February 13, 2003
Leaders like Lee Kwan Yew have recognised that investing in education pays huge dividends. By investing heavily in education at all levels in Singapore he was able to transform it from being a poor, developing country to a prosperous small state with a well educated and technically competent workforce.
Children should also be educated for their role as citizens. They should be given some understanding of the modern world and Guyanaís place in it, of representative democracy, of what we produce and where we sell it, of what it takes to develop a country, of the United Nations, of the various economic blocs and what they seek to achieve, of Caricom. They should know the basic outlines of our history. The aim should be to give them some understanding of the local and global situation in which they live. We need, as educated citizens, some level of consciousness of who we are, where we are and the kind of things we can realistically hope to do to improve our situation.
Many feel that by far the most serious problem in our society today is the lack of educated and experienced people at every level. As a result of this human resource deficiency things donít get done at all or they get done slowly or badly. The brain drain that has resulted over the last fifty years from the turbulent, ideological politics and the ethnic struggle has exacted a terrible price. We have lost engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses, businessmen, technicians, civil servants and a host of crucial skills. Our businesses, our ministries and government agencies, our schools, all our institutions have suffered terribly as a result. More than that, because of some of the political attitudes that were inculcated especially during the period of paramountcy of the party the work ethic is not what it used to be. Malingering and slovenly work has in some areas become the norm and attempts to correct it and to instil discipline and structures are strongly resisted and the would-be disciplinarians are roundly abused.
To develop a country one must deal in reality, not rhetoric. You canít develop a country without educated people who understand what they have to do. You canít develop a country without people who are willing to put in the long hours needed and who accept the need for discipline and rules. A sound basic education is vital for our progress as a nation.
The real process of development whether in capitalist or socialist societies has involved hard work and dedication. The problem is that one sees the end product, for example Manhattan and all its wonders, on television without any insight into what it took to achieve that level of development. In the modern information and service economies education is at a premium. Without it, the best designed plans will not be achieved and the people will continue to be bemused by the populist rhetoric and slogans of the politicians and other public figures which build castles in the sky without being willing to tell the people the harsh truth that study, hard work and serious discipline are the only bases on which any society has ever been developed.