Thursday, March 5, 2009

Educated Citizens

There is no necessity to justify as to how important education is regardless of the context in which it is discussed. It has been proven on its own the value addition that both education per se and educated citizens in a country can do to make both the social and economical conditions better. All though the normal perception that society has is that only individuals who are educated benefit society also benefits immensely by having educated citizens. It is absolutely necessary to have a robust education system in a country with a long term vision to manage the human capital. It has also been accepted and upheld by the constitutions of all most all the countries that every child who is at the age of schooling has to get the opportunity of being educated without any deprival due to their sex, cast and race. Most developed countries in the world have invested heavily in their education systems initially to ensure the smooth supply of appropriate human capital in terms of the right knowledge, attitude and skills.

The entire world is at a critical stage in the social transformational process and right now we are in the so called knowledge era where knowledge is far more important than never before. Knowledgeable society could clone its success over the years and individuals as a part of the economy have taken a considerable amount of attention and interest in knowledge workers. In a journey of creating a common future for south Asian counties it is paramount to have a common understanding and approach to address the related issues as a network by learning from each other.

Although, it is not possible to quantify the benefits generated by the education and educated citizens in a country always, it can be categorized into three broader areas as mentioned below.

Social benefits

Educated citizens are more likely to get into high income jobs so that they can lead better healthy lives which also include happy and leisure time. It has been proven by the researches carried out in this area that the quality of life and the life expectancy are more likely to go high in a society where there are educated individuals. Also in return they can indirectly contribute to reduce the public expenditure in the areas of health, social awareness, and food. It is also observed that healthier individuals as a result of being educated are more likely to have healthier children and likelihood of them continuing to educate their children is also very high. They are also less likely to contribute to illegitimate birth and become victims of sexually transmitted deceases. Educated citizens are more likely to uphold the common social value and respect the norms of their cultures and as a result of that a society with law and order can be maintained.

The rapid changes in technology, the changing nature of work and the demographic changes also affect the society at large. In this context education should be able to produce citizens with interpersonal skills, who can work collaboratively in ethically and culturally diverse environments. Researches in the areas of interpersonal, psychological and broader behavioral qualities have shown that there is a less tendency towards authoritarianism, dogmatism, and ethnocentrisms and also growth in principled moral reasoning. Further, in a society of educated citizens, they are interested in current affairs and foreign politics according to the researches. Moreover, education can make a huge impact on the personal behavior displayed by individuals and they tend to display traits such as active thinking, being proactive, assertive communication with a broad range of intellectual and academic skills. Educated citizens are more sensitive to the social issues and likely to get involved in activities that affect society and political structure and community services. Educated citizens could easily be more productive and engaged as the tend to be more tolerant towards cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, believing more in common values that cut across such boundaries.

Economical benefits

Still there is a tendency for certain people to think that being educated is something personal and only individuals can benefit out of it. Today, there is a considerable number of youth investing in higher studies both locally and internationally. Even though both social and economical benefits are not easy to quantify due to its qualitative nature, economic benefits of educated citizens are quite visible and easy to quantify as there is correlation between the education level of citizens and national productivity. When there is an uneducated workforce their employability is low and therefore, their value addition to the national economy of a country in terms of production levels is not considerable. High unemployment is not a healthy indicator in any economy and that would put more burdens onto the governments in terms of public expenditure. Research has shown that an educated citizen in many countries earn more than what an average citizen would earn by doing odd jobs. Educated citizens tend to get into more value adding and white collar jobs according to their qualifications. When a country/economy has an educated workforce they could earn both locally and internationally and that will in return increase the national production of the economy. When a country has more educated and skilled workforce investors are willing to make substantial investments to launch new business. For us in South Asia, it is crucial to attract foreign direct investment. Having a healthier and productive economy is in return gives the opportunity to any government to invest in the basic infrastructures so that country could be developed and dependency on the lending nations could be minimized. Educated citizens also can play a vital role in tax system in any country as they understand the rationale behind it and making it a compelling reason to pay their tax promptly knowing that they can reap the benefits of it in terms of country’s development.

Political benefits

Unlike the both social and economical benefits that can be generated by educated citizens political benefits of same is not easily quantifiable and also no comprehensive researches have been carried out. In Asia, we have an emotional attachment with regard to political interest. Politics in most of south Asian countries are linked to and associated with power. Unlike other decisions, most of us take political decisions emotionally, with no rational justification based on facts and figures. Most of the people who have the voting power are not politically mature, but are generally inspired by the personalities of politicians based on our individual likes and dislikes. It has been seen throughout that we take politics personally and have a tendency to ignore aggression and violence that go hand in hand with politics. It is only a few individuals who are willing to express their political ideology openly and honestly. We can hope that at least the educated citizens will take the lead to transform this behavior into a more meaningful affair. The time has come for educated youth to join politics and take on political office, especially with regard to planning and implementation of conflict transformation, good governance and free market principles.
We should as a country invest in the vision of a better future that envisages higher & healthier living standards, clean & safe environment and above all, respect for human dignity by having a clear direction with regard to our education system.

Written by Shan Yahampath,
Secretary General,
LYG Sri Lanka

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