ASEAN: Human development 2018

By Patipat Kittichokwattana

ASEAN countries have been trying so hard to become a developed country, except Singapore who already achieved it. One significant strategy, as we commonly known, is to focus on education. The development doctrine is likely to assume that when people gained the higher education, there would be a higher raised quality of society and economy. The doctrine assumes that Governments’ development enthusiasm can be traced by how large portion of expenditure has been spent on education.

The following table illustrates country’s expenditure on education per GDP, its human development outcome, and the Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is a composite index measuring achievement of human development in three basic dimensions which are; knowledge, a long and healthy life, and a decent standard of living. The knowledge dimension pertaining to expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling that reflect the education efficiency and effectiveness of the country which will be discussed later.

Country Expenditure on education per GDP HDI score Human development group
Singapore 2.9 0.932 Very high
Brunei 4.4 0.853 Very high
Malaysia 4.8 0.802 Very high
Thailand 4.1 0.755 High
Philippines n/a 0.699 Medium
Indonesia 3.6 0.694 Medium
Viet Nam 5.7 0.694 Medium
Timor-Leste n/a 0.625 Medium
Lao PDR 2.9 0.601 Medium
Cambodia 1.9 0.582 Medium
Myanmar 2.2 0.578 Medium

Note. Very high human development = 0.800 and above, High human development = 0.700–0.799, Medium human development = 0.550–0.699, Low human development = below 0.550.

Vietnam could be determined as the most eager country to develop its people among ASEAN nations following by Malaysia and Brunei while Myanmar and Cambodia were the lowest respectively. Interestingly, Singapore narrowed its education spending to the same percentage as Laos but found different results. In this regard, does it seem favorable outcome when compare to education expenditure? Certainly, we cannot judge it because education is considered as a long-term investment. However, let’s take more depth in the details of education indicators as following.

Country Mean years of schooling Expected years of schooling
Singapore 11.5 16.2
Brunei 9.1 14.5
Malaysia 10.2 13.7
Thailand 7.6 14.7
Philippines 9.3 12.6
Indonesia 8.0 12.8
Viet Nam 8.2 12.7
Timor-Leste 4.5 12.8
Lao PDR 5.2 11.2
Cambodia 4.8 11.7
Myanmar 4.9 10.0

These two indicators are quite different. ‘Mean years of schooling’ refers to average number of years of education received by people ages 25 and older.This indicator reflects prior education accomplishment. It found that Malaysians aged 25 and older gained 10.2 years of education which made them the most competitive people among ASEAN nations in the present moment, except Singaporeans. People in Vietnam, the highest education expenditure, gained 8.2 years of education were more satisfied when compare to Thais.

‘Expected years of schooling’ refers to number of years that a child expects to receive throughout the child’s life. This indicator reflects the future workforces because it indicated education level of current’s offspring. Thais were likely to be the most prosperous among ASEAN countries except Singaporeans. Nevertheless, it found that all the ASEAN nations upgraded the expected years of schooling above 10 years. These may incur future economic development of the whole region.

Human development cannot rely exclusively on education. It also needs a healthy life and a decent standard of living. Furthermore, several issues tend to receive more attention in the near future, for example, people of old-age, gender gap, woman empowerment, environment sustainability, etc. Importantly, each country should pursue development goals with the promise to leave no one behind.

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Patipat Kittichokwattana is PaddyNews writer