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Higher education and sustainable development in South Asia

 Developing countries need to close the gap between creativity and quality education by leading an approach to learning and development that enables everyone to generate original, valuable ideas and make them happen, writes Niamot Ali Enayet for South Asia Monitor.

Mar 7, 2017
By Niamot Ali Enayet
 
Education changes people’s mind, attitudes, understanding, behaviour, relationship with nature and human beings. It helps to conceptualise a bigger world view before individuals irrespective of caste, colour, religion, and country. 
 
On the other hand, quality education has life-changing roles and long-lasting impacts on human civilisation. It develops skills and capacity. By definition, quality education is one that provides all learners with capabilities they require to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being. It is the major part of measuring the United Nations-led Human Development Index (HDI) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), lastly Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
 
Education enhances communicative knowledge, ensures collaboration with people, and helps one to think critically. It also encourages people to take leadership challenges. But developing countries are missing these characteristics of quality education. People from these countries are resorting to memorising and reciting facts pedagogically. Thus these countries are facing a creativity gap within their own education system. 
 
The creativity gap is a big problem. Due to the presence of this gap, people from these regions are dependant on foreign technologies, creative ideas and experts. This kind of dependency leads them to an underdevelopment status. So developing countries need to convert their education system from pedagogical learning to andragogical learning. Andragogical learning is necessary to create influential ideas and expanding transformative knowledge for welfare society. 
 
South Asian students are facing tremendous problems in pursuing higher education not only within their home countries but also abroad. To some extent, they are less competent than other fellow students coming from developing countries. 
 
For example, in India, forget the European or American higher education, hundreds of South Asian students are studying here. They are doing Bachelors, Masters, and MPhil/PhD. Some universities, such as South Asian University, some organisations and the Indian government are also offering various types of scholarships for them. But, the most important issue is that students are failing to get good academic results in their pursuit of higher education. 
 
Those who are studying economics, mathematics, computer sciences, life sciences and biotechnology or any kind of other pure sciences, their situation is very bad. They are not getting bench-mark scores compared to Indian and non-Indian students. 
 
Why is this happening? We don't have any clue. Students said they are not capable of dealing with the Indian curriculum, especially in sciences. They also claimed that the Indian higher education system is much more updated than other South Asian nations importantly in Masters and above. The two-year Masters programme is so much rigorous and theoretical. 
 
In such conditions, where quality higher education means only getting a well-printed certificate, developing countries are becoming the major human resource exporters to the developed nations. They are exporting not only unskilled and semi-skilled people but also very talented young minds. 
 
In the name of higher education, people are moving towards European and Latin American countries. This tendency increases brain drain which is naturally detrimental for their national development. The term “brain drain” refers to the international transfer of human capital resource, and it applies mainly to the migration of highly educated individuals from developing to developed countries.  
 
In 2000, the US alone allowed more than 1.74 million South Asian immigrants aged 25 years or above. In research, it is also proved that by depriving developing countries of human capital, one of their scarcest resources, brain drain is usually seen as a drag on economic development. The reasons are very clear. These people did not get quality higher education within their own country or abroad -- rather they are becoming a part of other countries. 
 
The growth of these complexities and unpredictability mean that “developing countries' economy and society demand ever greater creativity and higher quality outputs from workers and citizens”. And there are some links to understand sustainable development at large. 
 
Importantly, education systems should be geared more clearly towards equipping people with the power to create so that people of every age can learn to develop their creative capacities -- both as a means to raising attainment and broader outcomes, and as an important end in itself. 
 
That is why developing countries need to close the gap between creativity and quality education by leading an approach to learning and development that enables everyone, regardless of background, to generate original, valuable ideas and make them happen. 
 
They need to introduce more scientific education, research and innovation to transform public, professional and political understanding and attitudes, so that families, schools, work-places and other learning institutions get proper priorities and generate creative capacities by ensuring quality higher education. 
 
(The author is studying for M.A. in Sociology at South Asian University, New Delhi. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to editor@spsindia.in)

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