Educational institutions: What can we learn?

Education and training influences the economy, but what happens in the economy also has a big affect on what we are taught.  Investing in education has long been seen as an important way for economies to grow.¹  This is because well trained workers tend to be more productive, which means they make more money which increases the size of the economy.

An educational institution could be anything from primary school to vocational training, or from an apprenticeship to a graduate scheme. The type of education that a country chooses to invest in has a big effect on what type of economy the country will have in the future. Countries with high investment in engineering apprenticeships, for example, might churn out huge amounts of engineers, and therefore have stronger industries; countries with few universities available are likely to rely less on knowledge economies and more on agricultural work.

But the process works the other way round; the type of economy also effects what people are taught. In countries with big manufacturing sectors, for example, vocational training is generally easier to come by, because the economy couldn’t survive without 'blue collar' workers. In more service-oriented economies, university degrees, graduate schemes and internships might be more common, and more looked up to.

Migration of labour, or people moving to work in different places, often happens because people feel that the economy of the place they happen to have been born into doesn’t suit their skills or interests, and they’re looking for a new economy to settle into, with education and industries that better suit their abilities.²

A big debate is whether educational institutions should be funded by the government or whether they should be paid for by the private individuals who use them. One of the key arguments is that education is an investment in the student's own future, and so they should bear responsibility for paying back their fees with their higher earnings. However, the response to this is that education is a human right, that everyone should have the ability to access equally. If education is paid by the individual, then it may bar or exclude already marginalised groups from accessing it, which could perpetuate inequality in society.³