Cover Image
close this bookMeeting Basic Learning Needs: A Vision for the 1990s (UNICEF - UNDP - UNESCO - WB - WCEFA, 1990, 170 p.)
close this folder2. The Context and Effects of Basic Learning in the World
close this folderB. Indicators of the Context and Effects of Basic Education
View the document(introduction...)
View the document(i) Background characteristics
View the document(ii) Financial capacity
View the document(iii) Educational effort
View the document(iv) Educational effects
View the document(v) Social impacts

(v) Social impacts

As noted earlier, the desired social outcomes of expanded basic learning include higher levels of literacy, health, and nutrition, lower fertility, and greater income equality. Indicators of these effects can be used to appraise the social justification for past investments in basic learning. Although simple cause-and-effect relationships again are difficult to document, numerous studies have demonstrated that basic education has direct effects on these social measures by transferring information and skills and indirect effects by altering general economic conditions and individual and community preferences.

In reviewing the available data, it becomes obvious once again that, while a correlation does exist between background economic conditions and these measures of social progress, many countries succeed beyond their expected levels while others seem to be underperforming relative to their economic context and fiscal capacity. While literacy levels, with some exceptions such as the notable achievements of Tanzania, follow the pattern of primary schooling effects, the same is not true for the other societal measures.

Under five mortality rates (U5MRs) have been notably reduced in such low-income nations as China, Kenya, Lesotho, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, and Zambia. Poland, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Chile have outperformed the other lower-middle-income countries, and Greece and Portugal lead all higher-middle-income countries in this measure. In contrast, the United States is second in income, a leader in educational expenditure, and nineteenth in child mortality rates. Similar patterns of over- and under-achievement exist among countries for the measures of life expectancy, caloric intake, fertility rate, and the shares of income possessed by the lowest 40 percent and highest 20 percent of the population. (See Annex 1, Table 5.)

These data, and those summarized in Table 4, are presented in order to document that nations can do more with what they have and to justify the assertion that a further margin of improvement is attainable with proper targeting and the efficient use of additional funds. These funds can be mobilized not just from government but also from families, communities, the private sector, nongovernmental agencies, and external development assistance organizations.

Table 4 - Economic and Social Indicators for Selected Countries

Note: Under Five Mortality Rate = Annual Number of deaths of children under five years of age per 1,000 live births.

Sources: UNESCO, Unicef and The World Bank.

Although economic development eventually will help achieve societal goals, some goals cannot wait for such progress. The data here show that, in fact, equivalent social development can be fostered at varying levels of economic development. Since social development - in the form of improved literacy, health, nutrition, population planning, and income equality - also promotes further economic development, this interaction provides clear grounds for an expanded vision and a renewed commitment to meeting the basic learning needs of all.