Millennium Post

Education, torn into pieces, globally!

A nation’s education system is deemed to be one of the most vital pillars of a strong societal structure and is equally responsible for economic growth. Since the last few decades amidst others, the Western education system has developed, transforming itself into one of the most flexible and accommodating systems of education.

America holds exemplary credentials on this account. One of the first things that the United States did during its developmental years was to invest handsomely on education to create world-class academic institutions. Even today, the best talents from across the world are attracted to United States because of the nation’s superior educational system and the resulting employment opportunities thereafter. Similarly, Western Europe too treaded the same path although on a lower scale compared to United States, both in terms of quality of education and investment on institutions.
However in the race for attracting this cream of global talent, the United States is running out of steam as pressures of a sustained recession is taking a huge toll on its academic funding. In 2009 which was a benchmark year, the US Department of Education’s discretionary funding on education was $155.4 billion; the same in 2013 however is $65.7 billion, a shocking drop of $90 billion. The latest report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which brings out a yearly analysis of education funding in the United States mentions that 26 states in America are reducing their education investment per student in 2013 while 35 states are still investing at levels that are below the pre-recession levels. The report mentions that this has resulted in hundreds of job losses in the education sector in the past few years, especially hurting the low-income groups in America more as many important school programmes targeted at these communities have been the first to be purged.
The cookie is crumbling in Europe too. The latest OECD report titled, Education at a glance 2013, confirms that the per-student educational investments are plummeting in most EU countries. Other statistics confirm that Italy, Greece, Spain, Scotland, Portugal, Poland, Estonia, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Luxemburg, Sweden and Malta, experienced cuts in educational investments. Immersed in immense federal debts, these troubled European nations have had no option but to divert funds from critical sectors like education to repay their external obligations.

All this has unfortunately attracted large-scale resentment and cynicism from academic and student communities as well as from the disadvantaged groups in these nations. Expectably, this is resulting in something dangerous. The budget crunch is indirectly fanning the radicalization of education and in extreme cases, is also promoting the sowing of religious hatred amongst the mentioned disadvantaged groups. There clearly isn’t anything objectionable in studying and following religious teachings. However using religion to breed political, ideological and religious hatred is a cancer growing in a covert and subverted manner within the education systems of many developing nations. Specific groups in countries like Sudan and the erstwhile Taliban controlled Afghanistan, have turned Islamic teachings into hate campaigns against adversarial countries, communities and religions. For these groups, embedding religious and communal hatred through their ‘educational institutions’ within the mindsets of impressionable youth and children in their respective countries, is more of a political campaign to either retain their power centers or to usurp power from democratically elected representatives. As a specific example – Pakistan, for decades used religious educational institutions to spread hatred against India, as well as for shaping the country’s foreign policy. In 2009, a British national daily reported on the issue saying that according to most security analysts internationally, Pakistan’s madrassas were effectively – ‘jihad factories spreading terrorism around the world.’
Thus the twin woes of the fall of educational investments in the developed nations and the rise of fundamentalist teachings fanning religious hatred in underdeveloped and developing nations are debilitating the bulwark of the global education system. It is also working against the unbiased and balanced flow of information to youth of the world. On one side of the spectrum, the entire multi-billion dollar education businesses in Western countries are facing a crisis due to the continuing effect of global recession. On the other side, increasing hate messages involved in the curriculum of the young and formative minds in Asia and Africa presages a negative world order and a threat to mankind. These kinds of negative and distorted ultra-religious teachings are the fountainhead of global terror and rightwing politics that is a sign on the wall for clashes between civilisations. To stem this dose of social, political and economic danger that our crumbling education system poses to the world, the developed nations of the world have to necessarily refuel and re-energise the education system globally. Funding in education from these developed nations is what has ensured that youth and children in underdeveloped and developing nations have been able to live the great global dream. Cuts in educational investments by the developed lot will only result in the growth of radical educationist groups and this is something the world
cannot afford ever.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM Think tank

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