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Tuesday , November 24 2020

‘Knowledge currency of future’

Ahmad-Al-Sarraf

Thomas Friedman wrote in The New York Times: Every so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?” I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan.

Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of – it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction – yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world; because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined the talent, energy and intelligence of its people who turn out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource.

Friedman says that he found an answer to Taiwan’s superiority in a study of educational outcomes in 65 countries – and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of GDP for each participating country and that there is a “a significant negative relationship between the so-called ‘money countries’ who extract wealth from the national resources and those that extract wealth from knowledge and skills of their ‘educated’ population. This is the global phenomenon.

The study showed that high schools students from Singapore, Finland, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan have achieved the best results despite the lack of natural resources in their countries, while students of secondary schools of Qatar, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Syria, Algeria and Iran are among the worst achievers.

The students of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which are not rich in their natural resources, achieved better results, and the students from countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, which are rich in natural resources, have achieved modest results at a time when the students of Canada, Australia and Norway, whose countries have the same resources, achieved good results, because they have established deliberate policies of saving and investing rentier resources, and not just consuming them as we do here in Kuwait in grants and salaries with an apparent madness.

Friedman says it is possible to measure the progress of a country through what it spends on ‘creating’ a successful teacher, raising children and cultivating seriousness in them and paying attention to their decisions, not by what it owns in terms of gold, diamonds and oil.

The level of education outputs is what will determine the strength and wealth of future nations, not the income from natural resources, and if we look at the nationality of the majority of companies listed on the Nasdaq market, unlike the major economies, we will find that all of them are poor in their natural resources, so knowledge and skills are the currency of the future.

Friedman concludes his article that it is useful for a country to have oil, gas and diamonds, but it becomes useless if it is not used in a sound manner, especially since these resources weaken any society in the long run, if interest in education and complete faith in culture is non-existent, then what moves the person is not what comes to him voluntarily, but what drives him to bring it himself.

I have no doubt that some of our governments have read these words or knew their content from other sources, and some know that nothing can be achieved to ensure the future of any people, without education, so what did they do? The answer is nothing.

Understanding the message differs from applying its content, so writing one line in the form of a question, on Google Drive, about the reason for the failure of a country, will give us the answer, but the difficulty lies in what must be done next.

e-mail: a.alsarraf@alqabas.com.kw

By Ahmad alsarraf


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