September 30, 2014
Guest blogpost by Arif Shala, doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany and executive director at the Institute for Economic Development Studies in Prishtine, Kosovo.
How does a country pave its way towards economic growth and prosperity? Why is it that some countries simply never seem to be able to overcome their economic frictions? Education is the fundamental driver of national and global development. It is this realization that has triggered a focus in many countries towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, specifically enabling universal primary education and vanishing disparities at all levels of education by 2015. The commitment to achieving these goals has improved significantly the situation of education worldwide. Despite the progress a lot remains to be done as countries in the coming decades will have to face the tricky matter of quality in education.
Although there may be no need for me to spell it out why Kosovo needs to work towards economic development, I will nevertheless state that developed countries enjoy improved rates of prosperity, stability and well-being. Strong education systems are a prerequisite to economic development while also ensuring inclusion and reduced income inequality between social groups. Inequality is linked to deleterious social and political effects and tremendous negative impact on growth. The results of the studies suggest that improvements in education tend to contribute significantly towards the reduction of income inequalities within countries.
With the matter of Millennium Development Goals along came the question of quality education. As it stands, poor educational outcomes and inefficient education systems are eliciting deep concern worldwide. In many countries, Kosovo included, primary schools fail to provide students with appropriate cognitive skills like numeracy, literacy, problem-solving ability and general scientific knowledge. Furthermore, inadequate education at the secondary and tertiary levels, including technical and vocational education and training, is leaving students unequipped to meet the job market’s changing demands.
The matter of economic development is nowhere more crucial than in Kosovo. The economy in Kosovo needs to improve fast. Kosovo is a small country with little, and this is an overstatement, political and economic power. In order to achieve any kind of progress in Kosovo, more should be done in improving the state of the education system. When it comes to the future of Kosovo, education is the key. What we know for sure is that what has been done so far does not work. Two steps need to be taken immediately in order to ensure the improvement of the education system. First, Kosovo needs to adopt an education system that offers three distinct modes of education: in job-training, applied sciences and finally the universities which will provide academic training. Secondly, the state of the teaching staff should be improved.
The enhancement of the quality of education does not come only from trying endlessly to recruit qualified staff. There are however a few alternatives that would bring some positive change. First, quality education will only happen in Kosovo once different modes of education have been established and are fully functional. Western European countries ripe the benefits of a framework of education that establishes clear links between people who want to learn a skill (e.g. hair dresser), the ones who aspire a degree in applied sciences (e.g. nurses, automation engineers) and finally the ones who pursue academic careers (e.g. teachers, doctors). These distinctions are either nonexistent in Kosovo or barely function. Regardless of the fact that the number of colleges and universities in Kosovo is increasing rapidly it needs to be understood that not all individuals wish to obtain academic degrees. By distinguishing the various levels of education the state will not only offer choices to the people but it will ensure that only a certain number of students attend academic programs. A reduction in the number of students will immediately increase the quality of the output. The Universities have a small number of professors, scarce resources and limited space for students. Taking into account these facts it is no wonder that the Universities in Kosovo are ranked low. The second step will be to improve the situation of the teaching staff. The number of tutors and assistant graduate students should increase rapidly. Fortunately, this will not be unmanageable in terms of financial resources as it will cost little compared to its long list of benefits. In Kosovo education is the reference point when it comes to the integration and development of the Kosovo. People in Kosovo should be able to financially support their families with their honest work. Policy makers and leaders in the country should realize this basic human right and act on it. If they continue on the path of not providing this right, than they should at least not act surprised when the rates of crime increase constantly. People are born with the instinct to survive, and if a government does not provide them with the basic right to work in order to live, they will ultimately be drawn to unjust ways to providing for their children. We may be able to judge them from a legal standpoint, from a human one, never.
Prosperity and well-being are conditional upon economic development, while economic development is dependent on quality of education. The process seems rather easy and self explanatory however, how its realization is another question.