This is probably going to be my last entry on education in Afghanistan that targets adults in general. My next few posts will focus on education initiatives focused on women. Last time I described the thousands of adult education centers and some of the specific adult education programs that serve Afghans. This post is about the practical benefits for citizens, local businesses, and foreign businesses.
Education for adults should yield many practical benefits over the next few years. Higher education is a special case of that of course. If the university graduates don’t find enough jobs available, there better be resources available for them to create their own businesses or nonprofits. Otherwise, there is a huge waste of human resources going on.
(It would be interesting to read evaluation reports that describe the impacts of those adult education programs. I don't know of any publicly available evaluations.)
What about adults who are not university students? How can programs for them contribute to faster development in Afghanistan? Consider these benefits:
1. Better business management/decision making – Being able to read market reports and similar information helps. Business math helps you understand how much you are spending relative to how much you are making. It helps identify whether investments make sense based on the potential future returns.
2. New job opportunities – Many jobs are going to be closed to illiterate people. Many jobs are going to be closed to people who lack some fundamental business and tech skills.
3. Improvement in government – Literacy and numeracy contribute to understanding the issues and the arguments put forth by candidates. Adults are able to better digest information for themselves. I fear that lots of information gets filtered through mullahs, imams, and village elders who may be either hopelessly biased or just not too reliable.
Maybe social media and the Internet can help advertisers, both businesses and nonprofits, communicate more effectively to a literate population. Promoting behavior changes, or simply presenting an advertising message are two things that work online. Even if there is no internet communication involved, literate people are going to be easier to reach and persuade with a marketing message.
Naturally, Afghanistan will benefit if there are more gainfully employed people and more small businesses generating taxable revenues. So, what are the best ways to pay for the educational efforts that will produce that taxable revenue in the future? Aside from grants and foreign (government) investment, there are several possibilities.
Perhaps adult education could be supported by selling information about the learners. Aside from the obvious demographic data like gender and age and occupation, it might be valuable to know about the person’s tastes or aspirations. The information on a given city or province could be aggregated to help businesses, nonprofits, and governments answer various questions: Is there a viable market for smart phones in Herat?
Collecting market information might not be viable as a way to fund a start-up, but maybe after the education business gets started there would be enough useful information to sell. As a start-up, it would be necessary to have some revenue coming in at first, from channels that are known to work. That truth does suggest somecreative questions:
- Could advertising be put on the PCs in the training center?
- Could a reputable area business sponsor printing of some learning materials, in exchange for being able to put a small advertisement in the back? This works in the West, so why not in Afghanistan?
Likewise, Internet-based adult education offers opportunities to learn more about people in Afghanistan. What are different types of business owners buying or talking about buying? What needs are currently unmet? This information can be gathered now, but might be highly biased by the few adults who have reliable access to the internet, most likely through their university or a local Internet café.
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