Failure of University Education for Development
[draft_it]The central characteristic of persistent underdevelopment is that it’s incurable with conventional academic curriculum. More than 50 years of futile efforts have demonstrated this[/draft_it]
“Efforts to diversify the economy without addressing the ineffectiveness of higher education will predictably end in disappointment and failure.” (chapter 2)
The managerial and entrepreneurial competence needed for development has been supplied mostly by expatriates. There are not enough expatriates in the PUCs (persistently underdeveloped countries) to make real development happen. Even in those countries with high numbers of expatriate agents, the country still cannot rise up to the developed countries as an equal. Instead, it is locked in the middle income trap, while the symptoms of underdevelopment continue to fester. Examples of such countries include those that are oil-rich, those that are in close proximity to the developed countries, and those with a permanent minority population of people from the developed countries that have lived there for generations or since colonial times.
The problem of persistent underdevelopment has only one cause. It is the failure of university education to fulfill the promise to underdeveloped countries that it provides more than technical training. The consistent failure of university education to provide graduates with the ability to perform as effectively as expatriates from the West and from the developed countries of Asia is the single cause of underdevelopment. The speeches made at university graduation ceremonies, and the claims that are made for the “liberal education” curriculum, tell us that university education is great, and that graduates will display the same managerial and entrepreneurial competence that expatriates do. But with each graduating class, the university curriculum has failed to make development happen. These countries now have an army of university graduates. Yet, they continue to wait for development to begin at some unknown future date. The university education received has been good mostly for technical skills which still needs to be supervised by somebody else. (chapter 1)
It is wrong to claim that university education is fine the way it is. The claim means that something is wrong with the people that education is not working for. That is not true. Nothing is wrong with people. Instead, something is wrong with the education. The existing higher education curriculum must be replaced with one that works.
It is also wrong to suggest that education does not work because the quality of education is low. In nearly all cases, the quality of the educational system that was handed over by the colonialists on Independence Day was higher than it is today. Better quality education did not bring real development back then. In addition, thousands of people from underdeveloped countries have received their degrees from “higher-quality” Western universities. As a group, they too have failed to make a difference. Under the existing curriculum, the quality of university education has had no effect on making development happen, regardless of where university education was received. (chapter 1).
If persistent underdevelopment is a prison, higher education is supposed to be the liberator. Instead, higher education has served as the prison guard. (chapter 7)
The symptoms of the failure of university education include corruption, poor governance, instability, poor infrastructure, terrorism, poverty and all the other problems that we see in underdeveloped countries. As long as university education remains ineffective, the symptoms are incurable. Nevertheless, expatriates have always operated and maintained successful businesses and other organizations of various sizes in these countries. These symptoms do not affect their performance. The symptoms “affect” only indigenous people. If the thousands of existing university graduates have been as effective as the expatriates who make things work in their countries, underdevelopment will not exist today, the symptoms will be gone. (chapter 1)
Resonance is what expatriates express when they manage and maintain operations and facilities at a level that is rarely done consistently in underdeveloped countries by non-expatriates. We say “rarely,” because there are exceptions where locals or indigenous people demonstrate resonance. But underdevelopment that is persistent means that there are never enough of such people to make a difference for the economy as a whole. (chapter 2)
When it comes to the resonance or leadership skills promised by higher education to the underdeveloped countries, we look the other way. We allow these countries to be shortchanged with technical skills only. These countries are persistently underdeveloped because the existing higher education curriculum has failed to systematically train university students for the outcome of resonance that expatriates demonstrate. The dependence of these countries on oil and other natural resources (which cannot be profitably exploited without expatriates) is a measure of the scarcity of the managerial and entrepreneurial talent that is needed to diversify the economy. Such dependence is a measure of the ineffectiveness of higher education. (chapter 2)
If the university provided the required training to graduates, managerial and entrepreneurial effectiveness cannot be permanently isolated to only one part of the economy or mostly among expatriates. Such competence cannot exist in only one industry, or in a few industries, without spreading to others. The oil industry in underdeveloped countries is a good example. The mining, drilling, distribution and refinement of oil cannot take place consistently and at current levels without Exxon, BP, Shell, Total, Eni, and many other Western companies that supervise and manage these operations. Even when there is a “national oil company” engaging in oil extraction and refining on a large scale, such operations are not run by locals. These operations cannot exist at the current scale and efficiency without expatriate leadership at multiple levels. That is why apparent competence in the oil business in a PUC has not spread to other areas of the economy. The critical managerial talent is largely confined to expatriates and in short supply. (chapter 2)
Similarly, when inefficient operations in a PUC are “privatized” and subsequently begin to operate efficiently, it is usually because management is taken over by expatriates, regardless of whether the new owners are indigenous or foreigners. For any large scale industrial operation that is well operated in a PUC, expatriates are usually in charge, publicly or behind the scenes. (chapter 2).
Samuel A. Odunsi, Sr.