Some Kenyans dispute that there is a distinction between leaders who have attended college and those who have not. They refuse to acknowledge the obvious fact that many of our present political representatives have been at a disadvantage – multiple times – due to lack of college education.
I am, therefore, enthralled by the current debate about whether there should be a minimum qualification before running for political office. It’s timely and beneficial. It’s part of a global discussion over the level of education required of political leaders.
Should a college degree be required for positions of leadership and political office? Some believe that because our elected officials should mirror our constituents, we should expect to see political leaders without a degree who have built their skill sets through experiences outside of formal education.
They are quick to point out that a person’s accomplishments must be viewed in the context of his or her entire life. But there’s something they’re overlooking. In practically every sector, some minimum qualifications are required.
Why should politicians, who undoubtedly are powerful administrators, be exempt from possessing necessary expertise and education to carry out the tasks? After all, it’s difficult to envision an MP, MCA, or even a youth leader taking correct judgments on a regular basis if they can’t read or understand.
I believe that the lack of college degrees among lawmakers is a terrible statement on leadership, especially when so many Kenyans could never get so far without it. Recent research has shown that leaders have a significant impact on policy and economic outcomes, and that citizens (voters) are more concerned with the attributes of leaders than with political parties.
Literature suggests that the quality of leaders, as evaluated by their educational degree and personal history, is important for economic progress. For example, a 2011 study looking at how a political leader’s educational attainment affects economic growth over their stay in office discovered that growth is generally stronger when leaders are “more highly educated.”
In a 2017 study, it was discovered that when a country transitions from an educated leader to a less-educated one, the population’s educational attainment suffers. Today’s elected leaders must be able to understand many points of view, link disparate data sources, decipher legal documents, be skilled problem solvers and demonstrate empathy. College is an excellent place to develop these skills.
-The writer is Global Impact Fellow at Moving Worlds Institute