adapted from http://theschoolfund.org/
Education makes a world of difference. As the education level of the population increases, it enjoys better health, lower birth rates, increased life expectancy, higher per capita income, the ability to participate in our global economy and increased gender equality. Given that the positive effects of education persist across so many standard indices of quality of life, we along with many others, firmly believe that investment in an individual’s education is the most effective way to help them in the long-run. An education and a thirst for knowledge can never be taken away, and by providing an individual with the skills, tools and desire to help themselves, they can affect positive change for the rest of their lives
Investment in education sets an entire country’s path towards a brighter future, and most nations in the developing world have set goals for expanding access to education; we are here to play what role we can in making access to education universal. The following is a list of benefits of education we came across in our travels and research.
Education & Health: Education has strong positive associations with health across countries worldwide. Education is linked to determinants of health such as “health behaviors, risky contexts and preventative service use”, and affects factors such as healthy lifestyles and community well-being.1 Education reduces maternal mortality; according to UNICEF, “educated girls have higher self-esteem, are more likely to avoid HIV infection, violence and exploitation, and to spread good health and sanitation practices to their families and throughout their communities.” Educated women become pregnant at higher ages, reducing birth-related morbidity and mortality.2 Education reduces early childhood death. On average, for every year’s worth of education a woman gets, there is a 7-9% lower mortality rate in children under 5.3 The effect is particularly strong for secondary school education.4 A positive correlation between education level and reduced infant mortality is clear across nations.5 Educated parents are more likely to have better nutrition, housing, and sanitation. They are more likely to receive medical care for their children, prioritize antenatal and postnatal care, and ensure that their children are immunized.6
Education & Life Expectancy: Educated people live longer. Even in developed countries such as the United States, people with more than 12 years of education live on average 7 years longer than those without a high school diploma (Meara et al 2008). Unsurprisingly, this trend holds in poorer countries as well. Educated people are more likely to have proper nutrition, safer jobs, better sanitation, to prevent fatal illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and to seek medical care if it does become necessary.
Education & Population Growth: Poverty and family size are two things that seem unfortunately correlated. Throughout the world, poorer countries have larger family sizes where a greater number of children puts pressure on parents and the family’s source of income. Population growth also puts a strain on natural resources; increased levels of deforestation result from more families clearing farmland; farmland is over-used and topsoil degrades; poor quality of life in rural areas causes a flood to urban centers where the urban poor contributes to increased crime rates, overcrowding, congestion and unsanitary living conditions. Educated women are more likely to have less children, and become pregnant at higher ages.7 When traveling throughout East Africa, we too noticed that parents with education were not only better equipped to provide for their families, their families were typically smaller. After all, basic levels of education often include some form of sexual education, and encourage use of birth control. Education has the power to slow population growth, and the myriad problems associated with overpopulation.
Education & Economic Opportunity: According to the World Bank, “countries cannot hope to achieve sustained economic growth…without investments in secondary education.”8 We all know that economic growth is generated by individual productivity, and, there is mounting evidence that level of education is directly linked to individual productivity and income later in life. Taking performance in mathematics as an example, three recent studies found that the impact of one standard deviation increase in test performance at the end of high school translates into 12% higher annual earnings.9 This study links mathematical knowledge to annual income; one can imagine that science, English, reading and history knowledge together would have an even more significant impact on individual earnings. Gapminder World shows a strong positive correlation between literacy level (one common measure of a country’s education level) and per capita income.10 While conducting informal interviews in East Africa, we discovered a similar positive correlation between improved education and individual income level. Individuals with secondary school diplomas tended to make between three and six times as much as their counterparts with only primary school diplomas (~$1100/year as opposed to ~$300 / year).11 Furthermore, education has the potential to make both the individual receiving it, and others better off. For example, a more educated society may lead to increased rates of invention and introduction of new technologies, which benefits a larger group.
Education & the Global Economy: Currently, globalization has deepened its reach and influence, making the need for education beyond primary school vital for a country’s economic performance. An educated nation has a comparative advantage in a global economy that is increasingly focused on information and communication technologies. Individuals who are unable to tap into the vast pools of knowledge on the world wide web, and who are unable to communicate quickly and effectively will be left behind. Education of the future must also be flexible and creative, “A creative society is built not on memorizing facts, but by learning itself. Drill and practice is a mechanism of the industrial age, when repetition and uniformity were systemic. The digital age is one of personalization, collaboration and appropriation.”12 In addition to providing students with the means to continue attending school, we must examine and improve upon the quality of education they receive. An introduction to the internet through our website, and the opportunity to communicate with people in other countries, will spark students’ interest in learning more about our world and give them the tools necessary to participate in our increasingly global economy.
Education & Gender Equality: More than 180 national governments have pledged to achieve gender equality in education by 2015—with special focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to, and achievement in high quality, basic education.13 Indeed, education goes a long way in promoting gender equality, and improving life for girls and their future families. We’ll never forget being told by a Kenyan mama that her daughters were going to grow up and be allowed to marry for love, instead of being married off for family gain. She credited this progressive attitude to the fact that she was an educated woman, and we have found that this is indeed the case in many families; if the woman is educated, she is more likely to bring her daughters up to be self-sufficient, with hopes of becoming doctors, engineers and lawyers, rather than housewives. Surely, there is no better way to increase the likelihood of a young girl (and her future daughters) achieving such a dream than to send her to school! And let us not forget the boys; when boys are in school with their female peers, they see that they are indeed equals. It has been tremendously encouraging to see boys and girls learning together, thereby breaking down many historical gender norms, that persist in parts of the developing world.
1. Feinsten et al 2006
2. Mathews et al 1997; World Bank 2009
3. Cleland et al 1988
4. World Bank 2009
5. Haines 1982; Caldwell 1982; Cochrane 1980
6. World Bank 2009
7. Mathews et al 1997; World Bank 2009
8. World Bank 2009
9. Hanushek, Eric A., 2004
10. Gapminder World
12. One Laptop Per Child
13. UNESCO, 2000