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Need for a new economic program (5)
The level and quality of education as well as the technological content of production and export must be enhanced remarkably.
Let me continue the series on the “need for a new economic program” where I stopped last time. The series started with the growth-unemployment correlation and proceeded with growth-current account deficit and savings gap of Turkey. Today I want to address another important challenge.
Turkey’s sustainable (potential) growth rate appears to be at the 4.5-5 percent interval. This is insufficient to close the per capita income gap between developed countries and Turkey; thus Turkey has to enhance its potential considerably. Of course, a rise in per capita income is not enough to make citizens happier. You also have to ensure a more equal income distribution. This is why a new economic program is needed.
There are many factors that impede any improvement in Turkey’s potential growth rate. Ask any economist, he or she will give you a long list of factors. Also, it is evident that it is impossible to concentrate on all of those at a time. For this series, I intend to make my own list with my personal perspective. Then I will focus on prioritizing the items on the list. But today I will talk about education, so let me refer to a new study on “prioritization.”
A recent study by İzak Atiyas and Ozan Barış titled ‘Türkiye’de Büyümenin Kısıtları: Bir Önceliklendirme Çalışması – Limits to Growth in Turkey: A Prioritization Study’ was published in November as a TÜSİAD report. Authors conclude that, two problems must be dealt with as a priority. The stress that, first, the level and the quality of education must be improved remarkably. Second, they maintain, the technological content of production and exports must be advanced substantially. These require reforms in the education sector and industrial policies, respectively.
We can also consider these two factors correlated. Education both improves human capital and facilitates technological development. Some studies reveal that human capital and physical capital have a similar role in attaining higher levels of per capita income. Unfortunately, international comparisons do not draw a bright picture about the average level educational attainment in Turkey. United Nations publishes a Human Development Index, which I have referred to several times before. The Index is derived from four indicators: per capita income, life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling of adults over 25, and expected years of schooling of children at school age.
Turkey ranks 92nd
2011 Index results were recently announced. Turkey ranks 92nd out of 187 countries. Countries are grouped in four human development categories: very high, high, medium, and low. Turkey is the third country at the bottom of the second category. Its position deteriorates significantly to the 126th place on the basis of the mean years of schooling of adults over 25. Again we rank at the bottom considering expected years of schooling of children at school age.
As you might have noted, indicators on education are about the duration of education. Quality, however, is as important as the quantity. OECD conducts important studies on education quality which allow international comparisons. Among these, PISA is the most famous one. Considering the average score of students that took the PISA test, Turkey ranks 41st out of 65 countries. We are performing very badly in this respect, as well.
This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 17.12.2011