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
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
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.
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