Education, economy, and democracy

Best practices must be followed in education

One of the defining features of democracy, and an economy, is the quality of education, and the extent of children in schools. In fact, the level of cognition depends upon the quality of mental constructs in children, which in turn are pathways determining aptitude.

Moreover, good quality education strikes a healthy balance between conformity and creativity, whereby societies where education over-emphasizes path dependency, and does not allow development of critical thinking not only lack enlightened citizenry, but also lag behind in innovation– an important determinant of inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.

Widespread education also helps reduce income inequality, and overall poverty, on one hand, and enhances the political voice, which strengthens democratic culture. For instance, in developing countries, including Pakistan, the level generally of educational, and economic empowerment is quite low, leaving the demos weak in terms of firstly choosing better public representatives, and secondly putting enough pressure to push them to legislate in the public interest, like taxing the rich, and overall dismantling the extractive economic institutional design of the colluding politico-economic elites.

While adequate infrastructural investments, fixing the price signals of services provided in the educational sector, including optimal level of pay and pension given to teachers and overall educational staff as broader reform goal of an educational reform policy, and as part of the needed incentive structure, along with bringing in improved governance structures for better regulation and overall development of the educational sector, in addition to providing high quality curricula, the quality of teaching is one of the defining features of a good education system

In terms of the importance of education for democracy, noted philosopher and educationist John Dewey in his book The School and Society and Child and Curriculum pointed out in his book ‘What the best and wisest parents wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely, acted upon, it destroys our democracy.’

Moreover, while trying to reform the education system, especially on an emergency basis– as is being taken as a goal in recent statements of government– it is important to start from a holistic view of issues at hand, of not just the education sector but also all the connected sectors. Having said that, the issues within the sector– formulating curricula, training teachers, improving infrastructure, among other areas– receive a purpose-driven, mission oriented, widely encompassing approach.

Defining the mission-oriented approach, renowned economist, Mariana Mazzucato, said in her book Mission Economy: a moonshot guide to changing capitalism ‘Conventional wisdom continues to portray government as clunky bureaucratic machine that cannot innovate: at best, its role is to fix, regulate, redistribute; it corrects markets when they go wrong. …we cannot move on from the key problems facing our economies until we abandon this narrow view. Mission thinking of this kind… can help us restructure contemporary capitalism. The scale of reinvention calls for a new narrative and new vocabulary for our political economy, using the idea of public purpose to guide policy and business activity. This requires ambition – making sure that the contracts, relationships and messaging result in a more sustainable and just society. And it requires a process that is as inclusive as possible, involving many value creators. Public purpose must lie at the centre of how wealth is created collectively to bring stronger alignment between value creation and value distribution.’

At the same time, while planning for educational reforms, it may be important to look at success stories, and in this regard, Finland holds a very significant place, as one of the leading countries in terms of education systems. In the book Finnish lessons 2.0: what can the world learn from educational change in Finland? Finnish education system has been reflected upon as ‘The National Curriculum Reform of 1994 is often regarded as the major educational reform in Finland, along with the Comprehensive School Reform of the 1970s. The main vehicle of change was the active role of municipalities and schools in curriculum design and the implementation of related changes. Schools were encouraged to collaborate with other schools and to network with parents, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations. At the level of central administration, this new collaborative and self-directed movement culminated in the Aquarium Project, a national school improvement initiative enabling all Finish schools, principals, and teachers to network with one another. The aim of the Aquarium Project was to transform schools into active learning communities.’

As the government embarks upon implementing educational emergency, it is important that it learns from Finnish, and other leading educational reforms programmes, and educational systems. On a broader scale it is important to adopt social democratic, and non-austerity styled economic philosophical under-pinning, so that fiscal space could be enlarged, and overall the role of government is seen in a more proactive way, whereby it co-creates markets and contracts with the private sector– and not just facilitate it, or only mainly fixes market failure– and also regulates it more meaningfully.

While adequate infrastructural investments, fixing the price signals of services provided in the educational sector, including optimal level of pay and pension given to teachers and overall educational staff as broader reform goal of an educational reform policy, and as part of the needed incentive structure, along with bringing in improved governance structures for better regulation and overall development of the educational sector, in addition to providing high quality curricula, the quality of teaching is one of the defining features of a good education system.

In the book Teaching In The Flat World it is pointed out in this regard, while giving the example of the Finnish education system as ‘Finns regard teaching as a noble, prestigious profession– akin to medicine, law, or economics– and one, like medicine, driven by moral purpose rather than material interests. It is no wonder, then, that teaching is one of the most important career choices among young Finns. …Becoming a primary teacher in Finland is a very competitive process. Only Finland’s best and most committed are able to fulfill those professional dreams. …Certain Finnish practices contribute to a strong teacher workforce: [a] Rigorous research-based and practice-oriented teacher education programs that prepare teachers in content, pedagogy, and educational theory, as well as the capacity to do their own research, and that include fieldwork mentored by expert veterans. [b] Significant financial support for teacher education, professional development, reasonable and equitable salaries, and working conditions that enable lateral professional learning and building social capital in schools.’

Dr Omer Javed
Dr Omer Javed
The writer holds PhD in Economics degree from the University of Barcelona, and previously worked at International Monetary Fund.Prior to this, he did MSc. in Economics from the University of York (United Kingdom), and worked at the Ministry of Economic Affairs & Statistics (Pakistan), among other places. He is author of Springer published book (2016) ‘The economic impact of International Monetary Fund programmes: institutional quality, macroeconomic stabilization and economic growth’.He tweets @omerjaved7

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