As the world matches towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in 2015, it’s important to ponder about the intricate importance that quality education plays in the attainment of the rest of the goals and targets.
Without quality education, there is little hope of obtaining the requisite long run growth that is desperately needed in developing countries. Studies by Uwezo East Africa in three East African countries; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania for example indicate that there is little learning that takes place in schools. They find out that less than one third of pupils enrolled in Grade 3 possess basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Too many efforts by governments in developing nations have been put in promoting access and time spent in school. Little has been to improve the quality of education in developing nations. In Kenya for example, education will receive a total of Ksh 366 billion in the FY 2016/2017 a budget much more than other economic and social sectors. Despite that, developing countries continue to rank far behind the Western nations in terms of measured cognitive and creative skills which are highly dependent on the quality of education that is offered in schools.
A look at East Asian countries for example indicates that South Korea among has the lowest percentage of young adults with numeracy skills below 2 % among OECD countries. The country has made remarkable growth over the past 50 years to become one of the top performing in the OECD’s Programme for International Students Assessment. On the other hand according to a study by African Library Project 59% of the population in Sub Saharan Africa are literate indicating that students get much less out of a year of school than elsewhere.
While individual countries may have different views on what constitutes quality education, what really counts for economic outcomes is the knowledge and skills of the population. To what extent is the population employable? To what extent is the population innovative? Apart from behavioral and cultural factors which may limit the people’s propensity to save, do the populations have the knowledge and understanding of savings and investments?
Without this set of skills that have the capability of triggering savings, innovation, creativity, investments among others, attaining the Sustainable Development Goals might remain a pipe dream. This is why the private sector, governments, bilateral and multilateral partners and NGOs must work together not only to promote access to education among poorest regions but more importantly work to promote the quality of education. There is no other pathway but this one.