Approaches to Educational Planning

Designing Education for Future

Educational Planning

Educational planning, in its broadest generic sense, is the application of rational, systematic analysis to the process of educational development with the aim of making education more effective and efficient in responding to the needs and goals of its students and society.

The main approaches and techniques of relating educational planning to development planning, which are in use or recommended by various authorities are set out below. Usually combinations of methods are in operation

1. Social Demand Approach

The first approach of educational planning, which may be called the social method is in general use, but is scarcely a method at all, and is a starting point from which improvements must be devised. This method takes educational needs in terms of the current demand for education at the different levels and projects them on the basis of population increase, age distribution, long-term national or social goals (inarticulate or defined) and on the basis of what is known about state and consumer preferences for education. Among such goals and preferences are universal literacy, universal compulsory primary education, and cultural objectives. The stress is upon education as social infra-structure for development purposes, and as an end in itself. The financial implications of these targets are then considered.

The usual result is that the funds required for the educational expansion are found to be larger than those available either to launch or to sustain it, on the basis of projections of national income and revenue. A compromise is struck, and what is deemed to be a feasible plan emerges, cut down to the funds expected to be available. This is the traditional approach, and may work satisfactorily in high-income countries, although even in these, concern over flagging rates of growth and ever-increasing competition in export markets is leading to increased emphasis on the contribution of education to technological progress and productive efficiency

2. Manpower Requirement Approach

The second approach of educational planning, which we may call the manpower approach, is based on the fact that, as we saw earlier, the main link of education with economic development is through the knowledge and skills it produces in the labor force. To the extent that the educational system produces qualified people in the right numbers and places, the major part of the economic and social contribution of educational planning is achieved, provided that in so doing the educational system has not consumed so great a proportion of resources as to set back the development plan itself. Various methods exist of estimating future manpower requirements and the demand they will make on the education system.

But various difficulties hamper this approach as Professor Harbison recognizes. First, manpower forecasts can seldom be made with reliability beyond short-term periods of five to eight years. The time perspective required by educational planning as a whole is fifteen to twenty years, though it is possible to influence over shorter periods the supply in the ‘pipe-line’. Secondly, the educational component of different occupations changes with technological progress and the rise of educational standards.

A further limitation on the manpower approach is that it leaves out of account provision for education as a ‘consumers’ good’, and it makes no provision for the ‘social minimum’. It is tempting to believe that these objectives might be obtained as by-products of the training for occupation by influencing curricula, but this is unlikely. The occupational needs of the economy are not the whole of society’s needs for education. An addition has to be made for women and girls who are not gainfully employed, and for the amount of education which a country requires to fulfill its cultural, political, and social goals. It is also necessary to assure that educational output will grow faster than demand to the degree required to stimulate growth, without creating problems of unemployment. The educational plan must also provide for turnover of employment and continuous adjustment between the educational system and the socio-economic environment. Full account must be taken of the ‘wastage’ involved in various educational systems, as well as students switching in mid-stream, students’ and parents’ preferences, locational disequilibrium of supply and demand, and adjustments required by technological change.

Finally, there is the problem that the composition (or ‘product mix’) of the development plan leading to the occupational demand must not be determined irrespective of the educational requirements it imposes. The composition of the target ‘product mix’, and of the investment program undertaken to achieve it, must depend in part on the relative cost of the various types of educational programs needed. In short, investment in education and in all other sectors of the development programs should be mutually determined. Professor Arthur Lewis, in his article ‘Education and Economic Development’’ dealing with what he calls ‘investment education’ states: ‘One can calculate the percentage of the age cohort who should receive secondary education from the formula:

X = n (a+b+c)/m


x = proportion of age cohort to be recruited;

n = ratio of number of secondary-type jobs to adult population;

m = ratio of number in age cohort to adult population;

a = normal percentage wastage of nationals of the country;

b = abnormal wastage due to replacement of expatriates;

c = percentage of rate of growth of the number of secondary-type jobs.

‘Of these c is the most difficult factor to assess.’

If this formula is to be used to estimate total requirements, and to be used widely, we have to add the secondary school places needed to maintain the flow to higher education, since this flow has to pass through the secondary level. We have also to make provision for education of women and girls and others who do not work. A further comment on Professor Lewis’ formula is that it does not take account of the fact that as national income rises the proportion of the labor force to the total population normally becomes less. This is caused by the raising of the age of entry into the labor force, by the lowering of the age of retirement, and by the reduction of the number of workers marginal to the labor force (e.g. married women). Thus quantitative estimates of educational requirements based solely on labor force demand ten to fifteen years ahead would underestimate a country’s over-all educational needs.

3. Education-Output Ratio Method

The third method is based on the capital-output ratio approach and might be called the education-output ratio method. It relates the stock of educated people and the flow of children and students completing education at the different levels directly to the national output of goods and services without passing through the intervening stage of making manpower forecasts. A series of linear equations are set up relating the stock of persons who have completed a given level of education, and the number of students at each level, to the aggregate volume of production. These equations will show how the structure of the educational system should change with different growth rates of the economy. This method is developed by Professor Tinbergen.

Every method has its difficulties and limitations. The problem here is that assumptions have to be made about teacher-student ratios and about the adequacy of the relations of the education ‘mix’ to the product ‘mix’ at the base from which the projection is made. If these assumptions are incorrectly made they will invalidate the conclusions. Further, the differences of rates of growth in the different economic sectors, and increases of productivity, need to be included. The range of assumptions as to the technical coefficients is very wide. None the less this method, used with good informed judgment, is a useful exercise to be set alongside the other approaches.

A further difficulty common to both the manpower and the education output ratio approaches is the assumption that a given output requires a fixed volume of manpower with fixed amounts of education and training. The fact is, however, that certain latitude exists for substitution of capital for manpower in general, and for substituting additional education and training for man-hours. A given output may be produced with a small number of highly trained workers or a large number of less trained workers. It may even be possible, through automation, to produce it with a smaller number of less highly trained workers. In short, just as the choice of technology, and its implications for education, is an important aspect of development programming, so is the choice between more education and training and less employment, or less education and training and more employment in each sector. The broader the categories of output, and the broader the definition of educational inputs, the less fixed are the relations between them and the wider the area of choice.

4. Aggregate Method of Educational Planning

The fourth is the aggregate method of educational planning. This method tries to relate educational needs to the whole demand of society for education rather than to the level of output or to manpower, and is based on norms and patterns which emerge from an empirical study of the educational situation in countries at different stages of development. Among them are (a) the proportion of GNP devoted to education globally and (if possible) by sector; (b) the proportion of public expenditure devoted to education and its different sectors; (c) the proportion of over-all investment devoted to education; (d) the proportion of the population enrolled at the different educational levels; (e) the above information corrected by estimates of wastage; (f) the proportions of the school-age and student population enrolled at different levels.

Patterns of educational development in relation to over-all development can be seen by setting these coefficients against indices of economic growth and social attainment. Social indices can be used with the help of ranking techniques. Use can also be made of data on what appear to be irreversible trends, e.g. the movement from primary to secondary and tertiary occupations, and estimates of the relative rates of growth of more highly qualified manpower in relation to the total growth of the labor force. A number of problems arise in respect of the interpretation of the coefficients listed. For example, the proportion of GNP spent on education will vary with the age composition of the population and not reflect an equality of effort. Another variant strongly influencing the comparison is the ratio of per capita teachers’ salaries to per capita income, as the country differences are wide and the greatest proportion of educational cost is made-up of teachers’ remuneration.

5. Comprehensive Approach

Fifth, there is what we may call the human resources assessment approach which is a comprehensive one. It was developed by Professor Harbison. It starts from the position that education is one of the main sources of human resource formation, other sources being measures in the fields of manpower, employment, training and health. The strategy of human resource development consists of integrating these factors with general economic and social development planning. It takes into consideration such factors as the scale of development feasible considering the availability of specialized manpower, the scale of development needed to absorb the backlog of unemployed and the new entrants to the labor force, the extent of in-service training in industry, the pattern of investment priorities envisaged in the plan and the broad economic, social and educational goals of development planning.


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