|The Courier N° 148 - Nov - Dec 1994 - Dossier: Education - Country Reports: Saint Lucia - St Vincent and The Grenadines (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)|
There has never really been any argument over the link that exists between education and development. Education may not, in irself, be a universal recipe for economic and social progress, but it is a fundamental - and some would argue the fundamental element in the development equation. It allows individuals and societies to unlock their potential, to expand their horizons and to adapt to a changing world.
In a certain sense, there is a global 'education' system which always functions, propelled by humankind's curiosity and its capacity for continuous reaming. A child absorbs information at a remarkable rate, through observation and experience. The adults in his or her life instinctively become 'teachers', passing on their knowledge and experience while themselves remaining 'pupils' in the classroom of life. This is as it has always been. But education in the modem, complex world must go a great deal further. Societies need systems capable of passing on the accumulated knowledge which provides an essential basis for creativity and progress.
In the so-called 'developed' world, universal primary and secondary education is largely taken for granted. So too are opportunities for further study or training at the tertiary level. Such systems absorb a lot of resources for no immediate (economic) return but they are justified because they are investments which will be repaid with interest in the longer term. This principle is no less understood in the developing countries but, sadly, the resources are often not sufficient to translate objectives into practice. Countries are caught in a vicious circle, aware that development requires an educated population but lacking the funds that only development can generate to provide the education.
A further key aspect is that education is a cumulative process. Starting from the bottom, each brick must be firmly positioned before being built upon. The foundations are basic literacy and numeracy and these, ideally, should be laid early in life. Sadly, the resource crisis means that there are millions of children in developing countries who are deprived of even primary education. And among those who do have this opportunity, attrition rates are so high that many never see the inside of a secondary school and only a tiny few make it to university or advanced training.
In this Dossier, compiled with the collaboration of Christian Platteau, a researcher at the Universitibre de Bruxelles, we look at some of the main issues involved in laying the foundations for education in ACP countries. The focus is on basic questions such as school attendance, curricula, literacy and the financing aspects.
The authors who have contributed to the Dossier reveal clearly how much more needs to be done before 'Education for all' is achieved in the developing countries, but they also make a positive contribution in highlighting how some of the challenges might be tackled.