Thomas Friedman, an op-ed columnist for the NY Times, in an April 21st column titled ‘Swimming Without a Suit’ commented on the negative economic impact of the United States failure to place an emphasis on retaining the worldwide lead in providin quality education to all citizens. The article can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/opinion/22friedman.html?_r=1 .
As Friedman notes, according to the report, released by McKinsey & Co., ‘The Economic Impact of Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,’
If America had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and had raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and South Korea, United States G.D.P. in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher. If we had closed the racial achievement gap and black and Latino student performance had caught up with that of white students by 1998, G.D.P. in 2008 would have been between $310 billion and $525 billion higher. If the gap between low-income students and the rest had been narrowed, G.D.P. in 2008 would have been $400 billion to $670 billion higher.
Imagine, then, what a focus on providing quality education could do for a country such as Ethiopia – with an annual GDP of only $62.19 billion, and a per capita GDP of $800 USD (from Global Edge – http://globaledge.msu.edu/countryInsights/statistics.asp?countryID=92®ionID=5).
In a nation struggling to feed an ever increasing population, some would say a focus on education is jumping a few too many rings of the development ladder. I beg to differ, especially when the school is providing two meals per day, a bath, a uniform and shoes, school supplies and a high quality education – like Initiative Ethiopia Internationl Children’s Association (aka, Kechene School) is doing. A comparatively small investment now will hopefully allow these children to one day realize their full potential. That is, to be values based leaders who contribute to the development – economic, social and environmental – of their native land.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia