Are we educated enough to attain sustainable development?



Education is highlighted in both economic and social research as beneficial for both economic and social development.

Thus, real investment in more and better education is necessary to achieve true economic and social sustainability.

The financial resources earmarked for education (measured here as the share of GDP spent on education) are not necessarily a good indicator of the educational outcomes of a country.

However, when a country increases the amount spent on education programmes, the country is better placed to raise its national education level.

At the UN Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012, member nations agreed on a process to bring forward sustainability goals.

But at least one of these goals ought to measure education as it is also important to achieve sustainable development.

However, the last decade state funding of education has not increased as much as it was hoped.

Globally, there has been an increase of 0.5 percent, resulting in a GDP share approaching five per cent. Yet in around half of the world’s nations the proportion is shrinking.

Cuba has invested the most, with a 14 per cent share – almost three times higher than the global average.

Bottom placed are both prosperous countries such as the United Arab Emirates (where spending on education is less than one per cent) and a number of very poor countries like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Eritrea and the Dominican Republic – at below two per cent.

Achieving sustainable development for countries with a high proportion of young people is hardly possible given such limited public investment in education.

Both rich and poor countries have reduced their share, although the top of the ranking is dominated by developing countries.

How does your country rank?

The answer can be found in a report and a database presented by TCO, the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees. The report named “Sustainable development – is it measuring up?” can be downloaded here and the database behind it can be found here.

Both developed and developing countries should endeavour to invest adequately in education, otherwise reaching economic and social sustainability will prove to be considerably more difficult.