I am constantly wondering why things are like they are in Laos and Cambodia. Since globalization, internet and satellite TV there is equal access to information. Why are developing countries still struggling to improve?
We all now that on the one hand the old elite's don't want change. But as we see in China right now, this is shortsighted. People want change, and the leaders have to find a way to deal with it.
Beside from imminent measures like improvement of infrastructure, for the long term the education sector is the only place to establish sustainable development in society.But that's where the program starts. The traditional way of teaching and learning failed, especially in Asian countries. Why? Because school and university doesn't support or even push curiosity. Unfortunately this is the driving force in self-education, and the reason why some students are more successful. In western countries this problem is compensated by parental education and society. Curiosity is a value, it is positive (at least until now). We explore things, we discover our environment.
In Asia, at least in my experience so far, no one wants to explore anything. People sometimes (actually quite often) don't even know their neighborhood well, not to speak about their own town. In school, you are not allowed to ask "why". At home, you are not allowed to question your parents orders and advice. But "Why" is the basis of curiosity, the start. But when you watch kids, they are different. They do explore. Sadly, education steps in quite fast and stops it.
So how to solve the problem?
First, encourage self-education. I tell people every day to stop studies and learn from life and others. it is actually not so much about what they learn, its about how. In school, the teacher is lecturing. Wow. No reason to pay since this stuff is usually available on youtube or iTunesU already. So better invite some friends, watch a real teacher on the internet and discuss what he said.
Also, instead of study English over and over again, get some people to start an English club and self assign tasks for presentations. That is gonna be way more fun. You like engineering? Then start engineering. Just do the minimum at school, then go home and dismantle the toaster, buy some chips and cables and create an solar powered oven out of it. THAT's engineering.
I don't even start about accounting. This can be purely studied by books. You want practice? Then take over family financial planning and monitor daily expenses. Schoolbooks give ypu problems to solve you don't like. Real life gives you real problems to solve. "Mum, we had a loss of 500 Dollar this month" will take you faster into combat mode than any assignment in school.
We need a radical change in education. In developing countries, that means get the foreign advisers and consultants out, but even more urgent the NGOs and GOs from foreign countries, As we can see, they failed. There is no need to educate a village. There is a need to educate champions. Easy done. They will teach the others. Get out quickly.
Find this video about how curiosity encourage learning