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How quality education can help fight poverty

Quality education supports a child’s developing social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills.

How education can help fight extreme poverty?

We believe that ensuring quality education for all is not only central to the achievement of all of the Global Goals but in particular, the goal to end extreme poverty. Access to high-quality primary education and supporting child well-being is a globally-recognized solution to the cycle of poverty. This is, in part, because it also addresses many of the other issues that can keep communities vulnerable. 

We know that poverty affects education. Not every person without an education lives in extreme poverty. But most adults living in poverty today missed out on basic education. Their children are also more likely to miss out as well. This is a travesty because the main way that education affects poverty is that it can help to end it.

Education is often referred to as the great equalizer: It can open the door to jobs, resources, and skills that help a person not only survive, but thrive. This is why access to quality education is a globally-recognized solution to poverty. Education helps to remedy many of the other issues that can keep people, families, and even whole communities vulnerable to the cycle of poverty. 

At its core, a quality education supports a child’s developing social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills. They also gain knowledge and skills, and often at a higher level than those who don’t attend school. They can then use these skills to earn higher incomes and build successful lives.

According to UNESCO, if all students in low-income countries had just basic reading skills (nothing else), an estimated 171 million people could escape extreme poverty. If all adults completed secondary education, we could cut the global poverty rate by more than half. This is why the United Nations named quality education one of its Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030.  

1. Education reduces poverty

  • 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills. That’s equivalent to a 12% drop in the world total.
  • Absolute poverty could be reduced by 30% from learning improvements outlined by the Education Commission.

2. Education increases individual earnings

  • Education increases earnings by roughly 10% per each additional year of schooling.
  • For each $1 invested in an additional year of schooling earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle-income countries.

3. Education reduces economic inequalities

  • If workers from poor and rich backgrounds received the same education, the disparity between the two in working poverty could decrease by 39%.

4. Education promotes economic growth

  • Educational attainment explains about half of the difference in growth rates between East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa between 1965 and 2010.
  • In 2050, GDP per capita in low-income countries would be almost 70% lower than it would be if all children were learning.
  • Increasing tertiary attainment by one year on average would increase sub-Saharan Africa’s long-term GDP by 16%. 
  1. Education helps save the planet*

*What does that have to do with poverty? Hear us out…

  • Overall climate change and the resulting increased frequency of natural disasters and reduced agricultural output could cast as many as 122 million people into poverty by 2030.
  • The creation of green industries will rely on high-skilled, educated workers.
  • Agriculture contributes 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions. Primary and secondary education can provide future farmers with critical knowledge about sustainability challenges in agriculture.

Sources:

UNESCO GEM Report 2016

Learning Generation Report