Beyond Basic Education

Next week I will be participating in the 20th Anniversary Event for the Joint-Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarships (JJ/WBGS) Program that will take place in Tokyo, Japan on June 6th. Thanks to this Program I was able to undertake my Ph.D. studies at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague-The Netherlands.

In its 20 years of existence, the JJ/WBGS Program has awarded 2,586 scholarships, selected from nearly 53,000 applicants from all over the world. Since the inception of the Program, the Government of Japan has provided over 174.1 million dollars to the Scholarship Program, being the Program’s objective to help create an international community of highly trained professionals working in the field of economic and social development.

The JJ/WBSP focuses on building the capacity of countries to make better-informed decisions and carry out effective socioeconomic reforms, by building skills and imparting competencies that are necessary to prosper in the highly interconnected and competitive global economy.

Latin America as a whole and Bolivia in particular have received only a small share of the number of scholarships awarded by the JJ/WBGS program. Perhaps a plausible explanation of the reduced use of this opportunity is the fact that there is not a public policy aimed at promoting training at the post graduate level, despite the highly beneficial effects post graduate training has on the society as a whole, in terms of economic and social development. Every country requires professionals that will think and device the reforms needed to produce the structural transformations that will promote development and the defeat of extreme poverty.

The main focus of educational public policies in Bolivia has been devoted to reduce the large gaps existing in the primary and basic education. Undergraduate studies have mainly been the responsibility of the various public and private universities, and post graduate training has mostly depended on individual initiatives. Most Bolivian professionals wanting to continue their academic training at the postgraduate level, have to search for the availability of scholarships on their own.

Despite this evident lack of public policies which would promote training at the post graduate level, the Bolivian public sector has benefited considerably from the expertise of professionals that obtained post graduate degrees as a result of their own individual initiatives. Many professionals with post graduate studies have worked in institutions like UDAPE, the Central Bank of Bolivia, INE, and other public entities.

From my point of view, the beneficial effects of this influx of highly educated professionals to the country’s economic and social development prospects have been threefold:

First, it has improved the design and analysis of public policies considerably, resulting in better and more sophisticated macroeconomic management. Well-trained professionals has participated closely in the policy making process, supporting policy decisions with research and technical analysis of alternative policy initiatives.

Second, it has improved the decision making and managerial capacity within the public sector, which is one of the scarcest resources available in Bolivia. Over time, a large number of these professionals have occupied key posts in the Government as ministers and other posts of high responsibility, during different government administrations.

Third, it has helped spread scientific knowledge to civil society, as most of these professionals lecture at local universities, transferring their knowledge to new generations of professionals. This factor has resulted in an improvement in the quality of local universities. Furthermore, these professionals comprise the faculty in the post graduate programs offered by local universities at the M.A. and Ph.D levels.

Thus, given the large contribution post graduate training entails to country’s development, the Bolivian State should take a more active role in promoting it, devising and implementing an aggressive structured strategy aimed at training public sector servants, making an appropriate use of the training opportunities and scholarship availability—like that that offered by the JJ/WBGS Program—and, more importantly, devoting public resources to this end.

Related material:

Additional information and application forms for the JJ/WBGS Program

Know of any other examples of how post graduate education benefits society? Leave a reply below. 

(*) Investigador del Instituto de Estudios Avanzados en Desarrollo, La Paz, Bolivia. El autor felizmente recibe comentarios a:


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