World poverty could be cut in half if all adults completed secondary education: UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in June 2017 released a new policy paper titled Reducing global poverty through universal primary and secondary education.

The paper shows that the global poverty rate could be more than halved if all adults completed secondary school. However, new data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show persistently high out-of-school rates in many countries, making it likely that completion levels in education will remain well below that target for generations to come.

The paper was released ahead of the UN High Level Political Forum, scheduled to be held on 10-19 July 2017. The Forum will focus on poverty eradication in pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The paper demonstrates the importance of recognizing education as a core lever for ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere.

Many studies have depicted that education has direct and indirect impacts on both economic growth and poverty. Education provides skills that boost employment opportunities and incomes while helping to protect people from socio-economic vulnerabilities. Education holds the power to lift the poorest from the bottom of the ladder.

Key highlights of the paper

The analysis on education’s impact on poverty by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report team is based on the average effects of education on growth and poverty reduction in developing countries from 1965 to 2010.

The report shows that nearly 60 million people could escape poverty if all adults had just two more years of schooling.

If all adults completed secondary education, 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, reducing the total number of poor people by more than half globally and by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Globally, 9 per cent of all children of primary school age are still denied their right to education, with rates reaching 16 per cent and 37 per cent for youth of lower and upper secondary ages, respectively. In total, 264 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school in 2015.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups: 57 per cent of all youth between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school, as are more than one-third of adolescents between 12 and 14 years and one-fifth of children between the ages of about 6 and 11.

• Six countries, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan, are home to more than one-third of all out-of-school children of primary age.

Of the 61 million children of primary school age currently out of school, 17 million will never to set foot in a classroom if current trends continue.

Girls in poor countries continue to face particularly steep barriers to education. In low-income countries, more than 11 million girls of primary age are out of school, compared to almost 9 million boys. However, the girls who do manage to start school tend to complete the primary cycle and pursue their studies at the secondary level.

The paper stresses the need to reduce the direct and indirect costs of education for families.

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