I’m always inspired when I come across articles in the general press which argue the importance and value of education. After all celebrated and revered writers such as Op-Ed Columnist Thomas Friedman can say it much better than I can!
Writing in the New York Times: Pass the Books. Hold the Oil Friedman comments on the results of a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which administered the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) – an exam which compares the results of math, science and reading comprehension tests of 15 year olds in 65 countries with the “total earnings of natural resources as a percentage of GDP for each participating country.”
Quoting Andreas Schleicher, who oversaw the administration of PISA, we are told that the study found
a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population …”
In short, the findings of this study corroborate the fact that countries low in natural resources, who have nothing to mine from the ground, are forced to reply on the strength of their population. As a consequence, time, effort and resources are poured into the country’s educational structures to ensure that the population can bolster the country’s economy.
Interesting conclusions are drawn by Friedman throughout the article:
Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students.”
Concluding his discussion about the PISA report, Friedman says:
What the PISA team is revealing is a related disease: societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits and incentives for doing homework and honing skills.
Quoting Schleicher, Friedman emphasises the point
in countries with little in the way of natural resources — Finland, Singapore or Japan — education has strong outcomes and a high status, at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. … Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.”
The final punch line is again reported by Schleicher:
knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” ….. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”
Just last week, my presentation at a conference was titled: “It’s never too late ….. Learning is a lifelong journey.” Having those powerful words – lifelong learning – said by another is indeed very heartening:
Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning.”