Education and Bad Political Leadership

F.A Hayek through his book “The Road to Serfdom” argued that in a socialist polity the worst always gets on top. To think about it, even in a social democracy, we tend to give power to the few over majority. This implies that there is a constant race among different political parties or individuals to grab power and rule over the majority.

Winning in the intense competition for power requires a sturdy incentive. Individuals who have more general goals that can be achieved through various means may refrain from or might not have sufficient motivation to invest huge amounts of resources, effort and time to win the political race. On the other hand, individuals who are most motivated to do so are the ones that desire to exercise discretionary power over others and exploit one’s possession for personal gain. These individuals know that ruling over the majority is very beneficial for their own self and they have enough incentive to go to any extent for achieving political power.

But the catch is, in order to become a political leader, these individuals and parties need mass support from the general citizens. Thus, any leader in power is the result of citizens themselves.

F.A Hayek further argued that it is easier for the worst people to get on top in societies that consist of uneducated and ignorant majority for they often tend to be more gullible and are more easily appeased with twisted propagandas.

Knowing this, the politicians try to persuade the masses by bringing everyone to the lowest common denominator, which often is hatred. A majority of propagandas thus consist of instilling hatred among minorities, or towards the rich or “them”. These leaders then try to convince everyone that their political party can solve all the problems and they are what the country needed all along. The majority populace then gives the political party a broader freedom of exercising discretionary power over everyone. On the other hand, in an educated society people will scrutinize the propagandas and manifestos of the different groups before electing a leader. Additionally, such societies tend to limit the power of government and allow individual freedom to prevail.

There definitely are parallels between the teachings of F.A Hayek and how ‘some parties’ gained political power in Nepal.

If such is the scenario, education is an enemy for bad leaders. In its corollary, the government does not have much incentive to enhance the quality of education. Indeed, for the past many years, community schools in Nepal have been used by different individuals for political gains through school management committees where actual motivation to enhance the quality of education was minimal.

Can this be one of the reasons for decades of incompetence of community schools? Even if a slightest chance of this persists, it can be devastating for the long-term educational scenario of Nepal.

Realizing this, we should not leave the entire task of improving Nepalese educational system in the hands of the government, instead it should be substituted for other alternatives that would incentivize both private and public schools to broaden their reach and improve the quality.

One such method that would ensure quality improvement of all schools within Nepal is promoting school choice via school vouchers. This includes providing cash transfers to schools based on enrollments or directly providing vouchers to families to purchase schooling. This can have three important implications:

–          It would extend financial support from the government to all schools or parents. The parents would thus have an opportunity to choose the best school that suits their preference regardless of their income. 

–          It increases competition in the overall education system which will lead to quality improvement of both public and private schools. Since the need to attract students persists, public schools will also adapt to innovative methods to bring improvement in schooling and learning process that would at least come at par with private schools.

–          The dependency on the government for the improvement of the overall education system will be reduced and the involvement of private counterparts and competition will ensure a continuous appraisal of access and quality.

While good political leadership requires an educated and informed society, it does not necessarily have to be the other way around. Let us create an environment where education can foster regardless of the kind of leadership, and in the coming days the investment will bring a significant return in the form of righteous political leaders.

Ayushma Maharjan

Ayushma Maharjan pursued development finance as part of her undergraduate education. She is currently working as the Research and Communications Officer. She has been focusing on writing blogs and articles and has been researching on contemporary economic issues of Nepal. She aspires to craft conducive reforms through evidence-based policy making and redefine the policy discourse in Nepal .

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