As we celebrate International Education Day, it is essential to acknowledge the powerful impact of education, particularly higher education, in shaping the destiny of nations. This day serves as a powerful reminder that the youth, equipped with knowledge and skills from higher education, play a crucial role in building a brighter future. In the realm of global progress, the connection between empowering youth and higher education emerges as a key factor for societal advancement and individual growth.
Higher education is akin to a furnace, igniting the potential of youth and providing them with the tools to navigate the complexities of our modern world. It is within the respected halls of academia that individuals learn to stand on their own two feet, taking control of their lives and communities. The connection between education and societal well-being is highlighted by a study from the Institute of Applied Economic Research in Brazil, showing that a 1% increase in higher education enrollment led to a 0.8% decrease in crime rates, demonstrating the signifi cant impact of education on social improvement.
Access to higher education acts as a powerful catalyst for empowerment, enabling young people to actively participate in their communities and democracies. Experiencing diverse perspectives shapes them as global citizens. It also contributes to a deep understanding and appreciation for the rich variety of different cultures. This is highlighted in the UNESCO Global Citizenship Education Report 2020, which notes, “Students who participated in global citizenship education programs demonstrated increased empathy, tolerance, and understanding of diverse cultures.” This clearly suggests how exposure to different perspectives in higher education promotes intercultural understanding and the development of global citizenship. The economic impact of a well-educated youth is undoubtedly signifi cant.
These individuals, armed with the knowledge acquired through higher education, play a crucial role in driving economic growth forward. Their ability to spark innovation, nurture entrepreneurship, and contribute to a skilled workforce not only increases productivity but also strengthens global competitiveness. In essence, higher education emerges as a transformative force, exerting its infl uence not only on individuals but also on the overall prosperity of the entire nation.
The World Bank Education and Development Report of 2018 underscores this impact, revealing that individuals with tertiary (post secondary) education earn, on average, 56% more than those with secondary education across countries. Utilising the Mincer framework, studies have consistently shown that higher education can lead to substantial wage increases, ranging from 5% to 15% for each additional year of college. Moreover, a notable fi nding from a World Bank study indicates that a 10% increase in female tertiary education enrollment is associated with a 3% decrease in the gender wage gap. These insights emphasise the multifaceted positive outcomes associated with investing in higher education, ranging from individual earning potential to gender wage equality.
The overarching message is clear: higher education not only appreciably boosts individual earning potential but also contributes to addressing gender wage disparities. Furthermore, there is clear evidence that pursuing higher education correlates with increased earnings and therefore higher tax contributions.
This, in turn, boosts public spending, supporting essential social programs and indirectly empowering communities. The diverse positive outcomes associated with investing in higher education extend beyond individual prosperity, shaping a more fair and empowered society.
Higher education plays a central role in empowering youth with the knowledge and skills required to address urgent global challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation, and resource scarcity. This was emphasised in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, which says, “Jobs requiring green skills will grow by 33% by 2030, while those requiring traditional skills will decline by 7.8%.” This reinforces the importance of higher education programs in fi elds such as renewable energy, environmental engineering, and climate science to prepare a workforce capable of leading the transition toward sustainability.
Higher education’s impact on addressing global challenges is further highlighted in UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030
Report, suggesting that countries with high enrolment rates in higher education demonstrate better progress towards achieving SDG 13 (Climate Action).” Additionally, a 2018 study published in Nature Sustainability found that “increased educational attainment among women in developing countries was associated with a decline in deforestation rates.” A 2021 study by the International Water Management Institute concluded that “communities with higher levels of education among residents were more likely to adopt water conservation practices and manage water resources sustainably.” These fi ndings underline the crucial role of higher education in promoting sustainable practices and addressing pressing environmental concerns.
As we refl ect on the signifi cance of International Education Day, it is evident that higher education stands as a torchbearer of a brighter and more sustainable future. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on higher education as a means of youth empowerment resonates deeply in this narrative. He passionately supports the idea that education is the foundation for societal progress. It empowers youth who go on to contribute meaningfully to cultural, economic, and environmental spheres.
Today, as we celebrate higher education’s pivotal role in shaping a more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable tomorrow, let us be mindful of its transformative potential for our country, India, where the youth, armed with knowledge and inspiration will lead us towards a realising the Viksit Bharat vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.