results-driven implementation channels and then focus on stimulating creative innovation and strategic collaboration especially on empirical research and development. For us to achieve first world status, there is a pressing need to attract professionals in order to turn the situation around.
Training institutions` capabilities need to be upgraded in order to undoubtedly improve the quality of our education systems. If institutions of higher learning produce tens of thousands of graduates who cannot obtain meaningful employment or generate work because they lack the critical skills required by industry, then there is no future. Only if our training is demand-driven and has strong links with industry and commerce, are we assured that we are producing the right kind of human capital. The development of quality human capital should take a centre stage in our education system as the reputation of an education system is enhanced by its products. Thus, the final products (graduates) must first meet the demand of globalisation, for education to make an impact on people`s livelihood and self-sustainability, economic growth and development. States and people of goodwill must build quality educational and infrastructural capacities that enable citizens to optimally utilize their intellect. It should be noted that, only if our people are trained in their areas of interest shall such education yield positive results. Naturally, education`s ultimate aim and objective is to enable people to optimise skills and talents to build a formidable society. Thus, human resource development plans or strategies must include in envisaged curricula the training of the young generation, shaped to be creative, innovative and inventive so that when they become adults, they will venture into unknown territories and establish themselves as serious entrepreneurs or creators of work and wealth.
Lately, there is a worrying trend, particularly in the third world countries; by so-called international businesses coercing the latter to abandon their national training agendas. It is important that developing nations resist this “foreign pressure” as giving in shall certainly be a national disaster. While ensuring the quality of graduates, flexibility and adaptation in education is real, since training nowadays is meant for global consumption. However, this by no means, implies compromising educational quality and agenda. This is how we can comply with international / global business prerequisites.
It must be noted that our first interest is to satisfy the social, cultural and political conditions of our nations before complying with international requirements. Apart from the right skills for employment purposes, it is paramount that education instils in a student a sense of ethics and behaviour in order to portray the right attitudes at the workplace and in society. Normally, only those who are well groomed ethically shall have the courage to fully handle the unknown of our dynamic and ever changing world. As I mentioned earlier, for our education systems to be relevant and meaningful, they should impart the kind of skills to students which would enable them to adapt to the ever changing environment and to get on well with their peers and others.
The impact of education for the developing world should be understood in the context of present reality on the ground and the anticipated destination alongside developed nations. This reality and the preferred destination for the future are similar to a journey which needs to be completed in a vehicle of which the engine is a knowledge-based economy. This journey starts with education (i.e. educated and skilled labour force as the anchor) and should be supported and facilitated by modern information and communication infrastructure, effective innovation system, and institutional organisation regime.
Dr. David Namwandi is a PhD holder in Business Administration from Asia University, Malaysia. He is the Founder of IUM and a former Minister of Education, Republic of Namibia.