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Asian Perspectives and Approaches for Developing Assistance in Promoting Human Capital  

I-Hsuan Cheng and Sheng-Ju Chan

The human capital theory emphasizes the importance of education and training to improve worker skills and productivity in the dynamic global knowledge economy and 21st-century capitalism. In Asia, development assistance modalities and contents required for human capital development, such as higher education projects and skill development projects, are implemented by emerging Asian donors alone and through their collaboration with international counterparts. According to the Asian experience, there are four key points. First, the various Chinese, Indian, and other Asian development experiences affirm that different developing countries require different combinations of basic and high skills in the 21st century. Accordingly, the distribution and mobilization of official development assistance (ODA) in human capital development must depend on culturally and contextually specific assistance projects designed for different developing countries. Second, all stakeholders in the skill ecosystem, which includes donors, recipient governments, education institutions, firms, and individuals, must assume responsibilities for not only balancing the skill demand and supply but also sustaining positional competition in the local and global job markets. Third, the system underpinned by innovative financing from the private sector, emerging donors, as well as traditional Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donors must focus on inclusive and sustainable economic development rather than economic accumulation and gross domestic product (GDP) growth only. Finally, higher education institutions should play a more critical and active role in providing international development assistance to empower skilled and competent individuals as change agents to work for/in, guide, and lead the skill ecosystem, which eventually will not only respond to economic demands in the short term but also promote economic transformation in the long run.

Article

Theories of International Development, Gender, and Education  

Xiuying Cai

Within the growing body of literature on global poverty and international development, researchers have examined varying degrees of poverty as well as different ways to measure it. Each of these approaches has generated different strategies for international development. While the gross domestic product (GDP) approach to economic growth and development is advantageous in its transparency and the ease with which it can be used to measure and compare experiences of poverty, researchers have noted problems and challenges. These, in turn, have pushed the international community to pursue the human development approach to studies on poverty, which emphasizes four integrative pillars of development: equity, sustainability, productivity, and empowerment. Women everywhere tend to suffer more than men, including those from the same ethnicity, class, and even family, from poverty and other issues related to global injustice. Attention to these specifically gendered aspects of poverty has led to feminist development theories. Due to different epistemologies, ethical beliefs, and political values, such feminist approaches have evolved into a variety of positions in terms of the relationships between gender/women and development: women in development (WID); women and development (WAD); and gender and development (GAD); postmodernism and development (PAD); women, environment, and development (WED); and the rights-and-capabilities approach. Each of these, in turn, have generated different development programs to achieve gender equity. Human capital approach and the capabilities approach have been most prominent in evaluating development, education, and gender. The mainstream development-related discourse tends to harness education to poverty reduction and women’s empowerment primarily in terms of its technological and scientific innovation and human capital development for economic production in the global knowledge economy. While putting “human” back into the international development agenda is an important step toward the human development approach, the mainstream human capital approach to education has been narrowed by neoliberal ideologies that put too much focus, if not their sole focus, on the quantifiable returns on investment in economic terms. It has hence obscured the intrinsic and ethical-political values of education. The capabilities approach can refocus education to address the global challenges of poverty, including those related to gender inequities. The capabilities approach offers a major critique of human capital theory by broadening what may be considered to be the good, or the forms of equality being sought when we mitigate the effects of poverty and gender inequities. Ultimately, it asks whether each person has the genuine opportunities to be, to do, or to become what he or she has reason to value. It conceptualizes poverty as capability deprivation and recognizes that while economic well-being is necessary, human flourishing depends on a range of dimensions of life well beyond the economic. Education, according to the capabilities approach, is not only one of the central capabilities but is also significant in promoting other capabilities and human flourishing. Thus, it takes into account not only the intrinsic value of education but also the instrumental value of education to promote economic growth as well as social change and gender equity.