My submission for the TOEFL Scholarships Economic development essay

The TOEFL Scholarship application had this economic development essay as a part of it. The topic given was “Education can have a tremendous effect on the economic development of a country. Please provide a plan to encourage students to pursue a higher education degree” with a word limit of 600 words. This is my submission. There are so many things to talk about once you get down to writing on this topic. Limiting the content to 600 words was a tough task :D.

The world population is estimated to be about 7.07 billion and problems such as wars, climate-change, malnutrition, water scarcity and the consumption of natural resources faster than their rate of regeneration, continue to plague us.

There is a growing need to find alternative sources of clean energy, methods for water-conservation/purification, waste management and effective ways to curb malnutrition and poverty. Advances in medicine have improved life expectancy tremendously but 40% of the world’s population still lacks access to basic sanitation, according to a report by the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication and Water-supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council in 2011.

The need for educated citizens now, is more than ever before, and students, parents, universities, governments and industries must realize that education, and in particular, specialized higher educational degrees, are the way forward to solve these global challenges.

With rapid advancements and growth in the areas of automation and computing, much of the mundane and repetitive work in industries is taken care of, by machines today. This leaves behind the jobs that involve complex tasks and a thorough understanding of the subject area and in many cases, require prior research experience. Although a basic degree can help gain a broad overview, only a Master’s degree/PhD permits in-depth study and analysis of the subject.

The strength of a nation lies in its economy and the key to rapid economic development is a strong human resource base, which in turn is attainable only if a robust education system is in place. The objective of the education system should be to enable every individual to identify his/her potential. I would advocate an education system which identifies and recommends at the end of schooling, the best path for each individual to follow; while exposing students to the various career options available, in their high school/undergraduate years. They must be made aware of the sources from where they can find more information on specific courses or universities, and the better prospects and stability that come with a higher educational degree. Eminent people from various fields (even alumni who are well-established) could be invited by schools to talk to students, encourage and inspire them.

According to an article in TIME Business and Money in April 2012, the share of jobs that require a degree beyond High school, is expected to increase to roughly 75% by 2020. Higher educational degree programs are generally expensive and a vast majority of the population does not find the means to support their education. Students should be made aware of education tax credits that cover common student expenses. Education Loans must be made more viable and subsidies in the rate of interest could be introduced. Most students who apply for loans end up getting caught in a lot of red-tape and it takes a long time before the loans are sanctioned and the money is actually paid. We often hear of incidents of students attempting suicide after they were denied loans from Banks.

An even better approach to tackling the problem would be to bring down the cost of education itself. The costs of degree programs in Public institutions could be lowered and made more affordable for all. In lieu of the lowered education costs, people could be made to sign service agreements that entail them to serve the government/public institutions for a bi-annual term. Alternatively, the Industries/Companies that ultimately require these trained individuals could step forward to pledge their support and contribute a fraction of their turnover to sponsoring education by offering scholarships. With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, a higher education degree is the key to a better life.

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