Alternatives For Millennium Kids

A good friend of mind recently commented that his own kids and their friends are a lot less materialistic than our generations were, and that numerous surveys show that Millennials don’t want their jobs to interfere with their family or social life. He went on to say that, “Some say this is laziness, I tend to believe that Millennials have their priorities a little better aligned than their parents and grandparents.”

These kids, I believe, are smart, and cognizant of their challenge in America. With social programs being dismantled and safety nets disappearing, they will be on their own, which means that unless they are capable of making lots and lots of money, maybe making it into the top ten percent of wage earners, they will not be able to keep their heads above water, or even afford basic health care which will skyrocket in the near future. Why struggle to save money all your life when the first serious illness means that a hospital or doctor will sue you and take your home and life savings? The enthusiasm to become a part of this is shrinking.

Then there is saving for their kid’s college, and they just can’t see how they are going to afford all of this. And how about retirement? Reagan with his reckless tax cuts partnered with Greenspan to loot the social security fund when his deficits got out of control, and now the fund is going broke, and many want to dismantle it calling it socialism.

So the Millennium kids can look forward to either fending for themselves in old age, or living with their kids, which in independent America doesn’t work too well. So instead of a peaceful old age with Social Security, which this country once promised and which we all paid into all of our lives, and which then was stolen from us, they can look forward to constant struggle and stress to pay for health care, drugs, and food just as their body begins to fall apart and they can no longer work.

In the news recently, doctors are dropping patients unless they pay the doctors $1500.00 a year just to see them. This includes no tests, no hospitalization, no catastrophic coverage, only a chance to see a boutique doctor. This means that in the near future, we will need both an insurance policy plus $1500/year for a doctor. Medicare and Medicaid patients will be left out in the cold.

But there are alternatives for young adults and their futures.

Presently, it’s all about money from every angle of society, more and more money is needed, but there is only so much money with the pile slowly decreasing, which means that those on the lower rungs of society will suffer greatly in the future because the wealth is not being spread out in this country. Distribution of wealth is considered un-American, and wealth is therefore hoarded. The income distribution regarding the lower and middle classes has been in steady decline since Reagan was in office.

If our educational system continues to ignore these kinds of things and fill young adult’s heads with false promises of economic stability when those promises can no longer be kept, (and how can our educational system not ignore these things when moneyed interests and wealthy politicos pressure them?) then we can expect nothing to change and conditions to worsen.

And parents, out of naked fear, signal their kids that they had better be ready to make a killing in the market place, or else! The pressure on these kids result in early high stress levels in an educational system that has lock-stepped into this whole competitive thing (the intense pressure of test scores) instead of teaching cooperation and the value of good character.

The drop out rate increases and the teen suicides skyrocket due to the worry these kids feel, worry which is justified because many times kids can see more clearly than their mentors, who have become hopelessly enmeshed in the whole illusion. The fact is that young adults will have problems down the road, even the successful ones let alone the “average” (where most of us are), which will be left economically in the dust.

Every kid has dream of making it big, playing in the NFL, making lots of money, but the reality is, fifty percent will end up average, which means that their income levels will be not be able to keep up with the wealthy, and the wealthy will not care. This is how it is playing out. And we wonder why gangs are increasing at an alarming rate. How else can people who are discriminated against keep up? Lawlessness and anarchy are always the result.

But there are other ways to live that sidesteps all of this angst, depending on how sincere a person is regarding making fundamental changes in their lives and inside themselves, and changing their future.

It’s all about clearly seeing what truly makes us happy, and conversely what promises happiness only for it to disappoint later. Who teaches kids about that? Isn’t that as important as any other subject currently in high school and college curriculum?

Lasting happiness, by its very nature, must come from satisfaction within, because outward dependent happiness cannot last due to the law of entropy, or in Buddhist terms; anicca (everything in the material universe including us is in constant flux and always changing).

If we don’t change our values, it will only worsen, and it all begins with each one of us. If parents work on themselves internally to changes their values, which means paying less attention to making money, and more attention to their kids, then the kids pick up on that contentment and fearlessness and feel more secure that they can achieve happiness notwithstanding their position in society or what they have regarding material possessions. Then the parents can stop the guilt trips and the ramification of guilt trips which equate to substituting love with toys, which although is more time-expedient, only leads to more and more pressure to make more and more money.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Values can change, but only when we wake up to the fact that this is not working; we are not happy inside, only fearful all the time. Even the wealthy, once they realize how internally unhappy they really are, will more freely help those less fortunate because without generosity, there is only a tightness that leaves no room for expansive love. And compassion, opposite of money, increases within oneself the more one freely gives it away to others.

So here is one real alternative for young adults, and there are many others: It is a little known secret that in Thailand Buddhist monks and nuns are supported entirely by laypeople. Show up at almost any forest monastery (wat) in Thailand and display an attitude of respect and sincerity, and you will be fed and housed as long as you behave and follow the rules; i.e., one meal a day (with plenty to eat) and a willingness to help out; sweep paths, etc. This means that if you can get the airfare together, it will cost you nothing to live in Thailand as long as you remain at the monasteries and behave accordingly. If you decide to ordain as a monk or nun, which is relatively easy and encouraged by the Thai people, then you would get assistance regarding visa extensions and health care. Many times even sincere laypeople at monasteries receive this assistance.

Unlike America, where people who dedicate their lives to spiritual growth are considered lazy and a drag on society, Thai people respect those who dedicate their lives to goodness, to meditation, and understand that these aspects are what underpins a successful and happy society.

Stateside, there are also many Theravada Buddhist monasteries when one can stay free of charge, again, if the person is sincere and is working toward their own spiritual development. Honesty and sincerity are key, because just wanting to freeload at a monastery doesn’t work. One has to be working on oneself internally. One’s character and intentions are laid bare in no time when living with spiritually advanced people who can many times read minds, or simply have refined powers of observation.

Many other alternatives exist, where one can live a life of peace and contentment. but the question is whether young adults truly want to change their values, change their focus on life and their futures, or whether they simply want to mechanically continue down a road which seems to be the path of least resistance, hoping that they will make it big, but possibly ending up on the streets someday, homeless or in a gang

The road to success in America is getting bumpy for average folks, and one that cannot be economically navigated anymore. College loans are a good example of a conditioning that keeps a student on the moneymaking, competitive treadmill for years, as is health care that requires one to be fully employed at all times. This leaves no room or time for any true spiritual advancement. In many countries, college as well as health care is taken care of by society so that young adults are not burdened with this kind of stress, affording them opportunities other than the almighty dollar.

This all requires some soul searching and also depends upon how much intestinal fortitude we have. Much progress is made when we pass through our veil of fear with wisdom and compassion at our sides, and if that progress is tuned to the spiritual rather than the material, the progress can never be taken away regardless of the circumstances we face.

Maybe this new generation is onto something. Maybe they will foster in an America that is peaceful and content again, and not at each others throats. It’s all about money now, and maybe that will change. Maybe, as our religions point out, it should be all about love.

Education For Enterprise Development and Revolution

This admission by a captain of Nigerian industry confirms the essential suspicion about the quality of education in Africa’s second largest economy. Tangentially, it gestures towards the problems of massive unemployment, brain-drain and manpower shortages that continue to cripple domestic efforts to achieve rapidly sustainable growth. For qualified youths looking for a job, it also explains the prolonged and intensive pre-recruitment tests that Nigerian corporate houses insist on before hiring local talent.

Western education first came to Nigeria with missionaries in the middle of the 19th Century, who set up the country’s first schools. By the time Nigerians declared independence from colonial rule in 1960, there were three distinct education systems in operation: indigenous community training and apprenticeship in rural areas, schools of Islamic learning and finally formal education provided by European-influenced institutions. Although pressure on the formal education system remained intense in the years following, the collapse of global oil prices in the early ’80s forced huge reductions in government spending on education. The outcome was a gradual degradation at all levels of learning, from primary schools to universities, and a corresponding fall in literacy and employment rates. According to a 2005 report, the overall literacy rate had fallen from almost 72% in 1991 to 64% at the end of the last century2. More disturbing facts were put forward by the Employment and Growth Study launched by the Nigerian government and the World Bank’s International Development Agency in 2008. According to this study, unemployment levels remained unfazed between 1999 and 2006 despite a 7% growth of the non-oil economy in the same period3. Moreover, while job opportunities grew corresponding with the labour force, youth unemployment actually showed substantial increase. The report notes accordingly that “Nigeria’s growth performance has not responded to the employment aspirations of its population as a whole”. Despite considerable initiatives in the fields of education and employment generation, one out of five Nigerian adults continues to be unemployed according to some estimates, and only every tenth university graduate ever manages to get a job.

The findings are revelatory in the context of Abuja’s frantic efforts to prioritise educational restructuring as a tool for economic competitiveness. It is also a sad commentary on the efficacy of well-intended but probably token policy initiatives – like the compulsory entrepreneurship training programme for all college graduates ordered by former president O Obsanjo.

While the relative merits of such measures can be debated endlessly, the focus on enterprise is hardly in question. Emerging out of a turbulent economic and political history at the beginning of the new millennium, the civilian leadership in Nigeria was grasped with the formidable challenge of reversing decades of economic stagnation and negative growth trends. Abuja’s answer to accelerated development was vigorous enterprise promotion in the SME space. The government simultaneously embarked on an enthusiastic reforms programme aimed at correcting basic macroeconomic imbalances, eradicating poverty and raising average living standards. To further consolidate national ambitions, it signed the UN Millennial Declaration of 2000 for universal human rights and formally adopted targets to establish Nigeria as one of the top 20 world economies by 2020. With its abundance of natural and human resources, Nigeria is primed to drive an enterprise revolution that will deliver explosive growth and sufficiently diversify the economy beyond its traditional obsession with oil and gas. Education is critical to this scheme of things because of its direct link to productivity, and because the extent of Nigeria’s economic growth is fundamentally dependent on the skills of its workforce.

The following are some of the biggest problems facing Nigerian education:

1. Inadequate infrastructure, manpower and equipment across all levels of education, from primary to tertiary.

2. Under-funding from government, which continues to shrivel resources and stunt growth in the sector.

3. Restrained private participation and almost exclusive dependence on government aid.

4. Issues of responsibility and control due to overlapping federal, state and local government jurisdiction.

5. Insufficient use of information and communication technologies, modern equipment and innovative methods of teaching.

6. Reliance on expatriate faculty in higher educational institutes due to lack of local manpower.

7. Absence of curricula relevant to national manpower requirements and human development goals.

Advisory commissions set up by colonial governments in the early 20th Century were among the first to report basic deficiencies in educational systems across Africa. They noted that the quality of education provided in the continent was singularly detached from the needs and aspiration of local populations. Sadly, that continues to be the problem in Nigeria at least, where the government has been hard put to revamp the education system in line with the MDG and 2020 goals. Because of the time-bound nature of these programmes, Nigeria needs to deliver fast on several counts.

* The government must design broad strategies to revive and develop the education system in tune with socio-economic realities and the country’s long-term growth targets.

* Investment in education has to be substantially enhanced; expenditure models need to be reworked to allow for universal basic education together with effective vocational training.

* A substantial portion of the investment must go for infrastructure development and training and orientation programmes for teachers at all levels.

* Radical transformation of higher education must be achieved with the aim of providing socially relevant skills to unemployed youths in both rural and urban regions.

* Development of sound tertiary institutions to provide quality skills education and training to internationally acceptable standards is vital.

* Government must create conditions for increased participation by the private sector and civil-society organisations in educational reform and execution.

* Effective monitoring and supervision of budgetary allowances in education must be made a priority to ensure accountable utilisation of resources.

In August this year, the present government under President UM Yar’Adua announced that it would declare a state of emergency against unemployment and joblessness by extensively using IT systems and operations to train unemployed Nigerians. Although the assurance of rapid improvement in the employment scenario is spirited, whether Abuja approaches the challenge holistically remains to be seen. The long-term economic growth of this nation of 148 billion people is effectively tied to the skills of its manpower. The question before Nigeria is whether it adequately recognises education as the key to expanding economic opportunities.

The New Gold Rush – Salesmen Will Rule in the New Millennium

Selling may be a foreign concept to many who do not have a sales based job. Most people don’t, and there are some that flat out say that they hate selling. Salesmen are evil, always trying to peddle their product on you and taking your money. Well, what most people don’t realize is that we are all salesmen. I use the term salesmen to encompass both genders, male and female. Everyone on the planet, is in some way, shape or form is a salesman, a person who sells merchandise or services either in a shop or by canvassing in a designated area for money or personal gain. I wish to broaden the concept of salesmen and increase your understanding of why becoming a salesman is critical in the new millennium.

What makes people different from others is that the best salesmen are wealthy, and those that make no attempt at sales are simply put bluntly: dumb, poor, “BUYERS.” These are the people who don’t make a significant amount of money and just BUY. They buy stuff. They shop. They go on vacations. They buy the proverbial “TOYS” that companies manufacture. They leverage everything they have, and spend all of their income on the things in life that don’t generate any kind of financial security or wealth.

Now salesmen need these people, They are called consumers, or customers. Every time a consumer or customer hands over their hard earned money, salesmen make money. When we buy gasoline to fill our automobiles to go to work, when we buy that hamburger, fries and soda, or sandwich for lunch, when we pick up a pack of diapers, a gallon of milk and a bucket of chicken for dinner after work. When we rent a movie, or go out to a sporting event or Broadway show. When we purchase that new automobile, and get that mortgage to buy your home. We interact with salesmen all day long, every day! Salesmen come in all variety and shapes. Some being the fuel conglomerate that continues to monopolize your need for gasoline, or the high school student working for minimum wage, handing you, your burger, fries and soda. Salesmen, whether companies, franchises, businesses, manufacturers, retail, real-estate, agents, brokers, or counter workers in a fast food franchise, all have the same thing in common. They all realize that in this new economy, in order to become wealthy and stay liquid, get a pay check, or make a commission, they will have to sell more than before to get the consumer or customer to buy, buy, and buy.

That’s not a bad thing. Everyone sells something at some point in their life. You are actually a salesmen yourself and you may not even realize it. You may not have a sales job per say, but you sell all of the time. You sold yourself to your spouse when you were dating to receive a positive affirmation when you “popped the question.” You sell yourself on which brand of automobile you drive, and the reasons you picked that one. You sell yourself on the J.O.B. you took. The reasons may vary because of the benefits of having a job, simply put, provide you money to buy. You sell yourself everyday by going to work, following the rules, showing up for your scheduled hours performing your job tasks efficiently, so you may keep that job. You sell your friends by sharing your recommendations, on the restaurant you ate at, or the last movie you just saw, or the sale price you received while shopping. You sell yourself on what to eat, what to where, where you live, everything you do. Selling is what we all do.

In this new millennium, the people that sell will gain the most financially in the new gold rush. In order to prosper, you will have to sell something. Just having a job or being an employee will not be enough. You will have to decide what to sell and sell a whole bunch of it! You will have to learn to become a BRAND or create a brand that people will gravitate to You will have to develop the skills of the top quality salesmen on the planet. It will be a process of meta-morphing into a type of person you may not be immediately comfortable with, but in essence, already are. Like anything, sales is a skill set you will have to harness and practice, practice, and practice if you want to gain financial security in the new millennium. Without developing a sales mentality, gain the knowledge and tools to acquire the skill set of successful salesmen, you will struggle financially, as prices continue to rise due to inflation, and the devaluing of the US dollar. Once you acquire the necessary skills, you will become a professional salesmen. You will be able to generate and close leads, educate prospects, fill needs and satisfy the wants of your consumers and customers.

Whither Education – An Apathy

Even after half-a-century of Indian Independence, the fate of education, educators and students has hardly improved. The apathy of the power that be, including a large section of society, has not changed when it comes to human resource development and education. Even now there are more than four crore educated unemployed youths in India.

India boasts of being world’s third knowledge power but effectively this is the lowest when judged against per thousand-population base. Societal degradation, inflicted by political might, is reflected in educational institutions across India. Aberrations have become the rule on campuses that are infested with self-seekers and politicians.

Democratization of higher educational institutions, though a noble concept, has in the past 20 years turned campuses into a cauldron of stinking filth. These are managed by affiliations charged with little regard for excellence, honesty and intellectual probity. Unethical and politically-motivated decisions serve a few and are reflections of societal catharsis.

Geographic India consolidated into a polity by the British has muted into conglomerations of politically charged, disjointed entities and facsimiles of democratic degradation. The classic conservative yearning for an ordered polity and commensurate pursuit of knowledge on the campuses are missing. Whichever brand rules the country, this section of society commands no respect now. May it be students or teachers they don’t have a voice, they don’t constitute an essential service and education is not a national necessity. Being a state subject, educational policies suffer from innumerable deformities.

Though it is a constitutional obligation, the non-availability of funds and vested administrative setup have led to the mushrooming of universities, fake campuses, private enterprises and numerous makeshift centers of education as also fly-by-air foreign campuses. It has proved to be a great financial endeavor with hardly any risk involved because it does not come under VAT or any other financial constraints. India has by now more institutions of such type than colleges, an excellent opportunity to rope in knowledge seeking youth and those who desire to fly off to greener pastures.

When it comes to the formulation of policies about higher education, structuring the system, financial assistance, grants and salary, the statutory body-University Grants Commission-is mentioned like a sacred cow worshipped as well as butchered in the streets. How far the UGC is autonomous is a common knowledge. It has become a post office, a government organization, disbursing petty grants, sanctioned by the Central Government, among universities or institutions with a number of tags attached to them depending upon the status of the recipient institutions, state, Central, autonomous or deemed universities. There is a perpetual complaint about the non-availability of funds. The administration should appreciate that the jumbo cabinet and expenditure on legislatures could be cut down to feed and educate a few villages. The teacher wants to be a ladder upon which students could climb and scale new heights.

The Central and state governments invoke ESMA to curb the voice of agitating people, but it takes no time to give benefits to politicians and bureaucrats. It is essential to please them so that a symbiotic balance is maintained as also to oblige a few of them. The government has failed to take effective steps to curb industrialization of education. Within hours the doles given in Parliament and honorarium were doubled but the 6 per cent expenditure of the GDP on education has proved to be dogma persisting right from the Kothari Commission recommendations for over four decades now.

Students of various educational institutes go on strike, almost yearly, demanding withdrawal of excessive fee hike. The tuition fees make up only about 13 per cent of annual expenditure in the present university education. It is now a formidable industry and the aim is to make money. Poor students, however, intelligent they may be, cannot afford to join colleges, professional institutions or courses. They may join such courses by putting their families under heavy debt of banks or financial institutions. Even in the USA, tuition fees contribute to about 15 per cent of the total annual expenditure on higher education. Nehru said: “If all is well with universities, it will be well with the nation.” Whereas Rabindranath Tagore once compared educated classes in India to “A second storey in an old building that was added in, but unfortunately the architect forgot to build a staircase between them.”

Teaching profession is devalued in the country because the teachers can’t compete in our society, have no muscle power, are educated and hence behave differently. Neither do they have guts of creamy bureaucrats nor institutional support of any kind. A teacher can entertain you with a pale smile on hearing that this is the profession of nation builders, the cream of society and a noble profession. The next moment teacher will be branded as cancers in societal marrow, getting salary for no work, craving for power, equality in salary and status with the Class A government servants. The teacher was the consultant and conscience keeper of society till mid-century. One could identify him by his tattered clothes, emaciated pale face, soft voice and meek behavior. He was the guru. That guru, comparatively having a better outfit now, has metamorphosed to a present teacher.

Newspaper reports are replete with his shortcomings; his misconduct in preaching indiscipline, enough is paid to him for no work, as he has to teach only for 181 days in a year. How could he dream of the parity with his bosses in the secretariat, his class dropouts in Parliament and the government. In order to save our hard-earned “democracy” which is being strengthened by a few hooligans, politicians and administrators, the government has to suppress the genuine demands so that education does not progress to the detriment of “illiterate democrats”. A handful of teachers adopts unethical means to become rich just like any other segments that are designated scamsters today. Exceptions, however, do not make the rule.

Most of our Presidents, many of our bureaucrats, including ministers, parliamentarians and others, had been in this profession. Did they not do any good work for the betterment of society before their elevation to these posts of governance and reverence? Can’t the authorities assess the strength of the demand vis-à-vis the qualification, age at the time of being recruited as a teacher, lack of promotional avenues, stagnation and competency in terms of hiatus in the inflated societal values, urge and necessity to improve qualification and experience to remain in the fray. Education for teachers is a continuous process unlike “one-time-degree-obtaining-education” for others. Evaluation is paramount in this profession for every promotion. Classroom education has become drudgery afflicted by societal unrest, absolute lack of infrastructure, fear psychosis gripping the powerless parents and absences of administration.

My perception is that politicians take less interest in improving the standard of education and living because they know that once the poor comes to know about their corrupt practice they would neither listen nor elect them. Political parties make promises in their election manifestos to reduce employment, poverty and corruption. But this can’t be achieved without education. To me, education comes as a discipline, which is all-pervasive. Enshrined in our directive principles and ensuring our countrymen, “right-to-education” makes me feel that we possess the right to educate”.

Even when we have ushered in the new millennium, education remains a password to of those who make an arrogant assertion that they know best and are serving the public interest-an interest, which of course, is determined by them. By the perception entrenched with the British subjugation of our people elitist education occupied the center stage to produce Macaulay’s clones who were Indians muted to be “English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. “Educated slaves became strong props to sustain the British rule.” Lord Curzon favored bureaucratization of education since he opined that educational institutions have become factors for the production of political revolutionaries. By the Act of 1919 education was transferred to the province.

When we educate we are involved in politics. Educators often think of education being disjointed from politics. In fact, education is perhaps the most political activity in the community. The state has always influenced what is taught in educational institutions. The socio-political (and in some cases religious) ideology colors the content of learning and the emphasis on various aspects. In fact, based on where the child was educated within India-whether it was a large city or a village, whether the school used English or a regional language as a medium of education, among other factors- the child will have a different world view. However, education, based on the syllabus, in India has largely strived towards imparting a temperament of religious, political and social tolerance. The social mores and hierarchies often seep into the arena of learning and color education.

Given the political potential of education, there have been numerous attempts to use education as a way of indoctrination. Sometimes it is covert, at other times it is overt. Sometimes it is subliminal, other times it is deliberate. However, political forces have always used education to further certain world views. Today, numerous educationists and political thinkers in India are afraid that a deliberate attempt to use education as a way of social-religious indoctrination might be the agenda of the new education policy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Not gold, but only teachers can make people great and strong-the persons who for truth and honor; sake stand fast and suffers long. It is they who build a nation’s pillar deep and lift them to the sky”. Teaching profession is a bed of roses. A good teacher is always his/her student’s guide, friend and philosopher. A boy looked at the sticker on a car, which said, “Trees are friends”. He challenged this statement, started cutting trees, saying that, “Trees are not our friends, but our enemies”. When asked why he thought so. He said in his science textbooks it was stated “trees bring rain”. Since his village gets flooded in every rainy season, so he thought that “all trees must be cut down”. Confucius wrote, “If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for 10 years, plant a tree. If 100 years, teach the people.” Literacy is not enough. It is good to have a population, which is able to read, but infinitely better to have people able to distinguish what is worth reading. With overcrowded classrooms and ill-paid teachers,coaching classes are the commercial fallout of a system bursting out of the seams. How can idealism be expected from someone as concerned about the quality of life as you and me?

We have grown up with cherished memories of special teachers who made us love a subject we could actually have been frightened of and who we respected unconditionally. I have come across many persons whose mediocrity is reflected when they project themselves as the best whereas the fact speaks otherwise and those who criticize their alma mater forgetting that they passed out from the same from which they graduated. Education can have a great role to play in decreasing social disparities between groups and in promoting social mobility. For instance, the tremendous expansion of the middle class in India can confidently be attributed to the investment in education, especially in higher education.

Universities are struggling to survive on shrinking governmental grants. In the wake of this it takes shortsighted decisions to cut expenses and increase revenue by increasing fees, which may not be in the long-term interest of the universities. Thus universities end up being run as business enterprises. Education cess is now on considered to partially meet funds for primary education and Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. Open our universities to foreign students. Foreign campuses may prove to be of hardly any use in generating funds for Indian education. Trading in education may be another jeopardy.

Collaborations could be in specialized fields with foreign campuses like in the past. Even in the USA, private and government ratio in higher educational system does not exceed 80/20. China is experiencing two-way international student traffic with a large number of them from the USA in preference to India. This could be reversed if we build proper infrastructure and achieve proficiency in imparting education of world standard. A realistic education cannot be separated from the realities of the students’ environment, which surrounds him, his aspirations, society, the local cultural factors, conditions varying in his own country and global effects. Education, therefore, should be in consonance with the day-to-day living. Till date education does not define our resurgent polity and democracy.

What Are the UN Development Goals For the Millennium?

The Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 at the Millennium Summit, signed by 191 countries, and it set the Millennium UN Development Goals. The millennium Declaration is the only global development agenda over which there is agreement at the highest level among the majority of the world states. At the Millennium Summit, the Member States have set eight key targets, known as the UN Development Goals, with specific targets to achieve by 2015.

1. Reduce the severe poverty in the world

Globally, over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Malnutrition is the main cause of death among children. For these reasons, dual commitment is to halve by 2015 the number of people whose income is less than a dollar a day and people who suffer from hunger. Extreme poverty declined from almost one third of world population in 1990 to fifth in 2004.

2. Achieve the universal primary education

Over one hundred million children worldwide have no access to education, particularly those from less developed countries. The lack of access to education reduces their chances and opportunities and hampers efforts to combat poverty. The UN development goals fight to make education possible to everybody.

3. Promote the gender equality and give power to women

Many girls and women from less developed countries face difficulties in accessing the education system or to find a job. In these circumstances, women are unable to secure the future and contribute to economy. Despite progress in recent years the number of girls who are not included in the educational system (about 60 million) is higher than boys (approximately 45 million).

4. Reduce the child mortality

In the less developed countries, nearly 11 million children die annually due to curable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria, the phenomenon can be avoided through better nutrition and appropriate medical treatment. The UN Development Goals include reducing by two thirds the mortality rate among children less than five years.

5. Improve the maternal health

More than 500,000 women die annually as a result of treatable complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. On long-term, the UN development goals will succeed a real progress that will depend on improvements in other areas, such as women’s status, malnutrition and better education.

6. Combating the HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases

The spread of HIV / AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis devastating effects in poor countries, is registered an annual increase of diseases, especially HIV / AIDS. The number of people dying from HIV / AIDS increased in 2006 to 2.9 million while the number of people living with HIV / AIDS increased from 36.9 million in 2004 to 39,500,000 in 2006.

7. Ensure the environmental sustainability

The poor have limited access to water and clean air and these are essential for health. Meanwhile, the poor people are the most affected from climate change and environmental degradation is dependent on natural resources such as timber, agricultural crops, fuel and minerals. For developing countries, rational use of natural resources is essential for sustainable development.

8. Creating several global partnerships for development

A prerequisite to prosperity in developing countries is their participation in international trade. At the same time, it requires a greater involvement of developing countries to reduce poverty, and the deletion or phasing external debt.

Millennium Education Development – Ways To Achieve

Dr. Tooley: His conclusions on Private Education and Entrepreneurship

Professor James Tooley criticized the United Nations’ proposals to eliminate all fees in state primary schools globally to meet its goal of universal education by 2015. Dr. Tooley says the UN, which is placing particular emphasis on those regions doing worse at moving towards ‘education for all’ namely sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, is “backing the wrong horse”.1

On his extensive research in the world poorest countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, India, and China, Dr. Tooley found that private unaided schools in the slum areas outperform their public counterparts. A significant number of a large majority of school children came from unrecognized schools and children from such schools outperform similar students in government schools in key school subjects.2 Private schools for the poor are counterparts for private schools for the elite. While elite private schools cater the needs of the privilege classes, there come the non-elite private schools which, as the entrepreneurs claimed, were set up in a mixture of philanthropy and commerce, from scarce resources. These private sector aims to serve the poor by offering the best quality they could while charging affordable fees.3

Thus, Dr. Tooley concluded that private education can be made available for all. He suggested that the quality of private education especially the private unaided schools can be raised through the help of International Aid. If the World Bank and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) could find ways to invest in private schools, then genuine education could result. 4 Offering loans to help schools improve their infrastructure or worthwhile teacher training, or creating partial vouchers to help even more of the poor to gain access to private schools are other strategies to be considered. Dr. Tooley holds that since many poor parents use private and not state schools, then “Education for All is going to be much easier to achieve than is currently believed”.

Hurdles in Achieving the MED

Teachers are the key factor in the learning phenomenon. They must now become the centerpiece of national efforts to achieve the dream that every child can have an education of good quality by 2015. Yet 18 million more teachers are needed if every child is to receive a quality education. 100 million children are still denied the opportunity of going to school. Millions are sitting in over-crowded classrooms for only a few hours a day.5 Too many excellent teachers who make learning exciting will change professions for higher paid opportunities while less productive teachers will retire on the job and coast toward their pension.6 How can we provide millions of more teachers?

Discrimination in girls access to education persists in many areas, owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, sexual harassment and lack of adequate and physically and other wise accessible schooling facilities. 7

Child labor is common among the third world countries. Too many children undertake heavy domestic works at early age and are expected to manage heavy responsibilities. Numerous children rarely enjoy proper nutrition and are forced to do laborious toils.

Peace and economic struggles are other things to consider. The Bhutan country for example, has to take hurdles of high population growth (3%), vast mountainous areas with low population density, a limited resources base and unemployment. Sri Lanka reported an impressive record, yet, civil war is affecting its ability to mobilize funds since spending on defense eats up a quarter of the national budget.8

Putting children into school may not be enough. Bangladesh’s Education minister, A. S. H. Sadique, announced a 65% literacy rate, 3% increase since Dakar and a 30% rise since 1990. While basic education and literacy had improved in his country, he said that quality had been sacrificed in the pursuit of number.9 According to Nigel Fisher of UNICEF Kathmandu, “fewer children in his country survive to Grade 5 than in any region of the world. Repetition was a gross wastage of resources”.

Furthermore, other challenges in meeting the goal include: (1) How to reach out with education to HIV/AIDS orphans in regions such as Africa when the pandemic is wreaking havoc. (2) How to offer education to ever-increasing number of refugees and displaced people. (3) How to help teachers acquire a new understanding of their role and how to harness the new technologies to benefit the poor. And (4), in a world with 700 million people living in a forty-two highly indebted countries – how to help education overcome poverty and give millions of children a chance to realize their full potential.10

Education for All: How?

The goal is simple: Get the 100 million kids missing an education into school.
The question: How?

The first most essential problem in education is the lack of teachers and it has to be addressed first. Teacher corps should be improved through better recruitment strategies, mentoring and enhancing training academies. 11 Assistant teachers could be trained. Through mentoring, assistant teachers will develop the skills to become good teachers. In order to build a higher quality teacher workforce; selective hiring, a lengthy apprenticeship with comprehensive evaluation, follow ups with regular and rigorous personnel evaluations with pay-for-performance rewards, should be considered.12 Remuneration of teaching staff will motivate good teachers to stay and the unfruitful ones to do better.

Problems regarding sex discrimination and child labor should be eliminated. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), for example, addressed the problem of gender inequality. BPFA calls on governments and relevant sectors to create an education and social environment, in which women and men, girls and boys, are treated equally, and to provide access for and retention of girls and women at all levels of education.13 The Global Task Force on Child Labor and Education and its proposed role for advocacy, coordination and research, were endorsed by the participants in Beijing. The UN added that incentives should be provided to the poorest families to support their children’s education.14

Highly indebted countries complain on lack of resources. Most of these countries spend on education and health as much as debt repayments. If these countries are with pro-poor programs that have a strong bias for basic education, will debt cancellation help them? Should these regions be a lobby for debt relief?

Partly explains the lack of progress, the rich countries, by paying themselves a piece dividend at the end of the Cold War, had reduced their international development assistance. In 2000, the real value of aid flows stood at only about 80% of their 1990 levels. Furthermore, the share of the aid going to education fell by 30% between 1990 and 2000 represented 7% of bilateral aid by that time. 15 Given this case, what is the chance of the United Nations’ call to the donors to double the billion of dollars of aid? According to John Daniel, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO (2001-04), at present, 97% of the resources devoted to education in the developing countries come from the countries themselves and only 3% from the international resources. The key principle is that the primary responsibility for achieving ‘education for all’ lies with the national governments. International and bilateral agencies can help, but the drive has to come from the country itself. These countries are advised to chart a sustainable strategy for achieving education for all. This could mean reallocation of resources to education from other expenditures. It will often mean reallocation of resources within the education budget to basic education and away from other levels. 16

A Closer Look: Private and Public Schools

Some of the most disadvantage people on this planet vote with their feet: exit the public schools and move their children in private schools. Why are private schools better than state schools?
Teachers in the private schools are more accountable. There are more classroom activities and levels of teachers’ dedication. The teachers are accountable to the manager who can fire them whenever they are seen with incompetence. The manager as well is accountable to the parents who can withdraw their children.17 Thus; basically, the private schools are driven with negative reinforcements. These drives, however, bear positive results. Private schools are able to carry quality education better than state schools. The new research found that private schools for the poor exist in the slum areas aiming to help the very disadvantage have access to quality education. The poor subsidized the poorest.

Such accountability is not present in the government schools. Teachers in the public schools cannot be fired mainly because of incompetence. Principals/head teachers are not accountable to the parents if their children are not given adequate education. Researchers noted of irresponsible teachers ‘keeping a school closed … for months at a time, many cases of drunk teachers, and head teachers who asked children to do domestic chores including baby sitting. These actions are ‘plainly negligence’.

Are there any means to battle the system of negligence that pulls the state schools into failing? Should international aids be invested solely to private schools that are performing better and leave the state schools in total collapse? If private education seems to be the hope in achieving education for all, why not privatize all low performing state schools? Should the public schools be developed through a systematic change, will the competition between the public and the private schools result to much better outcomes? What is the chance that all educational entrepreneurs of the world will adapt the spirit of dedication and social works – offering free places for the poorest students and catering their needs?

Public schools can be made better. They can be made great schools if the resources are there, the community is included and teachers and other school workers get the support and respect they need. The government has to be hands on in improving the quality of education of state schools. In New York City for example, ACORN formed a collaborative with other community groups and the teachers union to improve 10 low-performing district 9 schools. The collaborative won $1.6 million in funding for most of its comprehensive plan to hire more effective principals, support the development of a highly teaching force and build strong family-school partnerships. 18

Standardized tests are also vital in improving schools and student achievements. It provides comparable information about schools and identifies schools that are doing fine, schools that are doing badly and some that are barely functioning. The data on student achievement provided by the standardized tests are essential diagnostic tool to improve performance. 19

The privatization of public schools is not the answer at all. Take for instance the idea of charter schools. As an alternative to failed public schools and government bureaucracy, local communities in America used public funds to start their own schools. And what started in a handful of states became a nationwide phenomenon. But according to a new national comparison of test
scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools, most charter schools aren’t measuring up. The Education Department’s findings showed that in almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders in traditional public schools outperform fourth graders in charter schools. 20

If the government can harness the quality of state schools, and if the World Bank and the Bilateral Agencies could find ways to invest on both the private and the public schools – instead of putting money only on the private schools where only a small fraction of students will have access to quality education while the majority are left behind – then ‘genuine education’ could result.

Conclusion

Education for all apparently is a simple goal, yet, is taking a long time for the world to achieve. Several of destructive forces are blocking its way to meet the goal and the fear of failure is strong. Numerous solutions are available to fix the failed system of public schools but the best solution is still unknown. Several challenges are faced by the private schools to meet their accountabilities, but the resources are scarce. Every country is committed to develop its education to bring every child into school but most are still struggling with mountainous debts.
‘Primary education for all by 2015′ will not be easy. However, everyone must be assured that the millennium development goal is possible and attainable. Since the Dakar meeting, several countries reported their progress in education. In Africa, for example, thirteen countries have, or should have attained Universal Primary Education (UPE) by the target date of 2015. 23 It challenges other countries, those that are lagging behind in achieving universal education to base their policies on programs that have proved effective in other African nations. Many more are working for the goal, each progressing in different paces. One thing is clear; the World is committed to meet its goal. The challenge is not to make that commitment falter, because a well-educated world will be a world that can better cope with conflicts and difficulties: thus, a better place to live.