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[Opinion] Investment in Education

Posted January. 08, 2009 05:07,   


Countries around the world look gloomy in the wake of the economic crisis, but a “pressing war” is underway behind the scenes. They are racing to acquire things that appear relatively clear amid an uncertain future. Japanese companies are snapping up sound companies by banking on the strong yen, while China, dubbed the “world’s factory,” is scrambling to buy up sources of natural resources including crude oil and minerals. Another such effort is investment in educational reform. Countries invest in education because this is the surest way to ensure a better future.

China announced an ambitious plan on educational reform early in the New Year. Starting this year, the Chinese government aims to enhance education in eight fields under a 12-year plan. China, which saw universities collapse during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, is now making extraordinary efforts to reconstruct education. The country has sped up educational reform after joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, which increased the ratios of admission to elementary and middle schools to 98 percent and 97 percent, respectively, while making notable achievements in the cultivation of high quality human resources. Nevertheless, Beijing is urging educational officials to “shed conventional perception toward education.” From now, teachers in China will be paid according to a merit-based system. Those who fail to manage schools will also be held responsible. Though China is a socialist state, it is growing more market friendly than advanced countries. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also said, “Education is a core capacity for overcoming the economic crisis.”

The United States will introduce “21st Century Education” suggested by President-elect Barack Obama. American students rank middle to last in international educational performance tests, but the United States continues to win more Nobel Prizes than any other country thanks to a unique education system that efficiently improves student capacity to solve problems and boost creativity. “21st Century Education” is meant to further reinforce these strengths.

Obama says jobs and growth originate from the classroom. Bill Gates also advised Obama to “invest in education that is lagging behind.” While China and the United States are preparing to ready themselves for the light at the end of the tunnel, Korea has continued a dogfight over equity in educational institutions, which is already obsolete. If Korea continues this practice, the winners and losers have already been effectively determined in this global education war.

Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik (chansik@donga.com)