I had a great discussion with a great professional and a former student of mine in Belgrade, Aleksandar Molosavljevic, who should receive the credit for this bite size thought, as he stimulated me to take the certification issue slightly further. In essence, I was trying to explain why educators and trainers require a certification and continuing professional development and the fact that numerous countries globally had not been able to tackle the problem effectively (some have better than others). In a number of previous articles of mine I have stressed this fact. Aleksandar then raised the argument that politicians should also be competent to represent citizens and therefore, in a certain way need to have certain skills and abilities. I tend to agree with this assumption.
If one checks the definition of a politician, it may be defined as a person engaged in party politics as a profession; or a person experienced in the art or science of government; or, one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017). Mattozzi and Merlo (2007), argue that there are two main career paths which are typically followed by politicians in modern democracies. First come the career politicians. They are politicians who work in the political sector until retirement. Second are the "political careerists". These are politicians who gain reputation for expertise in controlling certain bureaucracies, then leave politics for a well-paid career in the private sector making use of their political contacts (National Bureau of Economic Research - Working paper, 02/2007).
Politicians need to understand governance as a framework, the specifics of how governmental institutions operate, the basics of compliance, what representation implies, public finance, have basic communication skills, understand conflict of interest, realize their role within a wider supranational institutional framework, preferably a second language capability, ethics and other knowledge and skill areas. Doesn’t this sound logical?
As we become “parents” when our child is born (it’s automatic!), we become educators if we have a degree (in most cases), the same way we may become politicians if we get elected. The question that was raised between Aleksandar and myself was whether there should be a set of competencies and skills for politicians that could guarantee some sort of basic educational standard for them. Ok, there are a few degrees that ‘count’ for being certified. For example, studying politics, or law, or sociology can most probably make one clear the ‘bar’. The question is how many members of parliament have such degrees? The point I am making is NOT to rule out anyone who does not have a relevant degree, but to actually make sure that those without a relevant degree HAVE the minimum requirements to represent us fairly, ethically and rightly by having the necessary skillset. Many countries around the world by the way do not ask for a degree or qualification as a requirement to become an elected member of parliament. If we value education, I feel our politicians should be educated. I would feel somewhat safer wouldn’t you?
Some basic research reveals that there have been discussions to create a designation certifying politicians. As Thomas Stanley (2012) states, there are two areas that are crucial for politicians to be competent in: First, they should be required to complete successfully courses in basic business finance and accounting as well as public finance. They should also be required to complete courses in basic mathematical statistics, probability theory and sampling methods.
I feel that being an elected member of any state brings accountability, responsibility, transparency and – above all – integrity in dealings. If a managerial job at entry level for a company has – as a requirement – a degree (or any sort of qualification), shouldn’t our parliament members be required to get qualified?