While the importance of education to the growth and progress and societies is no doubt and hence, cannot be overemphasised, there is an equally pertinent need not to neglect the complementary relationship between education and industry in particular and the economy in general.
Though it may not be entirely appropriate, most parts of the advocacy for quality education especially in developing countries have narrowed the meaning of education to the conventional school system and hence, calls being made for increased investment in education literally translates to increased investment in the conventional school system. Yes, the school system is very important to the economy because it is conceived to be the training ground for the labor/workforce upon whose shoulders the economy of any nation is built. Aside producing workers for the vast public sector and corporate private sector, schools in developing countries are facing increasing pressures to train their students in entrepreneurialism.
With deteriorating economic standards and fortunes, some experts have gone ahead to propose that an investment in education by a country’s government is a magic wand capable of turning the country’s fortunes around.
Yes, investment in education can lead to progress and growth in many ways, and No, boosting the education sector alone will not solve the problems of an ailing or developing society. An investment in the education sector without a commensurate investment in industry and the Creation of a sustainable economic environment is like an attempt to produce a baby by supplying only just sperm cells. Without the female eggs to be fertilised, there would be no baby. Building a quality education sector without a corresponding development of industry and economic environment, there would be no economic progress.
If you do so, if you build a good education system without a corresponding development of industry and economy, you will be producing an army of skilled workforce with no industry or economic environment to thrive. Without developing industry and providing a suitable economic environment, the graduates from your developed education system will have no jobs and those with the skills and desire to set up businesses of their own will not be able to do because of a hostile economic environment. Thus, there will be a brain drain – your developed education system will be serving other economies and contributing to their growth more than the growth of their home countries.
This is why developing the education sector is as important as developing industry. Funding the development of schools should be taken as seriously as funding the development of the power sector. The energy expended on reforming schools should be matched in reforming other critical sectors of the economy like power, transport, and finance. Investment in education should be matched by investment in industry, infrastructure, and formulation of economic development policies and laws.
Nations who are classified as developed ensured that they get it right in both areas. Their advancement in education was matched with advancement in industry. For instance, The economy of California, a state in the US, is the 8th largest economy in the world, ahead of India and Russia. This is largely due to the state being home to Silicon Valley, a city that houses one-third of the 20th most valuable companies in the world. The development of Silicon Valley has been linked to Stanford University, an institution that has churned out some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurialism engineered by Stanford University would never have materialized if the city of California had terrible transport and power systems. The conducive environment created in California made it possible for students from Stanford University to build one of the richest cities in the world.
It is pertinent to note that, unfortunately, there is little or no effort to tie the tertiary school system in Nigeria to industry. The link between tertiary schools and Industrial development in Nigeria is as wide as the chasm between the biblical Lazarus and the rich man and this is partly due to the failure to reform and develop education as well as the economic cum industrial environment in the country.
A working relationship between education and industry is a better formula for development. The government must have to adopt a holistic approach if we are to go far. Right now, we are nowhere.
Caleb Onyeabor is a Nigerian intellectual, an avid advocate for political justice, social justice, and economic justice. Author of Diary of a Messed Up country. Follow him on Twitter via twitter.com/caleb_onyeabor
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