In Singapore, we are constantly reminded of the social and economic benefits of education. Our parents have always drilled in us the wisdom of doing well in school, getting your degree, and landing a good stable job. Highly qualified individuals generally benefit themselves and their community more through the higher value-add they give to society and the higher salary they earn. Research in the US and UK confirm such benefits and more, including those related to criminal tendency, personal health and soft skills.
At the most basic level, individuals with at least secondary school education are estimated to contribute
about $209,000 more to society (in the US) than someone who drops out of education. The total is made up of $139,000 in taxes, $40,500 in public health cost savings, $26,600 saved in law-enforcement and prison costs, and $3,000 in welfare savings. We can imagine the total amount to be very much higher if you take a degree-educated individual into comparison.
Personal Soft Skills
Personal soft skills such as behavioural management, self-regulation, social and communication skills are developed in educational settings. Individuals with these traits are less likely to harm their health (by not smoking etc.), and are less likely to be depressed or commit crimes. Educated individuals are in the overall more likely to interact positively in social networks, from voluntary work to grass roots activities.
Studies in the UK suggest that by educating the currently uneducated women in UK up to secondary level, the risk of depression of these individuals at age 42 can be decreased by 15%. How is education related to mental health in this instance? It lies primarily in the coping mechanisms that we have. Most youth may use “immature” adaptions to cope with emotional challenges; these include acting out, passive aggression, hypochondria, projection, and fantasy. “Neurotic” defences are common in normal people; including intellectualization (reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict), dissociation (intense, brief removal from one’s feelings), and repression (involving memory lapse, unexplainable naivete, or failure to acknowledge input from a selected sense organ). The healthiest or “mature” adaptions include altruism, humour, anticipation (forward planning for future discomfort), suppression (postponement of attention to impulse or conflict), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport). Through education, our skills in planning, intellectualization and sublimation get better, and so do our coping mechanisms.
International research has consistently found that people with higher levels of education live longer. A study in the Netherlands found that men with the lowest level of education live 5 years less than men with university education. In the US, 1 additional year of education increased life expectancy by as much as 1.7 years. In a study based on the national census of Sweden, 64-year old men with doctorates had lower mortality rate than men with masters degrees. Those with masters degrees in turn had greater longevity than individuals with bachelors degrees.
Individuals with no qualifications are more likely to be repeat offenders. However, the more qualified that men are, the less likely they are to commit crimes.
School and Early Education
Schools play an important role in the development of self-concept. They provide children with feedback about competence in social, psychological and academic areas, based on the children’s academic successes and failures, and from their peer/teacher relationships.
A study published in 2007 by The Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning
(WBL) showed that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are given a good grounding in numeracy in infant school are more likely to succeed in English and Maths at the age of 11. It is possible that doing well in Maths at age 7 serves to heighten children’s self-confidence and aspirations. It may also encourage teachers to offer them more support. A good result in English at age 7 is essential too, but not as important for future progress.
Many researchers in the scientific community believe that higher education buffers the brain against debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer and dementia. A number of brain autopsies have turned up interesting results in recent years. A well-educated elderly researcher complained about his ageing brain; saying that he could only think 4 steps ahead in chess, compared to the 7 steps he could muster in his youth. He retained most of mental faculties far into old age. Many brain scans and tests over a few years turned up no anomaly. It was only upon his death and autopsy that the brain researchers discovered that his brain was in fact heavily plagued with ‘tangles’ of typical Alzheimer patients.
Potentially Negative Effects of Education
It is interesting to note that just as education has its host of benefits, individuals may be damaged by education if it:
- Raises expectations that cannot be met
- Is too difficult for them
- Conflicts with existing social networks (more related to adult education)
- Puts stress on family life
- Enables some individuals to advance themselves at the expense of others in their families
It is also possible that at the societal level, education may benefit a person at the expense of another. This is especially apparent in the income inequality generated between the educated and the less educated members of society. Access to better health resources is made easier for the more educated group due to their greater economic power. This is not to say that we should slacken in strive for higher education, but rather we should be mindful to treat our weaker and less educated counterparts more fairly and with greater respect. Wherever possible, we should contribute time and money to help educate children from less fortunate backgrounds, whether is it tutoring voluntarily or donating to education funds.
Read about the advantages of private tuition
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