Education and development through a capabilities perspective

Kalogeresis, Athanasios; Labrianidis, Lois; Thanis, Elias; Panori, Natasa (2014). 'Education and development through a capabilities perspective' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

In the vast majority of the development literature education is considered to be one of the main explanatory variables of growth (and development). By augmenting knowledge and / or technology, investment in education has come to be considered equivalent, if not more valuable than capital investment.

All of the recent efforts to account for development are putting education center stage. Since the emergence of the endogenous growth theory, knowledge (the main product of education), technology and innovation are considered the main determinants of growth, and are widely considered more significant than capital investment. The effort to understand how innovation is created has put systemic (evolutionary and/or institutional) perspectives into the fore, at the same time highlighting the importance of geography. In almost all accounts, education is considered to be one of the main explanatory variables of growth and development.

What is not necessarily equivalently clear is how education relates to alternative measures of welfare. In the capabilities and other – loosely – related literatures (human development. Happiness, QoL) education often moves from dependent to independent variable. Through education, people may gain access to more information, may seek to improve their living conditions, or avoid circumstances which can have negative impact on their health. Furthermore, education may lead to higher social cohesion, which is considered central in development processes.

The main aim of the presentation is a thorough discussion of the various approaches relating education and development. Through the use of extensive survey data we aim to empirically test the role of education in shaping human capabilities in a developed country setting (Greece). Additionally, we aim at uncovering possible relations and linkages between two large bodies of literature that are largely unexplored. Specifically, the large and evolving literature of economic geography views space and territory as the loci of complex and intertwined social, economic and political flows, struggles and power relations leading to development or underdevelopment.  Although economic geography is more or less clear about what development is not, things are less straightforward when it comes to defining what development is. By viewing development through a capabilities perspective (the second large body of literature) we will try to clarify what development is.

The proposed paper will be based on two particularly extensive (both in terms of size and scale) surveys. The first is a telephone survey, which covers the whole country and allows us to empirically validate the role of education and geography in affecting regional development and inequalities. Here, a number of dimensions of the role of geography will be analysed, as the physical components of the landscape (i.e. peripherality, insularity) will be combined with socially and politically created features such as the role of functional urban areas, entrepreneurship and the characteristics of social capital.

The findings of the telephone survey are validated by an equally extensive face-to-face semi structured interview survey that focuses on the region of Central Macedonia. Apart of the methodological originality (i.e. through the use of largely structured questionnaires), the proposed paper, will be based on one of the first such studies in a developed country, and as such, we expect it to contribute to the better understanding of the role of formal education on the formation of human capabilities.

This paper is based on research that has been co‐financed by the European Union (European Social Fund) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program 'Education and Lifelong Learning' of the National Strategic Reference Framework ‐ Research Funding Program: THALES. Investing in knowledge society through the European Social Fund (grant number MIS 380421).

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