Domino/Forschen und Lernen – Entwicklung


First of all, before correlating the effects of science as a source of knowledge together with effects of development and the sustainability of it, is important to introduce the simpler correlation between knowledge and development.

Education and Development

It is well established and understood that, generally speaking, there is a direct correlation between advancement of the education level of a nation and its socio-economic system. A report from the world bank dating 2004 exemplify these very clearly at the macro-economic level. [1]

More specifically a simple increase of 20 percent in the years of scholarization of a nation increases the average annual economic growth by 0.15%, a 20 percent increase in the annual number of patents granted is correlated with an average increase of 4 percent in economic growth. [1]

More graphically pleasing examples of these effects are shown in figure 1 and 2.

It is important though that these increases in national wealth are proportionated with sustainable policies


Figure 1: Correlation between mean years of schooling and PPP-adjusted GDP per capita, 2000 [2]


Figure 2: Correlation between child mortality and mean years of schooling for those aged 15 and older, 2000 [2]


Sadly, these big numbers report, are just a macro representation of the results of massive education campaign which are cause of several problems:

Education in Rural areas: most education reforms in third world countries concentrate on a standardized curriculum aimed to pass standardized tests; which is totally inadequate in creating   a better balance between rural and urban development.

Several policies need to be implemented:

It is necessary to provide a wider access to both formal and out-of-school education, for both adults and children, of the type required to fulfill the needs of rural population.  [3]

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Figure 3: Swiss VPET System


Over-education: An increased education has brought to a risky increase in over-education for several reasons: a more qualified workforce force employer to upgrade some traditionally non-graduate jobs to graduate ones. Or on the other hand, they may recruit graduates for jobs that basically do not require graduate skills. [4]

A rationing of educational certifications is necessary to force public and private employers to seek more realistic candidates for the open positions. This is a more sustainable and acceptable education system where less skilled labor and consequently social investment goes to waste.

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Figure 4: Swiss VPET System [5]


Brain Drain: Education plays an important role in the growing problem of international migration of high-level highly skilled workers, the so-called brain drain, mostly from poorer countries (China, India) to richer countries. This is particularly true for the categories of scientists, engineers, academics, and physicians, all of whom have been trained in at considerable cost only to bring their knowledge to contribute to the economic growth of more affluent nations.

A proposed solution to cut the brain drain, which doesn’t violate fundamentals freedoms of movement, is to tax the overseas earnings of migrants and reuse these revenues in educational programs. Such a tax on overseas earnings would act as a disincentive to migrate.

Development and sustainability

The main result of economic growth has been a series of environmental issues which have reached uncontrollable proportions. Economic growth has been the main goal of the world countries but as we reach undesirable levels of global warming, we must consider whether it is possible to continue along the growth trajectory of recent years.

Then we must explore the relationship between economic growth, technological growth and environmental quality, and put in place policies to incentive an ecologically sustainable development.

It has been suggested by some researcher that once the technological level increase enough, it eventually ends up to reduce the economic impact. When the level of wealth and technology is high enough it allows for increasingly lowered emissions. This is exemplified in the following graph.

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Figure 5: Environmental KuznetsCurve [6]

What is Sustainable Development then?

The core idea of sustainable development is the grant our needs without harming the earth. It can be summarized in four goals: peace, freedom, better living conditions and healthy environment. It is often quoted as: “Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” [7]

Sustainable development spans all domain of human knowledge, from economic to socio-cultural, in creating what could only be called a sustainable science, in which the importance of the interactions between different scientific disciplines is better understood and analyze. Only 50 years ago oceanographer and chemist were not sharing many information about their work despite the fact that many chemical processes are fundamental to sea life. Today under the umbrella of global climate change these interactions are not only happening, are even encouraged.

Science has become more transdisciplinary and participative thanks to the multi-faceted character of sustainable development.

The central elements of this sustainability science are then:

  • interdisciplinary research
  • co-production of knowledge spanning different fields
  • analysis of a complex system and its environment

To conclude, the concept of sustainable development doesn’t only seek to analyze the world as it is, but is in a way biased to emphasize a positive development and attitude with respect of the planet.

[1] D. H. C. C. a. C. J. Dahlman, „Knowledge and Development: A Cross-Section Approach,“ The World Bank , 2004.


[3] M. P. Todaro, Economic Development 12th Edition, Prentice Hall , 2015.

[4] A. Chevalier, „Graduate Over-Education in the UK,“ London School of Economics and Political Science, 2000.

[5] N. H. a. R. Schwartz, „Gold Standard: The Swiss Vocational Education and Training System,“ The National Center on Education and the Economy, Washington DC, 2015.

[6] The Environmental Kuznets Curve, Yandle, Vijayaraghavan, and Bhattarai