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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Structural Integrity, Volume 2, Issue 3
The last 15 years have seen sustained progress towards the education Millennium Development Goals. For example, primary completion rates in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 51 to 60 percent between 1990 and 2007, in South Asia they rose from 62 to 81 percent. Several countries also have recorded significant gains in learning outcomes. Jordan is one example. Between the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the 2003 TIMSS, Jordan improved its science score by 0.25 of a standard deviation, which is equivalent to about one year of learning. Jordan has continued to improve, and in 2007 surpassed several countries which had a similar or slightly higher performance in 1999. Indonesia also recorded marked improvement in student learning; its score in mathematics on the Program for International Student Assessment test increased by 30 points, or 0.3 of a standard deviation, between 2000 and 2006.
But the current global economic downturn threatens this progress – by reducing the ability of both households and governments to invest in education. The crisis could lead to expenditure cuts as incomes fall and domestic fiscal revenues drop sharply. On the demand side, school revenues from students and contributions from the community could decline as employment and family incomes fall, making schools more dependent on transfers from the government. There may be pressure for children and youth to help augment family incomes, resulting in more school absences or higher dropout rates – although this effect may be countered by the fact that the opportunity cost of schooling is also lower due to a shortage of jobs for youth. On the supply side, teacher salaries may be delayed more than usual, vacant teacher posts may remain unfilled, and allocations for school repairs and school inputs may be greatly reduced, with undesirable consequences on learning.
I was under the impression that all the above were just something for the developing countries and yet coming across the UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2010, I realised that from the expected 72 million children out of school by the end of 2011 due to the economic crisis, about 7-11 million represent the dropouts from countries considered developed.
Past economic crises have shown that an economic downturn produces chain reaction effects on schooling, university and research. For example, loss of income may reduce household demand for education because out-of-pocket expenditures are going to be a heavier burden in relative terms, but at the same time a decrease in the opportunity costs of education due to weak labour markets may also reduce university student numbers. With consumption rates falling and certain fiscal uncertainties, market-driven areas like engineering will undergo unprecedented changes. Public universities unfortunately, being chained to governmental fund injections, will find themselves within a complex web of fiscal changes, dropping student numbers, reduced research funds and societal uncertainties. Today, I am afraid that pleads for recovery through education will take a much stronger voice.
Chris A. Rodopoulos