HIGHER EDUCATION KEY TO KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
World Bank President Launches Report by Independent
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2000 Higher education in developing countries
is inadequate and falling further behind, an independent panel of
world experts in education and international development warned
today, adding that without swift action, these countries will be
unable to compete in the knowledge economy.
Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and
Promise marks the final report of the Task Force on Higher Education
and Society, an autonomous body of specialists convened two years
ago by UNESCO and the World Bank. The study was launched at the
World Banks Human Development Week taking place in Washington,
DC from February 28 through today.
Well educated people from the developing
world can be a powerful force for change, but they need schools
and academic opportunities in their own countries. This is especially
true in the face of such staggering problems as the HIV/AIDS pandemic,
and the need to build up basic infrastructure and telecommunications
in poor countries,
World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn said
in launching the Task Forces report.
In its report, the Task Force not only articulates
compelling reasons for renewed public interest in supporting higher
education, but also suggests specific areas for emphasis by developing
countries. These range from improving scientific and technological
capacity, to respecting principles of good governance, to supporting
both general and specialized education.
The Task Force secured the valuable insights of some
of the worlds foremost authorities in higher education, and
was composed of 14 members from 13 countries. The team received
support from several national governments, private foundations,
corporations, and universities. The Harvard Institute for International
Development served as home to the Task Force Secretariat.
The Task Force sounds an alarm that higher education
in developing countries is in crisis: it is generally overcrowded,
chronically under-funded, poorly managed, and beset with inadequate
faculty and curricula.
The report underscores the need for a holistic approach
to education policy, emphasizing that poor countries should view
higher education as a vital part of their overall human development
strategy. It argues that advanced education is crucial for developing
countries if they hope to engender the capacity required to overcome
serious problems, such as hunger, persistent poverty, environmental
degradation, and economic under-performance.
Demand for higher education is rising rapidly, compounding
the challenges for countries that hope to improve quality, reduce
public cost, and increase access to all strata. The Task Force report
advocates a policy of systemic reform emphasizing planned diversity,
where both public and private actors co-ordinate their actions within
a clear strategic framework.
Mamphela Ramphele, incoming World Bank Managing Director
for Human Development, Task Force Co-Chair, and Vice Chancellor
of the University of Cape Town, South Africa expressed her belief
that higher education is important to poverty reduction: There
is no way we can succeed in the eradication of poverty if the developing
world is not a part of knowledge creation, its dissemination and
utilization to promote innovation. Higher education is a critical
factor in making this possible and must be part of any development
To learn more about the World Banks Human
Development Week, visit
Chief, News Bureau Media Relations,
World Bank 1818 H St, NW, Washington, DC 20433
Tel: (202) 473-6313, Fax: (202) 522-2616
Read 'DevNews' at http://www.worldbank.org/developmentnews/