In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education… it’s like a precious gift. It’s like a diamond. - Malala Yousafzai, Education Activist and Nobel Laureate
There is no shortage of inspiring quotations about the impact education can have on an individual but Malala Yousafzai’s comment from 2013 has a special resonance in our view. This is because it not only highlights its importance, but also the profound asymmetry of access worldwide. If education truly is the ‘oxygen of opportunity’, we have to acknowledge that not everyone enjoys this privilege and even those that do may still face challenges as the tectonic plates of demography and automation shift beneath them.
In this report we look more carefully at the role education plays both for individuals and society. We also consider the asymmetries of access that exist both across and within markets.
We look at the value of education but also the challenges faced in continuing to provide access as governments grapple with the headwinds posed by changing demographics and disruption in the workplace, in particular from automation.
The thread running through all of this is a fundamental question – are the benefits from education diminishing and what role will governments, corporates, investors, and individuals play in making sure that how education is provided is fit for the future?
The conclusions are at once encouraging but sobering. On the positive side, it is clear that education has had and is still having a very positive impact on society both economically and in terms of social well-being. This said, supply and demand imbalances as well as disruption from automation represent a significant challenge for governments and society more broadly. It is also hard to avoid the conclusion that the benefits of schooling are unevenly distributed both across and within markets and even between people of different social backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders. This needs urgent attention.
Although the precise prescriptions differ between developed and developing markets and from primary to secondary to tertiary schooling, we think the answer to these challenges lies in broadening the sources of financing for education, in embracing the role of technology and the impact it can have on increasing productivity, and in trying to change attitudes to learning and education, encouraging individuals to think about it as a lifelong process.
The especially encouraging thing is that if this works, there is not only a better chance that more people can get more access to education driving benefits for society and individuals alike, but there is an active role to be played by – and opportunity to be exploited by – governments, corporates and investors along the way.
Authors: Thomas A Singlehurst, CFA,Elizabeth Curmi, PhD.,Robert Garlick,Nithin Pejaver, CFA,Benjamin Nabarro,Lucio Aldworth,Mark Li, CFA,Taher Safieddine, CFA,Jason B Bazinet,