Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research and Content Development at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) - QF’s global education initiative- talks about the importance of education to economic growth
Education provides a foundation for growth and is the bedrock of much of economic and social welfare. Why do you think that is?
Education is deeply linked to the economy and to national development. Investing in education and developing the human wealth and human capital of any society is considered to be one of the best and most rewarding types of investments.
Providing high-quality education in schools, especially in early childhood, leads to students building human skills and capabilities that grow and evolve with them through the different stages of education. Good education with strong foundations cultivates a generation of professional graduates in different fields who can actively participate in the growth of the economy and in boosting economic production.
Developed countries rely on the development of their national human resources to inform their economic growth in a diversity of disciplines, by providing a cadre of specialists in all fields. Among them, of course, is the social field, such as education and family services, and this is what contributes to enhancing social welfare.
Why is education particularly important to increasing economic growth and achieving economic development?
The role of education lies in preparing specialized professionals and providing state institutions and the private sector with resources that accelerate the pace of development. This comes from investing in the quality of education at all stages and diversifying and developing curricula.
Lifelong learning, which is both a mindset and a process, is reflected in practice by investing time and resources in adult-learning programs
Lifelong learning, which is both a mindset and a process, is reflected in practice by investing time and resources in adult-learning programs that serve to continuously develop individuals at different points in their lives and careers. This type of ongoing or continuous learning and professional development plays a major role in increasing motivation, interest, and efficiency in the labor market, which, in turn, leads to economic growth.
Does education contribute to diversifying sources of income in order to achieve comprehensive development?
Certainly, as most educational systems currently incorporate a focus on teaching students entrepreneurship and technological skills, which are skills that characterize the 21st Century. They also focus on strengthening the role of global citizenship, scientific research skills, and other skills that help people obtain the jobs of the future, as a result of the Fourth industrial revolution, or start personal entrepreneurship projects where they apply what they have learned.
Entrepreneurship is characterized by the fact that it opens an opportunity for young people to start small and medium enterprises that contribute significantly to providing themselves with income, and providing job opportunities for other youth. This supports the diversification of the economy, and a shift from youth working primarily in the governmental and semi-governmental sectors to working in the private sector.
What is meant by ‘education economics’?
It means looking at education from an economic perspective, by studying the economics of human resources, analyzing the return from education in terms of cost and educational productivity, and measuring outputs against inputs.
Education economics is concerned with maximizing the return on investment in education by optimizing the use of resources in the educational system to produce the greatest possible benefit for the society.
Quality education is a necessary precursor to a healthy economy and the two live in synergy with one another
The relationship between education and the economy is very close and integral; in fact, I would argue that quality education is a necessary precursor to a healthy economy and the two live in synergy with one another. Universal quality education provides a society with a skilled workforce, which is necessary for a thriving economy and also to supporting all aspects of social infrastructure. At the same time, a strong economy provides a society with the material resources necessary for enabling and developing a healthy and thriving education system. This makes it necessary to consider the economics of education when designing or developing policies for any educational system.
Do you believe education in Qatar has advanced in a way that matches the extent of investment in it?
The educational system in Qatar has many positive aspects, and, as with other educational systems across the world, is currently facing challenges that need to be addressed, especially after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The educational system in Qatar is very focused on promoting the importance identity, the Arabic language, and Qatari heritage. It also has strong infrastructure, reflected in modern school facilities, equipment, and resources, utilizes technology in many aspects of the educational process, and is committed to developing the capabilities of teachers.
However, the educational system needs to develop professionals in schools to support the educational process at the school level, based on research and scientific evidence and experimental studies. It also needs to enhance student motivation and increase the involvement of parents in the educational process and the way they follow up on their children’s development.
Education and the economy are closely linked, and education is currently one of the important areas of investment because it brings a return for society as a whole
Why do you feel countries invest in education and highlight its important role in economic development?
Education and the economy are closely linked, and education is currently one of the important areas of investment because it brings a return for society as a whole. Governments pay great attention to it and allocate significant resources to it.
We have all seen changes in curricula, moving from traditional methods to focusing on teaching 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork, in addition to paying special attention to teaching foreign languages and entrepreneurship education.
We have also come to see huge diversity in schools, and society’s view of this diversified education has rapidly become more positive. Families recognize the benefits of this type of education to their children after graduation, through the type of jobs it helps them to get and the extent to which it supports their professional readiness for progress. This has encouraged investment in building schools, ensuring they have high-quality teachers and staff, and providing the latest educational technology within their classes.
Qatar has established specialized schools for students that can help them take the right decision about their future, through aligning them with labor market requirements. How does this contribute to economic development?
One of the main objectives of education is to supply well-qualified professionals that align with the demands of the job market. This is not only limited to administrative and leadership positions, but also includes technical and professional jobs. And this is where we see the importance of technical and professional education, both at school level and beyond.
In Qatar, this is evident in the establishment of specialized schools such as the Qatar Independent Secondary School of Banking Sciences and Business Administration, which provides an educational curriculum that prepares students to work in the banking sector after graduation; in addition to schools that focus on medical sciences and also STEM education, such as Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Academy for Science and Technology.
There has been an increase in the number of recent graduates working in the private sector or who have become involved in the field of entrepreneurship by establishing small and medium enterprises
Qatar’s developmental vision has focused on making significant investment in its human resources. How does this translate into economic growth?
Qatar’s national vision is focused heavily on human development, as one of its four pillars, and this focus has also been reflected in its national development strategies from 2011 until the present day. In order to achieve these human development goals, the State of Qatar has provided substantial financial and human resources to support the education sector at all stages.
Despite the challenges that the educational system still faces in Qatar, we have started to see this investment bear fruit, as evidenced by the number of students currently enrolled in Qatar Foundation’s partner universities and Hamad Bin Khalifa University. University enrollment in Qatar has increased dramatically over the last five years, even as the admission and studying requirements in these universities have become more difficult. There has also been a significant increase in the number of graduates, confirming a qualitative change in the school educational system that paved the way for this outcome.
What is also noticeable is that there has been an increase in the number of recent graduates working in the private sector or who have become involved in the field of entrepreneurship by establishing small and medium enterprises. This directly reflects on the strength and diversification of the economy, which makes it more sustainable and reduces its primary reliance on oil and gas revenues.
And what I have seen recently is the growing interest of young people, both male and female, in fields like arts, sports, literature, and the environment. These represent strengths in a diversified economy that includes human and social aspects, as well as practical and professional aspects; and these fields provide investment opportunities and jobs.
Achieving sustainable development in any country requires great efforts and huge investments. Qatar has taken many steps in this direction. To move forward, we must continue to invest in our human resources, and the infrastructure that supports them, for decades to come.