Cover Image
close this bookThe Courier N 148 - Nov - Dec 1994 - Dossier: Education - Country Reports: Saint Lucia - St Vincent and The Grenadines (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)
close this folderDossier
View the documentEducation
View the documentEducation, the key to change?
View the documentIncreasing school enrolment rates
View the documentSchool textbooks, investment... or waste
View the documentDevelopment indicators and education
View the documentStructural adjustment and education support programmes
View the documentCan we swap debt for education?
View the documentBecoming a teacher: an ambiguous ventre
View the documentAssessing whether an educational system is effective
View the documentLiteracy: three stories
View the documentTuvalu - Education for life
View the documentEducation as an investment for the future

Education as an investment for the future

by Tony Crasner

The rains in the Piggs Peak region of Swaziland had been particularly severe that year. At Golobolo Primary School, Mrs Masuku, the headmistress, stood surveying the school's football field which appeared poised to slide into a 'conga'. The field had been created earlier the same year by the bulldozers of the Ministry of Education, which had piled up a great heap of the region's red soil and then flattened the top. The conga was evidence of the rapid pace of erosion of the unprotected base of the heap.

Through the gate in the school fence came a procession of children carrying plants and seedlings. Soon, the sloping side of the football field was dotted with small groups busy planting trees. 'Tomorrow,' said Mrs Masuku, 'we shall plant grass between the young trees. The trees are a kind that grows very quickly. By the next rainy season they should be strong enough to bind the soil and stop the field from sliding into the conga. Also the children have learnt an important lesson about the use of trees to stop the land from being eroded. Some of them have talked to their parents and the community is now interested in discussing with the Ministry of Agriculture the planting of woodlots in areas that are particularly at risk.'

In the offices of the African Economic Research Consortium in Nairobi, a group of academics and administrators were discussing the conditions for successful macro-economic management. The Director of the Consortium, Professor Ndulu, underlined the importance of having adequate numbers of trained personnel to occupy key posts in government, parastatal bodies and the private sector. 'The African continent must be able to mobilise sufficient qualified individuals able to undertake economic policy analysis if we are to respond positively to the challenge of steering our economies through the present stage of transition,' he stated. 'Furthermore, the institutional capacity to train such highly skilled personnel must be established here, in Africa itself, in our own universities, and in a fully sustainable fashion.'

The meeting went on to discuss the implementation of a project for the collaboration of 17 universities across 13 countries in English-speaking Africa. Under this project, the collaborating universities have developed a specialised master's programme in economic policy oriented towards African conditions and will train 300 postgraduate economists for posts in their national administrations. The project also aims to strengthen the training capability of economics departments in African universities and to improve the quality of economics teaching and research through an intensive programme of staff development.

Professor Ndulu pointed out that the shortage of an appropriate management capability within national administrations is the main obstacle hindering the success of structural adjustment programmes. He also stressed the need for forward planning if these manpower shortages are to be addressed in a systematic manner. 'There is no point in demanding an increase in economic planning cadres when you are in the depths of a crisis,' he commented. 'It takes two to three years to train a postgraduate economist even supposing that good quality undergraduates are available to be trained. The students embarking on our new master's programme this year will only enter the labour market in 24 months' time. You must always remember that the stock of skilled manpower is relatively inflexible in the short-term and that the creation of an indigenous training capacity at this level is a five-to-ten-year task.'

Investing in people

Both these examples serve to highlight one of the most important features of the education and training sectors: activities undertaken now have their intended consequences at some time in the future. Indeed, in certain cases, these consequences may only come about some considerable time in the future. Embarking, therefore, on a programme of education or training is an investment.

Investing in people is perhaps the most significant investment for the future that the ACP countries can make. On the one hand, an educated and vocationally skilled population is an economic asset with important implications for the sustainability of economic growth. On the other, the general level of education is strongly correlated with changes in certain 'traditional' social attitudes. These attitudes tend to reflect 'traditional' economic and social structures and change in this area is an important precondition for a more 'modern' approach to questions of social organisation.

But, as well as giving rise to these social benefits, education and training have important advantages for individuals. Education opens up new opportunities for employment, increases the range of choices open to the educated person, and enriches the quality of daily life.

For these reasons, education, training, and all 'operations to enhance the value of human resources' are identified in the Fourth Lomonvention as being an important target of ACP-EU cooperation (Part Two, Title Xl, Chapter 3). For the same reasons, the World Conference on Education for All, which was held at Jomtien in March 1990, resolved that the question of access for all individuals to an adequate 'basic education' is not an optional matter but rather a fundamental human right.

But if the importance of enhancing the value of human resources is widely accepted at the theoretical level, at the practical level the question remains as to whether education and training receive sufficient attention under the development cooperation activities financed from the massive resources of the European Development Fund (EDF).

Actually compiling accurate statistical information on the commitment of the Fund's resources to education and training is not a simple task and it is one which has become harder with each new Convention. Under LomI, the bulk of support for both the education sector and advanced training was funded either via general 'multi-annual training programmes' or by means of projects targeted at specific educational activities. Both these funding vehicles are relatively easy to monitor and the statistical picture is, therefore, fairly complete. Under LomII, however, it was felt that a better strategy was to integrate training as closely as possible with other kinds of development cooperation. In practice, this resulted in new types of project design where training and human resources activities were included to complement other aspects of the project. These training activities, which also became known as 'training windows', varied greatly in their size and importance. But, owing to the methods used to compile statistics on the sectoral distribution of EDF resources, even very large training windows were often subsumed under the major sector addressed by the project and were not reflected in the figures for education and training.

The net result is that, whereas the figures for EDF resources committed to education and training under LomI are broadly complete, the corresponding statistics for LomII and LomV are likely to give a significant underestimate of the extent of the European Union's actual support for this sector. Even so, the picture is rather a disappointing one, with the proportion of EDF allocated to human development remaining roughly constant from Convention to Convention.

Thus, under LomI, the total amount of programmable aid devoted to education and training was approximately ECU 268 million or 8% of the total programmable EDF. For LomII, the equivalent figures were ECU 317m and 6%. Under LomV, up to the beginning of October 1994, the amount committed to education and training has reached roughly ECU 250m or 4% of the programmable EDF (see table). However, it should be recognised that these figures do not present a complete picture. Not only will the funds committed to human development under LomV increase considerably before the end of the Convention but, also, under LomV, a considerable proportion of the funds made available by the Union for structural adjustment support programmes in ACP countries has been directed towards the education sector.

If structural adjustment funds are included in the LomV figures for education and training commitments, the total committed rises to some ECU 487m, which represents nearly 7% of the total of programmable funds plus structural adjustment resources.

Relative emphasis

But, although in absolute terms, the actual amounts of funding committed to education and training are very substantial, there remains the question as to whether the emphasis placed on human development in the text of the Convention is being fully reflected in the relative importance of the sources flowing into this sector when compared to the other sectors supported from the funds of the EDF.

The Lomonvention and education

There may be a number of reasons for the fact that a relatively small proportion of EDF funds is committed to education and training. In the first place, it is certainly true that projects in these areas often require smaller allocations of funds than, for example, large infrastructure or rural development projects. As the EDF is heavily engaged in supporting both the creation of infrastructure and rural development, this may mean that a proportion of some 10% of programmable aid going to human development is about right. A second point worth mentioning is that the European Union is not the only international donor involved in supporting human development in the ACP countries. It may be, therefore, that the education and training sectors are receiving assistance from other donors and that EDF support is more focused on other areas.

However, the general state of the education and training sectors in many ACP countries is one of increasing under-resourcing with a consequent deterioration in both the quality and the quantity of the education provided. While the reasons for these resource constraints are related to the deteriorating overall economic situation of many ACP countries, it must be remembered that too little investment in education now means shortages of skilled and qualified people in the future. It will probably also mean shortages of the skilled manpower that is needed to manage and maintain development projects in other important areas.

Thus, in terms of the need to support human development in many ACP States, there is a very good case to argue that an insufficient proportion of EDF resources is being allocated to these areas.

The possibility that the objectives of the Convention relating to education and training may not be achieved is naturally a matter of considerable concern. In seeking to understand this situation, the Commission's Directorate-General for Development has taken a detailed look at the National Indicative Programmes which determine how EDF resources allocated to the ACP countries will actually be spent.

The programming exercise takes place at the start of each Convention in accordance with a procedure laid down in Articles 281-284. During this procedure, the ACP States propose a series of target sectors for EDF support. These sectors must be priorities for the country concerned in terms of its own national development strategy. They are divided into 'focal areas' where EDF support should be concentrated end 'nor-focal areas' which are sectors of lesser priority.

The resulting document, known as the 'National Indicative Programme' (NIP), provides the general guidelines for all subsequent stages of project identification and design. Most importantly, sectors which are not accorded a high priority in the NIP are unlikely to receive a significant amount of EDF resources.

The analysis of the texts of the Indicative Programmes gives us a much clearer picture of the practical considerations that have determined the allocation of EDF funds under the Fourth Lomonvention. Of the 69 Programmes studied, only 13 mention education and training in the context of a 'focal' area of cooperation. This represents 19% of the programmes where a significant proportion of the total available funds can be expected to be committed in the area of human development.

A further 45 NIPs contain a mention of education or training activities either in the 'non-focal' areas or as a training window in some other sector. Thus, in a further 65% of the NIPs, we can expect some resources to be committed to human development, but this will not be a major proportion of the total funds available. The 11 remaining countries, constituting 16% of the total, have Indicative Programmes which make no mention of any kind of education or training activities to be supported. Under these Programmes, no commitments to human development can be expected.

The theme of this article is that education and training are essential investments for the future of development in the ACP countries and that this point of view is fully in agreement with the position taken by the framers of the Lomonvention. It follows from this that we would expect to find the education and training sectors assigned a high priority within the planning guidelines for each national programme under the EDF in order to ensure that adequate resources are committed to these areas. We would, therefore, expect to find that many Indicative Programmes would have one or other aspect of education and training identified as a 'focal' area for EDF support.

However, when we analyse the NIPs that have been signed, we find that fewer than one fifth include education and training within their focal areas while the majority mention these sectors only as a complement to some other aspect of the Programme. This situation is reflected in the actual levels of commitment of funds being allocated to this area under the last three Conventions.

An increase in the proportion of the EDF committed to human development requires a decision at the stage of programme formulation that human development should become a central feature of more Indicative Programmes. This will shortly become one of the major issues to be discussed as the new Financial Protocol of the Fourth Convention enters its programming phase in 1995-96.