The power of education
Imagine not being able to read – you could take the wrong medicine, be sold faulty goods or have your money stolen, and you would have difficulty getting a good job and learning new things. Education or learning, at school or in the community (known as informal education), is one of the most powerful tools for reducing poverty and inequality. Knowledge and skills open up new views about the world and create choices and the confidence to take up opportunities to improve health, nutrition, income, living standards and to participate in decision-making.
The right to at least a primary education is recognised in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the second Millennium Development Goal.
State of the world’s education
Around the world 57 million primary school-age children do not go to school. Even those who do attend school may leave before they reach grade five. Poverty, inequality and culture are the main reasons children do not go to school. Parents may be too poor to buy enough food to keep their children healthy, to pay school fees or buy uniforms and books. Education of girls may be considered unnecessary. Children may be sick or needed at home to care for younger siblings or grandparents, or they may need to work to help the family earn an income. Sometimes schools are too far away or crowded. Students may not understand the language or the importance of what is taught. There may not be enough teachers or those who are available might not be well trained or paid. Sometimes teachers themselves may not be at school because they have to earn a living elsewhere.
A quality education requires students to be enrolled and attend school, well-trained and supported teachers, adequate facilities and a relevant curriculum based on recognition of local language and culture. Providing a meal at school encourages attendance.
Education for all
Some of the ways education is being improved are:
- expanding early childhood care and education
- providing free and compulsory education of good quality
- promoting the acquisition of life skills by adolescents and youth
- increasing adult literacy rates
- eliminating gender disparities.