Today marks the beginning of the G7 Summit, during which the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission will convene in Brussels to discuss matters of the global economy.
The Summit provides an important opportunity to examine the role of education policy in supporting the equitable growth of the global economy. Data show the link between the two is strong.
On average, a year of schooling is associated with a rate of return in terms of income growth of 10 percent a year. This is higher in low-income countries, demonstrating the need for further investment in education where the supply of schooling is scarce. Securing sustained prosperity hinges on growth, which depends on favorable policy change.
In a recent article published in advance of the 2014 Brussels Summit, Gaurav Tiwari and I propose that the G7 leaders can help countries identify and implement the best policy mix in education by facilitating the following three revolutions:
- A data revolution: The availability of data will make policymakers more knowledgeable about the state of the various education systems, and more sensitive to their needs. This will also allow countries to assess existing policies and make the necessary interventions to ensure sustainable and shared prosperity.
- An evidence revolution: The call for and use of more evidence of policies that make a difference will make a case for good governance. At the same time, the evidence-based practice would complement the readily available data, and also help policymakers contextualize the work in education.
- A service delivery revolution: The right environment encourages innovation, risk-taking and evidence-based policymaking. The propensity for innovation and risk-taking can help growth become a norm, not just in developing countries, but all around the world. This is all done in the name of building better systems for shared prosperity and growth.
Again, according to the OECD, more than 75 percent of Norwegians have a paid job, compared with only 60 percent in Mexico. These figures are consistent with each country’s educational performance – only 36 percent of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree in Mexico, compared with 81 percent in Norway. The quality of education plays a significant role in the quality of employment. Students from developing countries score significantly lower in tests of cognitive achievement (such as PISA) than do students in high performing countries.
Students in high-performing OECD countries are graduating at a better rate than are students in low-income countries. Based on the OECD evidence alone, countries need to invest in education for sustained prosperity.
The lack of a fair distribution of skills in society is another factor contributing to overall inequality. Highly unequal income distribution, lack of access to education and poor-quality education for the poor aggravate the problem several fold. If access is inequitable, it diminishes the performance and compromises the social and economic benefits of schooling.
Enabling countries to use education for sustainable and shared prosperity is critical for development in today’s world. The three “revolutions” we suggest here are very much in the reach of world leaders, and a goal worth striving for.