Education and economy [Archives:2008/1197/Viewpoint]

October 9 2008

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
Now that we are at the beginning of the academic year, there is silent excitement around the country about going back to school. The summer holidays were fun, lazy but fun as there were no responsibilities on students, especially males as they wasted their time between TV and friends. It is true that theoretically the academic year has started in September but because this year it coincided with the Holy month of Ramadan, education was not really taken seriously. Even at the university level.

And despite the illiteracy rates and still having a large percentage of our youth not enrolled in schools, and an even larger percentage that does not join higher education, it is still important that schooling is taken more seriously. Not only in terms of quality but also on ways to relate the products of the educational system to the national economy.

To be put simply, the role of the educational system is to create and empower human resources that would be able to contribute to the national economy through their work in the various sectors. This means that quality education produces professional people who would be able to enhance the living standard in the country through working in either the service or the manufacturing industries.

Therefore, if the national economy is deteriorating, then there is definitely a problem with the education sector among other deficiencies in the governing system overall.

A simple indicator is to see how many Yemenis work in the high tech, specialized and top management positions. Obviously the better the educational system is, the more Yemenis there will be.

This is a problem world wide. USA, which used to be a super economy, is suffering deeply today because of the very issue of education. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and a legendary figure in for his skill at managing the United States economic system explained this relation several times either in his book “age of turbulence” or through his public speeches. He insisted that for the American economy to thrive, more attention needs to be given to education, and in particular economic education.

If the USA, and it is what it is, suffers from educational problems, then what are we to say about our part of the world and about Yemen which is a least developed country? Malaysia understood this equation three decades ago and invested in its educational system which eventually helped the country's economy immensely.

It is not only the responsibility of the government or the Ministry of Education or Higher Education. It is also the responsibility of the people. The responsibility of teachers and educators, of parents and guardians, but most importantly of the youth themselves. Yemeni youth should start taking their education more seriously. They should study harder and look for ways to develop their skills and learning outside schools and realize that they are a shareholder in this country and try to make a difference in their lives today, so that there is a difference in their future tomorrow.