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close this bookThe Courier N° 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
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View the documentMichael Aaronson, Director General, Save the Children
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View the documentAcknowledgements

The chicken and the egg

What comes first, development or education ? This was a question posed by Unesco in the February 1995 issue of its magazine 'Sources'. Their conclusions, which we reprint below, make interesting reading. Looking at indicators such as population growth, health and per capita income, Unesco revealed that the two elements actually go hand in hand. In other words, education gets better as countries develop, and development picks up speed as the level of education rises. Their conclusion is that for governments everywhere, education remains a sound investment.

Average number of children per woman

Fewer, healthier children

Raising the level of female literacy facilitates women's access to information on contraception and planned parenthood. They also become more aware of hygiene and nutrition, which means their children live longer and are generally healthier: evidence indicates that each additional year of a mother's schooling translates into a 5-10% drop in child mortality.

This changes the way women think about child bearing and motherhood and, as the graph on the left show's, usually leads to a significant drop in fertility.

The trend is especially apparent in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia and the Pacific. In Brazil, for example, illiterate women have an average 6.5 children while those with a secondary education have only 2.5

Longer lives

Statistics also reveal a direct correlation between literacy levels and life expectancy: the more literate the population and the more years of schooling, the longer the life span.

As mentioned above, people who have reamed to read and write are more attentive to hygiene and health care. They tend to be less fatalistic and, in the event of illness, are more likely to turn to a doctor. Of course, literacy is not the only factor that affects life expectancy. Access to medical treatment, the family's financial circumstances, and the social environment are also crucial factors.

Adult literacy rates

Richer populations

Does an increase in per capita income cause the level of education to rise, or is it, on the contrary, education that enables the economic situation to improve ? No doubt it is a two-way process.

National income is, of course, governed by the rate of production. But it is also contingent on factors such as natural resources or population growth: the more mouths to feed, the more thinly spread the benefits of increased production.

Nonetheless, the statistics show that, generally, better educated populations are also richer ones.

And yet...

As the last graph shows, there is no great difference between the number of years spent in school and rates of activity. This may reflect on the quality of education. The difficulty of finding a paid job that matches the aspirations nurtured in school and/or university, and the inability to create a paying activity by and for oneself, despite all the training one has received, could mean that the content and standards of education are not relevant enough.

It may also reflect the inroads that modern technology continues to make into the workplace; technology that certainly allows for growth in production, but which replaces rather than creates jobs.