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Basic Education
Related Information

Recent Editorials

>"Teaching the Poor World" Washington Post, April 27 2001

>"One Billion Excluded"
Washington Post, April 3 2000

Recent Articles

>"Importance of Foreign Aid is Hitting Home"
Kathy Kiely, USA Today, Dec 4 2001

>"Toward Universal Education" Gene Sperling, Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 2001

>Education for All: No Excuses
UNICEF, 2000

>Education For All: From Jomtien to Dakar and Beyond
World Bank Group, 2000.

Facts and Figures

>UNESCO Indicators
>UNESCO EFA Statistics
>World Bank Education Data
>EFA 2000 Assessment

AED Publications

>Colloquium on HIV/AIDS and Girls’ Education

> Making a Difference in Ghana's Classrooms: Educators and Communities as Partners

>Multisectoral Strategies for Advancing Girls' Education: Principles and Practice

>Proceedings from Symposium on Girls' Education

Basic Education Links

>UNESCO Education for All
>EFA Bulletin
English | French | Spanish
>International Literacy Institute
>Council for Basic Education
>World Education


Facts About Basic Education in Developing Countries

  • Education is a critical ingredient for economic growth.  Economists have found that most industrialized countries did not achieve significant economic growth until countries attained universal primary education.  Other studies have found that every additional year beyond grade four leads to 10-20% higher wages.  At the national level, increases in literacy of 20-30% have led to increases in gross domestic product of up to 16%.  Primary school education is the most important factor for the differences in economic growth between East Asia and Sub Saharan Africa.

  • Basic education is a fundamental building block for all development initiatives.  Educated people are more likely to seek modern medical care, understand the consequences and treatment of infectious diseases and treat illnesses correctly. Farmers with just four years of education are nine percent more productive than their uneducated counterparts.

  • An educated citizenry also strengthens democracy. Studies by Freedom House and the World Bank have found that countries with higher levels of education have greater political stability and democratic rights.

  • More than 113 million children never go to school. Half the children in the least developed countries never have the opportunity to go to school. More than sixty percent of the children out of school are girls.

  • 150 million children drop out before reaching grade four failing to gain basic literacy and numerical skills.   One of three African children drops out before completing primary school.  In many countries, inadequate learning results in high repetition rates.

  • Less than one in five children go on to secondary school in the least developed countries.

  • 250 million children are involved in part or full-time work, many in exploitative situations.  Basic education is the most important single factor in protecting children from exploitative child labor and sexual exploitation.

  • Educating girls begins a virtuous cycle, improving health, nutrition and education for many generations. Educated women tend to marry later, have fewer children, have better health and nutrition and seek prenatal care.  Their children are more likely to survive, are healthier and more likely to succeed in school.  Studies have found that child of a mother with four years of education is twice as likely to survive as the child of an uneducated mother.  The International Food Policy and Research Institute found that female education was the single most important factor in reducing child malnutrition. 

  • Many schools lack basic equipment and infrastructure and in overcrowded classrooms.  A survey conducted by UNICEF and UNESCO of fourteen countries found that one-third of the classrooms in most countries lacked a blackboard and were in need of urgent repair, 30% did not have chairs of desks, and a third lacked access to safe water.   Some classes had as many as 100 students and in many countries it is rare for classes to be less than 40 students except in remote locations. 

  • In many countries, textbooks are shared among many students.  For example, in Zambia, more than one-half of primary school students did not have a notebook and one quarter do not have exercise books.  Research in India found that children with a full set of basic instructional materials scored two to three times higher than children who didn’t have access to such materials.

  • Teachers are frequently poorly trained and poorly paid.  In Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, teachers’ salaries have fallen by more than one-third in real terms.  Providing teachers with training, on-going support and adequate salaries, can dramatically improve student learning.