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