5 ways education can help end extreme poverty

October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Student, Ivy Ng'oma writes on blackboard at the Muzu primary school in Malawi. Credit: GPE/Govati Nyirenda

Last year when the United Nations committed to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, they recognized that “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

We believe that ensuring quality education for all is not only central to the achievement of all of the Global Goals but in particular the goal to end extreme poverty.

Considering the changing nature of the global economy, driven by technological advancements and globalization, it is now more important than ever to invest in human capital and ensure that everyone has the skills necessary to succeed. According to recent estimates, up to 2 billion of today’s jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation by 2030.

The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report and the Education Commission’s Learning Generation Report provide important evidence on the impact of education on individual’s earnings and economic growth. Below are some of the most compelling data that illustrate these links.

1.Education reduces poverty

  • 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills. That’s equivalent to a 12% drop in the world total.
  • Absolute poverty could be reduced by 30% from learning improvements outlined by the Education Commission.

2.Education increases individual earnings

  • Education increases earnings by roughly 10% per each additional year of schooling.
  • For each $1 invested in an additional year of schooling earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle income countries.

3.Education reduces economic inequalities

  • If workers from poor and rich backgrounds received the same education, disparity between the two in working poverty could decrease by 39%.

4.Education promotes economic growth

  • Educational attainment explains about half of the difference in growth rates between East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa between 1965 and 2010.
  • In 2050, GDP per capita in low-income countries would be almost 70% lower than it would be if all children were learning.
  • Increasing tertiary attainment by one year on average would increase sub-Saharan Africa’s long-term GDP by 16%. 

5. Education helps save the planet*

*What does that have to do with poverty? Hear us out…

  • Overall climate change and the resulting increased frequency of natural disasters and reduced agricultural output could cast as many as 122 million people into poverty by 2030.
  • The creation of green industries will rely on high-skilled, educated workers.
  • Agriculture contributes 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions. Primary and secondary education can provide future farmers with critical knowledge about sustainability challenges in agriculture.

Sources:

UNESCO GEM Report 2016

Learning Generation Report

Poverty, SDG 4

Author(s)

The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including 65 developing...

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