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Education quality trumps quantity for economic gains: ADB

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Developing Asia still faces skill shortages and mismatches and addressing this problem can reap massive economic dividends, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report on Tuesday.

DEVELOPING Asia still faces skill shortages and mismatches and addressing this problem can reap massive economic dividends, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report on Tuesday.

It added that the solution likely lay in improving the quality of education - in terms of teaching students skills - more so than the quantity of education, in terms of years of schooling.

"A number of developing Asian economies have not been able to translate educational investments into quality skills ... This is one reason why educational investments have often fallen well short of expectations to drive higher growth within economies," the Manila-based organisation said.

"However, this does not mean that science and mathematics should be the sole focus of economies aiming to develop greater economic growth ... For example, a liberal arts education could have an important role in fostering critical logic and reasoning skills that generate workers who are more adaptable to evolving workplace tasks."

The ADB projected that if developing Asian economies focus on achieving levels of "basic" skills such as reasoning and simple math, economic growth could be substantially higher than if they focused on increasing the number of years a student is in school.

And if those economies were to focus on developing "top-end" skills such as ability to solve complex problems and strategise in at least 15 per cent of their population, the economic gains could be even better, it said.

It added that countries can reap the biggest gains in skill levels when test scores and school performance are routinely available to the general public. Targeting early childhood education in particular would be much more financially effective than spending on education later in life, it said.