January 26 - February 1, 2009 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 23, No. 455

Development depends on human resources

By Ye Lwin
YIEC students at a graduation ceremony last year. Parents should encourage their children to attend university and, where possible, study abroad, according to Dr Aung Tun Thet, a former professor at the UN Staff College.

HUMAN resources and good governance are the most crucial ingredients for a nation’s development and should be promoted through a quality education system, a well-know Myanmar scholar said last week.

“A country’s development depends on the peoples’ human capital, resource and good management, or governance,” Dr Aung Tun Thet, a former professor at the UN Staff College, told The Myanmar Times. “In order to enhance peoples’ human resource, from early childhood children should be provided with a good education that will broaden their knowledge and skills.

“As for parents, they should not set a limit to the extent of their children’s education. I mean, for example, that they should not be satisfied with a bachelor degree alone.

“The parents’ mindset on their children’s education needs to be totally changed – education should not stop with a single degree, it is just the start. Learning is a life time process – there should be no limit on education,” Dr Aung Tun Thet said.

Schools also need to embrace the internet to remain competitive, he added, and combine such new technology with existing teaching methods to create a learned society.

Foreign institutions also have a role to play in expanding education and developing human resources.

Quality education from a young age is necessary for a country to develop its human resources.

“When it comes to studying abroad, prospective students should select the best universities possible. The value of the degree generally depends on name of university – not on the country. I urge, where possible, the younger generation to go and study at a reputable university so that they can earn a globally-recognised degree that will ensure good employment,” he said.

But how much does this benefit the graduates’ home country? Many never return because of the higher salary they can earn in the developed world, a phenomenon known as “brain drain”. This is a problem for nearly all developing countries – not just Myanmar.

Dr Aung Tun Thet said instead of blaming students and skilled workers for not returning to their home country immediately we should be optimistic about the benefits for the nation in the long term. Ultimately, if not immediately, the skills students learn abroad benefit their home country, he says, citing the example of China.

“We should follow the example of China, where the government has invited and provided incentives for the country’s scholars, technicians and professionals who are working abroad to return to their native country.”

A similar view was expressed by Winston Set Aung, the research director at the Asia Development Research Institute. He told The Myanmar Times in March 2008:

“[Students who study abroad] will get international higher education experiences and good connections, which will be of benefit to our own country one day. Millions of Japanese and Chinese students have left their home countries to pursue higher education abroad. Today Japan and China are developing thanks to the combined strengths of their local graduates and those educated in the foreign countries.”

The past few decades have seen a dramatic shift in education in the developed world. Countries that previously relied on natural resources and industrial production for growth have turned to human resources and the service sector, which are now the most important factors in development, according to Dr Aung Tun Thet. This change has been recognised by the use of the term “knowledge society” and workers in service sectors such as information technology and media are referred to as “knowledge workers”.

“In order to cultivate knowledge workers we need to change our management skills to better enhance workers’ talents,” he said.

The benefits of this approach are clear, he said, when you compare recently developed countries with least developed countries.

“In Africa, there are many countries with natural resources – like minerals, oil and gas. But nearly all the countries in Africa are still not yet developed and most are poor compared with Asian countries.”

“For example, there are no natural resources at all in Singapore. Even water, Singapore has to import from Malaysia,” Dr Aung Tun Thet said. “But Singapore has become one of the richest countries in the world because of rich human resources and capital.”

“This [development] is mainly because of good governance based on human capital.”

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