Harnessing higher education for development

Many people young and old are focusing on higher education more than ever before. This phenomenon is also largely supported by government as seen through evidence.

Many people young and old are focusing on higher education more than ever before. This phenomenon is also largely supported by government as seen through evidence.

On any normal working day, you will easily find a sizeable number of prospective students chasing for loans or scholarships at the offices of the student financing agency of Rwanda in Remera.

What is the real motivation and hence resultant benefits from a higher education and more so an advanced degree be it a masters or doctorate. Does higher education and advanced degrees translate into human resource and skills development?

Does the investment in higher education create higher returns once one attains employment?

Going by the trends, it is apparent that many people value an advanced education regardless of the field of specialization.

This besides the prestige that comes with a masters or doctorate is that one easily becomes competitive in a fast paced economy and global market that has followed the onset of globalization.

Let us take a historical perspective, is there evidence to suggest that advanced education translates into higher returns for the individual who pursues it and his country?

University professors the world over are known to get less remuneration in comparison to less educated people holding executive positions in other areas like the private sector and sometimes in government service.

It is also apparent that some employers place less value on higher education and choose to remunerate highly educated people in a manner that does not reflect their academic attainments.

This discourages people from investing their own resources and time in the pursuit of advanced education. It would be prudent if government enacted laws that require all employers in the public and private sectors to create remuneration scales that recognize people’s education attainments

This is so because advanced university education creates a mass of mature and skilled workforce which can jumpstart a country’s transition from third world to first world levels. Most developing countries Rwanda inclusive were given a raw deal in the form of a colonial education system that was geared  towards creating a system of clerks and lowly servants as this column has argued in the past..

Lee Kwan Yew the revered modernizing prime minister of Singapore suitably captured the importance of education in national development. Lee Kwan a man credited for transforming Singapore from a third world to a first world country believed in the role of relevant and well designed education to foster transformation.  At the time of assuming leadership in the 1960s, he realized that the inherited education system would not be relevant to his countries development process.

“Our community lacks inbuilt flexes-loyalty, patriotism, history or tradition…our society and its education system was never designed to produce a people capable of cohesive action, identifying their collective interests and then acting in furtherance of them.”

Lee’s statement is a reflection of a leader’s clear understanding of the role education plays in a nation still in the developmental stages.

It is clear that education in a developing country like Rwanda is not for the purpose of imparting knowledge or learning.

Education as a number of scholars have noted should be a national project in which the future and current workers would have to develop a set of collective values necessary for industrialization. Henceforth education becomes a crucial tool in the industrialization process.

Rwanda under the current leadership is laying the foundation for its future as a modern nation state. Whereas advanced education is crucial to the process as a cornerstone for research that is necessary to transform a country, emphasis must also be put on technical education especially in the early formative stages of education.

Technical education is important and ought to be mandatory for example at the lower secondary school levels. This in combination with emphasis of relevant advanced education can go along way in impacting on the nation’s development process.