Education has always played a vital role in a country’s socio-economic development but its importance has grown signiﬁcantly with the rise of the global knowledge economy. Thanks to technological advances, a rapidly increasing number of people can participate in this virtual world but new skills are required, including collaborative learning and working techniques. Life-long learning also needs to be supported in order to enable populations to keep pace with the rapid growth of knowledge and to sustain effective employment.
However, in the rush to capitalise on the opportunities of the knowledge economy, it is essential to not lose sight of the educational basics — especially in developing countries. These key building blocks include the need for teaching skills and legislative frameworks that enable all children and adults to beneﬁt from the power of education. It is equally important to recognise that different regions within countries — especially in the urban-rural context — are advancing at different speeds.
Human Dynamics is able to bridge the traditional, tried-and-tested facets of education with the new demands of the digital age, taking into account regional, urban and rural differences.
Employment. The transition from education to employment brings its own challenges and opportunities. While creating employment links to questions associated with the enabling economic environment, there is a need to constantly up-skill employees and create an environment that is conducive to their development. Government and the wider public sector has an important role to play here, both in terms of setting the framework for employers and employees as a whole, but also in being an example of best practice.
Health is a key driver of economic productivity and social well-being, yet demographic changes and other factors are making it increasingly difﬁcult for governments to sustain the necessary level of public healthcare provision. Even the private sector is struggling to contain these pressures, which range from the rising costs of an ageing population to the complex demands of new technology. A new approach to healthcare is required, as many countries, including many of the most afﬂuent nations, are now recognising.
The changes to healthcare provision do not necessarily have to be radical, especially in developing countries, where health systems are still relatively small and low-funded. However, any strategic alterations must be rooted in a careful, evidence-based analysis of long-term trends. More critically, any strategy must be underpinned by a well-managed, pragmatic plan that treats the system comprehensively, and takes into account a country’s economic realities, institutional capacity and human capabilities.
Human Dynamics is strongly placed to provide a fresh and innovative perspective, drawing on its global experience of both healthcare and related ﬁelds, such as economics and regulations that shape a country’s ability to deliver effective, sustainable health services.
Curricula should be systematically reviewed and benchmarked against inter-national standards, taking into account local resource constraints, in order to ensure courses meet today’s global needs and realities. Teacher development programmes should mirror these updates and be backed by nationally recognised qualiﬁcations and best-practice guidelines for all levels of education, from primary and secondary to tertiary.
Appropriate incentives should also be introduced to stimulate higher standards, as well as encourage a steady supply of teaching professionals. Systems for monitoring the relative performance of schools and colleges, against clearly communicated policy goals, should also be instituted.
One of the strengths of knowledge is that it can be transformed into value by anyone, regardless of their social circumstances or physical or other disabilities. As a result, it is vital to develop policies and infrastructures that embrace everyone in the educational system, inclusive and accessible from the earliest possible age. Dedicated strategies for people of all ages with special needs are required.
Particular attention should also be given to life-long learning support for adults — while, unlike other forms of capital, human knowledge does not depreciate over time, but builds up, and consequently needs to be nurtured and captured. What type of institutions and distance-learning tools are best suited to adults in different parts of the country? And what support, including incentives for employers, can adults be offered? Could civil society organisations ﬁll the gap in some way?
Gaining from the knowledge economy demands much more than technical IT skills. Students require curricula and teaching techniques that foster the creative and collaborative skills that are the keys to success in the digital world. Cultural awareness, knowledge of foreign languages and an understanding of civic and social responsibilities are just some of the issues that need to be taken into account. Policies are also required to facilitate access to technology across social groups, genders and regions in order to avoid the risk of socially and economically disruptive digital divides. This is particularly important in developing countries.
Globalisation and other forces, including increasingly low-cost international travel and more accessible markets, have led to a signiﬁcant increase in migration, creating both economic opportunities and social challenges, especially for the host countries. Education curricula need to be adapted to reﬂect this new reality. Speciﬁcally, courses have to promote acceptance of different cultures, including stressing the advantages of immigration, while recognising the need for immigrants to understand and respect local customs and laws, as well as acquire the linguistic skills to make a valuable contribution. Social responsibilities of all children, regardless of their national origin, also need to be reinforced. This includes educating children in democratic processes – a core part of citizenship and an increasingly important issue as the young continue to disengage from mainstream political involvement.
Entrepreneurs play a critical role in generating employment and, of course, tax revenue to fund public services. On average, around ninety percent of all new jobs are created by small- to medium-sized businesses. Curricula across all educational levels, from primary school up to adult education, as well as vocational training, should address the building blocks of entrepreneurialism. Issues that need to be considered, depending on the age group, can range from innovation (and a willingness to fail) to risk analysis, ﬁnance, marketing and customer service. New models for involving private sector partners into educational systems should also be considered, underpinned by teacher training, work placements and other solutions.
Labour markets must be systematically analysed and compared with planned investment areas and economic priorities in order to identify capacity bottlenecks and opportunities. Are appropriate employer incentives and vocational rehabilitation services in place to meet expected growth? Are there ﬂexible systems and structures to facilitate the mobility of labour, nationally and regionally? How can the needs of unions, works councils and other representative bodies be accommodated?
As the global economy increasingly shifts toward knowledge- and service-based industries, human skills are becoming the decisive factor in an organisation’s — and a country’s – ability to compete. Governments need to enhance the quality of their VET systems, including professionalising VET teachers and trainers, and implement quality assurance systems. Moreover, it’s essential to create modular systems with the ﬂexibility to adapt to the changing needs of both businesses and the individuals receiving the training.
Many people with disabilities and other difﬁculties can often make a valuable economic contribution. To capitalise on their potential, as well as reduce pressure on welfare beneﬁts, disability employment services and strategies need to be reviewed, underpinned by the development of vocational rehabilitation services.
Safety is a non-negotiable starting point for any effective health system. Are national regulations for both the delivery of services and the provision of products sufﬁciently robust and able to accommodate new developments, including the growing use of biopharmaceuticals? And are these regulations underpinned by transparent and accountable systems, as well as communication programmes? More signiﬁcantly, do health professionals have adequate training to deliver the services to a consistently high standard? These issues must be addressed across the ‘continuum of care’: e.g. from reproductive health and antenatal support to mother and child care, from primary to secondary and tertiary care. An integrated ‘systems approach’ is required.
Health does not respect social and regional boundaries, as national disease epidemics have demonstrated: e.g. HIV and TB. Therefore, it is essential to ensure access to healthcare for all. Strong primary healthcare, including a focus on preventative medical advice and lifestyle management, is an important starting point and a valuable way to reduce ﬁnancial pressures on costlier specialist care. Particular attention should be paid to managing chronic conditions in primary health.
To further lower costs and free resources for additional capacity, measures to increase competition – e.g. through the private sector – should also be analysed and explored, together with streamlining infrastructure and administration costs. Also, what role can civil society organisations play in supporting healthcare? Longer-term capacity plans need to be aligned with demographic trends, including growth in the elderly population.
Globalisation has made communicable disease surveillance even more urgent. Systems have to be developed for addressing and coordinating healthcare responses to emergencies: from natural disasters, including ones triggered by environmental degradation, to more extreme terrorist incidents.
Each year, more than half a million women die from pregnancy-related complications, while more than 4 million babies die within one month of birth. In many cases, these human tragedies – and their inevitable social and economic costs – are closely linked: maternal health, for example, can have a critical impact on the lives of newborns and older children, in terms of both their life expectancy and their long-term potential. As a result, it is essential to manage reproductive health not in isolated segments, such as neo- and post-natal care, but as an integrated system that covers the full life-cycle of reproduction from puberty to pregnancy to birth, as well as the life of the child – from birth to adolescence and beyond. A ‘continuum of care’ approach is required, demanding integrated training and systems to link the relevant parts of the health service to ensure the interdependencies between mother and child are understood and addressed as they evolve.
With populations ageing in many countries, public health services are facing mounting and often unsustainable pressures on healthcare funding and human resources. Family members are also increasingly being required to provide care, reducing their ability to work. Novel community care facilities and services, with a strong emphasis on preventative care, are required to ease this pressure. Encouraging the growth of the voluntary sector is another option. Primary care structures may also need to be rethought to provide home visits and training for family carers, among other potential initiatives.