July 15, 2013

The Question of Development and Education: Is there a correlation?

I was asked to answer a question, regarding the impact of education for girls in the Congo (and Africa at large) on the process of development. I wanted to share it because I think can be applied everywhere, and concerns all of us as "global citizens" in some way. Here was the question, and below is my (long) answer:

"What impact does educating girls have on the development of Congo? - According to the World Bank, 30% of all primary school students in the world graduate without the ability to read or write. How best do you think we can fix broken education systems in Africa?"

"I am glad to provide you with my opinion. Nevertheless, I can only answer your question from a personal standpoint, and as a student who is earning her B.A. Hons. in International Development Studies. I believe first and foremost that institutional education is an important part of cultivating a person's skills and abilities, in order to become competent and valued in westernized (or westernizing) societies. It opens up opportunities, and it develops a person's sense of worldliness. In terms of the relationship between education and development; it is an ambiguous concept because education and development can (and are) interpreted differently across cultural surroundings. If we are to be specific, in questioning the importance of formal institutional education in directly producing development, comprised of economic, social and political factors within the Congolese capitalist realm of society, then yes I believe it is important. This is because the Congo is not a country that can escape westernization or even globalization; it possesses too many valuable resources from a consumerist standpoint to be left without intentional development. Therefore, basic education at the very least is required for a person to be included and to become competent in that sort of society.

Now to answer your original question; educating girls in the Congo will benefit them based on what I explained above. They will become more cultivated and appreciated as a result of the requirements and expectations of society. However, education will not necessarily guarantee development beyond the realm of internal personal growth. This is because development itself, as I mentioned, consists of different facets. A person may become sophisticated as a result of education, but not be able to maintain a livelihood. The Congo is not socially developed to the point that it offers various and unquestioned opportunities for ordinary people to gain economic development, and to be able to sustain themselves, after acquiring an education. In a country like Canada or the United States, however, people have the comfort of knowing that different levels of education usually provide different opportunities for development.

I am, consequently, not so much specifically interested in the impact that the education of girls may have on development in the Congo, as much as I am interested in developing a society where their education guarantees them opportunities for economic development, at the very least. There are many people who are highly educated in the Congo, yet who continue to live in economic poverty, which is detrimental to the development of other parts of their lives. The Congolese government does not at large create subsidies for the different areas of civil society, so without economic means ordinary people cannot have access to basic necessities such as health care or even education. Therefore, for me, your question becomes more about development as a whole, rather than just the correlation between education and development; as education is an actual part of development from a western perspective."