We will never eradicate poverty without quality education for all

As the world marks International Day for Eradication of Poverty, it is crucial to spread the message that equal access to quality education plays a key role in eradicating poverty. 

Since 1990, although rates have been cut in half, 21% of the world’s population still lives in extreme poverty. It is vital to step up efforts to give these people a better chance of a decent and fulfilling life. Education has a central role to play in such efforts.

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The EFA Global Monitoring Report’s Education Transforms booklet shows that education not only helps individuals escape poverty by developing the skills they need to improve their livelihoods, but also generates productivity gains that fuel economic growth. While growth does not automatically reduce poverty, without it sustained poverty reduction is not possible.

Our recent analysis, released at the United Nation General Assembly last month, shows that for growth to reduce poverty, it needs to overcome inequality by improving the lives of the poorest and marginalized the most. Education is vital to achieve this goal because it can help ensure that the benefits of growth are fairly shared.

Expanding access to education alone is not enough, however. Equitable learning for all is key to shared national prosperity for all. Globally, over 40 years, income per capita would be 23% higher in a country with more equal education. If education inequality in sub-Saharan Africa had been halved, to the level of Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, its economic growth over 2005–2010 would have been 47% higher.

By building a skilled workforce, education can promote a country from one economic bracket to the next. If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, we could eradicate 12% of world poverty. As such, it is an essential investment.

blackboardEvidence from the EFA Global Monitoring Report shows that for every US$1 spent on education, between US$10 and US$15 would be generated in economic growth. 

Skills are the key way in which education reduces poverty. Education makes it more likely for men and women not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are more secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay. In so doing, education can not only help lift households out of poverty, but also guard against them falling – or falling back – into poverty.

In Jordan, 25% of women with only primary education who live in rural areas work for no pay, for example, compared with 7% of those with a secondary education. In El Salvador, only 5% of working adults with less than primary education have an employment contract, compared with 47% of working adults with secondary education.

And, just as education plays its role in helping eradicate poverty, progress in fighting poverty is inextricably linked with progress in achieving education for all.  The direct costs of sending children to school, as well as the indirect costs of losing a source of labour, can be formidable for poor parents. As a consequence, not only are poor children less likely to enrol in primary school, but those who do so are more likely to drop out. This disadvantage results in children from poor households being over three times more likely to be out of school than children from rich households. Low quality education reinforces this problem, as parents are less willing to bear those costs if they cannot see the benefits of education.


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There is no better moment to realize education’s role in helping households escape poverty than today. To unlock the wider benefits of education so that it can play its full part in helping the world achieve poverty eradication, all children need the chance to complete not only primary school but also lower secondary school. And access to schooling is not enough on its own: as we will highlight in the next EFA GMR 2013/14 (being launched on January 14), education needs to be of good quality so that children actually learn. Given this fundamental role that a quality, equitable education can play in tackling the root causes of poverty, join us in calling for it to be a central part of any new development framework post-2015.

This entry was posted in Economic growth, Employment, Equality, Famine, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Quality of education. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to We will never eradicate poverty without quality education for all

  1. Mikemilton says:

    i agree with your opinion and also want to say that if we provide batter and quality education than future will became so much brighter…
    i hope every school give preference to their education not only money..

  2. Pingback: We will never eradicate poverty without quality education for all | Flexible Learning Strategies

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  4. Danette Likens says:

    While I agree education is an important step toward moving out of poverty, I am not convinced it will reduce poverty as much as predicted. Many of those living in poverty have opportunities to receive quality educations equal to those in higher income brackets. Many of the issues are as much social as economical. There are more single parent households in lower income levels and fewer of the individuals from poverty stricken communities place emphasis on education. Many work multiple jobs, have latch-key children and do not have an education level that makes them capable of aiding their children with their educational needs. Until social changes occur to offer support to children of parents with low education levels, changes in equality of education is not likely to have a huge impact. After school programs, pre-K programs, and in-school assistance/tutoring programs would likely have a huge impact on improved education and equality of learning instead of focusing on poverty levels – this should perhaps be a community focused not an income focused issue.

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  6. Michael says:

    I believe books like Ruby Payne’s give us a start in trying to understand some of the thoughts and behaviors that children and or parents have that live in poverty. However, I don’t think we should be teaching to middleclass values. We need to teach to each child in a way that he/she will learn. Payne offers insight to us as educators, some sound realistic and some don’t. I believe that no one person has all the answers. When exactly did it become my job to solve poverty?? We ne politicians to come down off their mountain tops and really see what’s going on in schools!!!

  7. Pingback: Poverty holds back learning in Kenya | World Education Blog

  8. helen says:

    where Africa missed it is lack of acknowledging their own quality form of education which was accessible and equitably distributed. education to the grass root is very important to achieve quality.

  9. Pingback: Why Global Efforts To Provide Early Education To All Kids Have Flatlined

  10. Education is very important. We need to invest more on human capital. I learned a lot on poverty and how to fight against it from Borgen Project

  11. Yes i greatly agree, we must have a school or schools in Kenya that want to handle poverty in Kenya by it horns. Education will do it all.

  12. Grace says:

    Tanzanian Education needs reforms to meet the needs of a particular society in this century.Public schools need an eye, as well as PHILOSOPHY of EDUCATION SHOULD BE CLEAR.

  13. Grace says:

    A great question is how does Primary education help an individual fight against poverty,if institutions are grasp by poverty?Learners study in a crowd class with very few facilities.Take initiatives on en lighting Quality in public primary schools in Tanzania

  14. Sushil Kumar Bham says:

    Yes i absolutely agree that quality education helps to minimize poverty but most of the people around the world have not understood a comprehensive meaning of poverty. I think poverty embraces wealth as well as good virtues. In my naive opinion, quality education should promote these qualities simultaneously. I think those people are just rubbish who always run after wealth and do not have good virtues. So, people who believe that they have got quality education and desire to amass wealth and completely ignore good virtues are the poorest ones.

  15. Mark K. Mukola says:

    If we understand the real meaning of “quality education”, as enlivened by Julie Strawn that education combined with strategy is focused on job training( with an eye on local demand) ” soft skills,” and holding out for quality jobs. If so, the poverty will be, largely, done with. but its total eradication is impossible, because it is naturally allowed by the creator to be undergone by men. However, a man has his share to do to be in a balanced life provided that he/she acquires the quality education before hand.

  16. Godwin Mbwambo says:

    Education can only reduce poverty if corruption and embezzlement of fund in education sector is mightily fought; otherwise there is no hope. Poor will die while poor!

  17. Also right , without quality education will never eradicate the poverty . It’s seems i our country every time . Really you find out the main point of poverty. wanna to give a special Thanks .

  18. Pingback: Education and development: limitations and unintended consequences | Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre

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