Overview

Investing in education is the single most effective way of reducing poverty.

Education is more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future and is critical to reducing poverty and inequality. If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

Why Education?

  • Gives people critical skills and tools to help them better provide for themselves and their children
  • Helps people work better and can create opportunities for sustainable and viable economic growth now and into the future
  • Helps fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, reduces mother and child mortality and helps improve health
  • Encourages transparency, good governance, stability and helps fight against graft and corruption.

The impact of investment in education is profound: education results in raising income, improving health, promoting gender equality, mitigating climate change, and reducing poverty.

The Benefits of Education

Girls and boys who learn to read, write and count will provide a better future for their families and countries. With improved education, so many other areas are positively affected. In short, education has the power to make the world a better place.

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Increases Income

One extra year of schooling increases an individual's earnings by up to 10%.

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Makes
People Healthier

Each extra year of a mother's schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5% to 10%.

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Fosters Peace

If the enrollment rate for secondary schooling is 10% higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3%

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Raises Crop Yields

Investing in girls education could boost sub-Saharan Africa agricultural output by 25%.

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Reduces Poverty

If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

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Promotes Girls' and Women's Rights

One additional school year can increase a woman's earnings by 10% to 20%.

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Boosts
Economic Growth

Each additional year of schooling raises average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.37%.

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Saves
Children's Lives

A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past age 5.


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Income and Growth

Education is the key to unlocking a country's potential for economic growth:

  • If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. This is equal to a 12% cut in global poverty. (EFA GMR, UNESCO, p. 8)
  • One extra year of schooling increases an individual's earnings by up to 10%. (EFA GMR, UNESCO, p.7)
  • Wages, agricultural income and productivity – all critical for reducing poverty – are higher where women involved in agriculture receive a better education. (EFA GMR, UNESCO p. 4)
  • Each additional year of schooling raises average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.37%. (EFA GMR, UNESCO, p.6)
  • An increase of one standard deviation in student scores on international assessments of literacy and mathematics is associated with a 2% increase in annual GDP per capita growth. (World Bank, p.32)

Health

The most effective investment for achieving long-term health benefits is educating girls and women. Girls' education is often the single most powerful factor affecting health outcomes such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, the propensity of mothers to seek modern birth options, the availability of those options because more and better trained birth attendants are available, the rate of risky teenage births, and the number of children she will have.

  • Each extra year of a mother's schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5% to 10%. (EFA GMR, UNESCO, p. 17)
  • A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past age 5. (EFA GMR, UNESCO, p. 17)
  • Over the past four decades, the global increase in women's education has prevented more than 4 million child deaths. (Lancet Study)
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 1.8 million children's lives could be saved if their mothers had at least secondary education. (EFA GMR 2011, UNESCO, p. 35)
  • Chronically malnourished children are 20 % less literate (Save the Children Report)

Gender Equality

Education is key to women's rights, self-expression and civic engagement:

  • One additional year of school reduces the probability of becoming a mother by 7.3 % for women who have completed at least primary education. (World Bank, p. 3)
  • Investing in girls education could boost sub-Saharan Africa agricultural output by 25%. (IFPRI, p. 2)
  • One additional school year can increase a woman's earnings by 10% to 20%. (World Bank)
  • Increasing the number of women with secondary education by 1% can increase annual per capita economic growth by 0.3%. (World Bank, p.3)
  • Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys (Plan International. "Paying the price. The economic cost of failing to educate girls")

Other

Education has an impact on many other areas such as:

  • Peace and Democracy
    • If the enrollment rate for secondary schooling is 10 percentage points higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3 percentage points (World Bank, Understanding Civil War, p. 34)
    • Literate people are more likely to participate in the democratic process and exercise their civil rights. (UNESCO, p. 1)
    • Education has been identified as one of the indicators or conditions for determining peace within societies. (UNESCO, p. 3)
  • Agricultural Outputs
    • Investing in girls education could boost sub-Saharan Africa agricultural output by 25%. (IFPRI, p. 2)
    • Wages, agricultural income and productivity – all critical for reducing poverty – are higher where women involved in agriculture receive a better education. (EFA GMR, UNESCO p. 4)