The Benefits of Education – Skills for Life
Posted on October 11, 2010 at 9:03 am
This is a guest post written by Keshet Bachan in response to a question submitted in the Ask a Question section of this website. The reader wrote asking about the efficacy of investing in community schools when in fact there is a dearth of employment opportunities in the same area and no where for youth to use their school taught skills.
In order to address this question – I find the need to look at girls’ education as a development intervention more broadly. Let’s start from the ‘Killer Facts’ that make donors squirm in delight. The benefits, i.e. the impact of girl’s education have been well documented and these statistics can be broadly cut into two categories:
1. The impact of a girls education (years spent in school) on her surroundings (community, country, her future children, health)
- Children of women who have completed primary school are 40% less likely to die before age five (Plan, ‘Because I am a Girl: Girls in the Global Economy‘ 2009)
- A woman with any education is 50% more likely to have her child immunized (Plan, ‘Because I am a Girl: Girls in the Global Economy‘ 2009)
- In developing countries women with seven or more years of schooling have between two and three fewer children than women with fewer than three years of education. (Population Council (2005) Accelerating Girls Education: A Priority for Government, P. 7)
- Some studies have shown that investment in girls education raised the GDP of the entire country by 0.2% (Plan, ‘Because I am a Girl: Girls in the Global Economy‘ 2009)
2. The impact of girls education on a girls’ life
- Women with no education are five times more likely to lack basic information about HIV/AIDS (UNICEF, Gender Equality, Facts and Figures)
- When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children (Girl Effect, Your Move Report)
- Half of the girls who live in developing countries (excluding China) will be married by their 20th birthday. Increasing girls’ time in school is one of the best ways to foster later, chosen marriage. (UNICEF, Gender Equality, Facts and Figures)
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
We could go on and on but I think we get the idea. So why does girls education have a multiplier effect? Well, girls are future mothers. So the benefits of a girls’ education will be passed onto her children, thus effectively ending intergenerational poverty. This is a key argument that you will be hard pressed to counter, as indeed even in developed countries women are still the only ones bearing children (sorry boys, that’s just how it is). So if I were to use the fishing metaphor: ‘Teach a woman to fish, and she’ll teach her children, who will teach their children etc’.
The second part of the argument goes to the heart of education as an intervention. What does education offer? And this will also partly answer the question we first posed, why provide people with the ability to fish if there are no ponds in the area? Well, if you think back to your days at school you will recall that your time in a class room provided you with more than just basic literacy skills, numeracy skills and a fear of equilateral polygon’s (or is that just me?). It gave you a chance to meet your peers, unburden your teenage angst on willing ears, share news and ask for advice (especially on issues you didn’t want to discuss with your parents!), gossip, joke, dance, sing, laugh, dream and make promises to be best friends forever.
What school offers girls in particular is ‘resilience’. This is an almost indefinable set of skills and knowledge that will in essence allow her to navigate through life and successfully handle whatever challenges come her way be they economic deprivation, earthquakes, floods, ill health or bad dating choices. Whatever life throws at girls, and lets face it life throws more at girls (HIV/AIDS, early marriage, FGC, trafficking) than at boys, they will emerge on top.
So when we build a community school, giving girls and boys a chance to receive an education, we are doing more than just preparing them for the job market. We are building a community of healthy, informed, connected, resilient people who will use their inherent agency to make the most of whatever they have been given. And they will know enough of the world to stand up for themselves and demand more.
Then the jobs will come. And so will prosperity.
Keshet Bachan has been the Project Coordinator of the ‘State of the World’s Girls’, Plan International’s global flagship report on girl’s empowerment for the past three years. Keshet holds an MA in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics and a BA in Government and Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzelyia (Israel).