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Published On: Mon, Jan 16th, 2017

Quality Teacher is the KEY to Battle Global Inequality, said Nobel Laureate Eric S. Maskin

Rattana Lao (nsnbc) : Academics, economists and the Thai public gathered in Bangkok to hear Professor Eric S. Maskin, the Nobel Laureate in Economics, speak of globalisation and inequality entitled “why global markets have failed to reduce inequality?

Eric S. Maskin_Bangkok_Thailand_Jan 2017

(Photo, author provided)

Hosted by Thammasat University in conjunction with the International Peace Foundation, Professor Maskin’s lecture aimed to address the complexity of globalisation, how it has affected the global labour market and how little it has changed the face of global inequality.

Uwe Morawetz, Founding Chairman of the International Peace Foundation, said that “this lecture is the Sixth ASEAN Event series “Bridges – Dialogue Toward the Culture of Peace, under the patronage of the 21 Nobel Laureates based in Vienna.

The event was hosted in partnership with various universities around the world and in the case of Thailand, Bridges is working closely with Thammasat University. The ASEAN Bridges series is a part of 600 events, which have been hosted since the year 2003.

Through the creation of public space that brought together different issues such as languages, politics, economics and culture, “Bridges aim to create the culture of peace and non-violence in a pluralistic, inter-cultural and dialogue,” said Mr. Morawetz.

Professor Maskin’s lecture explained and explored the trajectory of globalisation and what it meant for a developing country. For the past 30 years, it is pointed out that enormous trade in goods and services have uplifted people out of poverty, offered more choices for consumers and created an increasingly complex internationalisation of the production.

What does that mean?

Education instead of sweatshops.

Education instead of sweatshops.

Prof. Maskin’s lecture illustrated the production line has indeed become global. With the computer designed in the United States, programmed in Europe and manufactured in Asia, globalisation has created an intricate link between goods and services, ideas and markets.

This is also made possible due to the decreasing transportation and communication costs, which allowed managers and businesses to be able to keep track of global supply chain. It is also heightened by the elimination of trade barriers. Through NAFTA, ASEAN and the European Union, trade, goods and services are able to move freer and faster than ever before.

While globalisation has promised to uplift emerging economies such as China and India out of poverty, it has failed to fulfil another promise, which is to reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots. According to Professor Maskin, “the opposite has occurred.”

“The surprising outcome of the earth shattering US election exemplified the widening inequality in the society and as Trump won on pointing out such phenomenon, it illustrates how essential this problem is.”

Instead of focusing on the US politics, Prof. Maskin turned the tide to Asia: developing and emerging markets. Three reasons why focusing on reducing inequality is crucial for Asia. Firstly, it is a moral reason: human being should be treated equally; secondly, reducing inequality helps to reduce poverty and thirdly, countries with less inequality tend to be less politically volatile: “by keeping inequality low, it is like keeping the lid together.”

Not only has the production line of goods and services become international, but the labour force has also become an issue of global concern. On the bright side, talented personnel and managers are able to travel across borders in search of better options and positions. Global conglomerates are able to source the best and brightest to fill in positions regardless of their nationalities. On the flip side, less skilled labour are facing intense competition to keep their jobs. They are facing inflow of skilled and unskilled labour to take away their jobs at lower costs:

“Globalisation has enlarged the pie for the skilled labour, while it shrank it for the unskilled.”

What should we do?

“Education, education, education,” said the Nobel Laureate.

What about it?

Students grade 4 and 5 drew their pictures under the theme “Our Happiness.” (Photo author provided)

Students grade 4 and 5 drew their pictures under the theme “Our Happiness.” (Photo author provided)

Professor Maskin pointed out to the imminent role public schools play in uplifting people out of poverty, bringing students of all talents together and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Historically, the public school system in the US has made an enormous contribution to American productivity. This is seen in the rise of the US in various industries.

“The key to it is bringing quality teachers, more and more of it, to teach students of all walk of lives, of all ages. This is particularly needed in public school system as it promises to uplift so many more people from poverty, many more than private schools could altogether serve.”

“For the United States as well as Thailand, what we need is a restoration in public school system, especially those in low income area. Researches have shown that quality teachers could increase individual earning exponentially in a lifetime.”

“I remember the time my public school teacher got a PhD”.

“Where are all the good teachers gone?”

A simple question to end a fascinating talk. As an educator, I walked out with a head held high. Something as grand as ending global inequality can begin with a simple solution: quality teacher.

Rattana Lao – nsnbc 16.01.2017

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  1. Tony says:

    Yes, there are quality products, but the author and educator probably meant “qualified” teacher.
    “Where are (correction:have) all the good teachers gone”? , he laments. And he remembers the time his teacher “got” (correction: had) a PhD, thus being considered a qualified teacher by the author.
    This belief is part and parcel and proof of the myth (propaganda) that there is such a thing as teaching. What is referred to as teaching is mostly propaganda, disinformation, acculturation, social engineering, consent manufacturing, brainwashing etc. Or transfer of knowledge.
    To teach is to “cause or help to learn” (Webster). Even by this definition there is no such thing as “teaching”. But there is helping to “learn”.
    And the foundation of all learning is daring: the courage to investigate, to experiment, to inquire, to question, to criticize.
    There is only learning: by the qualified learner (teacher) and the inquisitive learner. Native speakers or PhD owners are not more than qualified propagandists if they fail in learning together with their students and in helping their students to learn about the foundation of all learning: daring, the courage to investigate, to criticize, to experiment, to question.
    The project of filling a “vessel” (teacher) with “quality” and transferring this “quality” to another “vessel” (student) is an unfortunate project, and dying hard.

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