The link between education and economic development

Although Arizona’s political leaders are stressing their interest in seeing the state continue to develop economically, Arizona’s schools hover near the bottom in most of the national rankings. Despite the poor academic showing, the level of AZ State Sealstate funding for public education has been on a steady downward trend. The success of Singapore’s economic development program should remind Arizona’s education cost cutters of the vital and important role education can play in long-term economic development.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founder and long-time prime minister, died recently at the age of 91. Over a period of time, his policies helped transform Singapore from an island backwater into one of the world’s richest countries. When Mr. LeeLee K Yew began his stint in politics in the late 1950s, the British colony that became the Republic of Singapore was a crowded island about three and a half times the size of Washington, DC. It had no natural resources, its diverse population was composed of immigrants from China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Since location and population were the country’s only developable resources, the government decided to chart a course to ensure that students got a world class education.

Working at the dicey intersection of regional tensions, Cold War antagonisms and economics, Mr. Lee understood that good governance was the foundationSingapore 1 the country needed to put into place if it wanted to be able to develop a productive private sector. He had an uncanny knack for picking capable economic managers. As regional tensions flared and settled down, the economy was kept open, regulations transparent and government effective. In an area rife with corruption, Singapore wanted to keep its operations clean and proficient. The little country instituted a policy of paying its military and civil servants high salaries.

The policy of fostering education and competence paid big dividends in the long run. Singapore’s impressive makeover has become a much studied economic success story. In the ease of doing business rankings, Singapore is always nearSingapore 2 the top. The country’s bureaucracy remains efficient and honest. Today, Singapore has well-educated population, its schools continue to rank among the world’s best. The country’s GDP per capita is now among the highest in the world. If Arizona wants to promote economic growth, it needs to stop defunding its educational system. The legislature has to learn that an investment in human capital does pay off.

One response to “The link between education and economic development

  1. Frances Perkins

    Let’s not sanctify Lee Kuan Yew. He was an autocrat who tolerated no dissent, with Singapore a Democracy in name only. There are no effective opposition tolerated by Lee’s ruling party, supposedly to contain ethnic tensions in a polyglot society, but really ruled by the ethnic Chinese elite. Singapore has a very small, ultra rich elite, and lots of very tough regulated, immigrant low paid workers. I agree with your education/economic linkage, but the one party dictatorship in this State doesn’t see and does not want to fund education and uses the “administration” club, like the last governor used immigrants. Ducey would love to rule like Lee, if he could. No pesky dissenters on the budget, lots of investigations into “waste”, just like Lee. He would love to stifle dissent like Lee (maybe buying off Killian is one example).