The importance of education in human development

Guyana Chronicle
September 28, 2000

A GREAT portion of the literature in development studies subscribes to the theory that investment in the health and education sectors are imperatives for improving the quality of life of a nation. To this end, governments allocate sizable segments of their budgets to the delivery of health care and education, and despite the fact that the gains are not always evident in the short term, ultimately the investments may determine the progress and achievements of a country.

When people are allowed an adequate education, not only can they communicate with the rest of humanity, but they can also understand the shape of the world with its myriad cultural symbols; they can locate their place in both the material sphere as well as gauge their views in the cosmos of ideas. More importantly, they possess the power to make intelligent choices on matters of ethics, religion, health, their children's well-being, further education and careers.

In today's highly competitive world, education is measured not only by degrees, diplomas and certificates, but also by one's facility with the marvellous wonders of communication technologies. Even as we accept the fact that degrees and diplomas are useful and impressive indicators of knowledge and achievement, it is more important that persons who are products of the education system possess the capacity to use their acquired knowledge to help enlarge the understanding of others and seek to further extend the frontiers of civilisation.

Recently, Guyanese have been lamenting the disturbing research findings which state that many of today's schoolchildren have difficulty in reading simple words or expressing themselves lucidly in writing. And while we have had gratifying successes at the SSEE and CXC tests, there are several scores of students, even at the university level, who are woefully deficient in the most elementary functions such as composition and figures of speech. Some children are more skilled in language skills such as reading and writing because of a number of factors such as better home environments, expensive tutelage, access to necessary textbooks and motivating parents. Conversely, the children who fail miserably may not have parents or guardians who are interested in stimulating their intellectual development. Such parents find no time to read to their children or discuss books with them. And then there are the distractions of mindless television programming, and unedifying video games.

It must be recognised that schoolchildren today need to be convinced of the value of education in the face of a counter-culture which glorifies the gold-bedecked illiterate hero, who can spend in one day the money a career public servant takes home each month. Youngsters may well challenge their parents' belief that a sound education will open doors to personal development when the opposite view seems to be true.

We can only recall the words of South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, who, in a UNDP publication some years ago, compared the hunger of the belly with the searing deprivation of the intellect. The brilliant author, in mourning the fate of persons, who because of ignorance are locked out of enjoying the fullness of life, described them as being condemned to plod through their existence at the lowest level of human consciousness.

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