In the 1980s it was considered a given that most low-income countries over-invest in tertiary education. But that tired assumption is being upended in today’s world of borderless universities and globe-trotting skilled workers. A higher education undoubtedly generates a positive return for most people, whether in advanced or developing countries. However, policymakers should heed the warning about not jumping too fast by focusing on higher learning when in many countries, getting a solid secondary education is the key to climbing the ladder toward prosperity. Also, the importance of getting the organizational structure of universities right is often undervalued, with the result that far too many academic institutions fail to graduate people who are equipped to compete in the global workforce, or, aiming even higher, who are qualified to change the world for the better.
These were some of the takeaways I gleaned from Brown University President Christina Paxson’s lecture on April 26 at the World Bank.