Poverty and Education
IMPACT OF PARENTS' EDUCATION
ON CHILDREN'S EDUCATION Many studies have shown
that the education of parents is linked to their children's
educational attainment, and that the mother's education
is usually more influential than the father's (33).
An educated mother's greater influence in household
negotiations may allow her to secure more resources
for her children. Educated mothers are more likely to
be in the labour force, allowing them to pay some of
the costs of schooling, and may be more aware of returns
to schooling. And educated mothers, averaging fewer
children, can concentrate more attention on each child.
Besides having fewer children, mothers
with schooling are less likely to have mistimed or unwanted
births. This has implications for schooling, because
poor parents often must choose which of their children
to educate. Having many siblings can reduce a child's
educational chances if costs are involved (34),
though in sub-Saharan Africa extended family networks
reduce this effect by spreading the cost among their
members (35). In
a few countries, unintended children have significantly
lower educational attainment than intended children
LITERACY FOR THE INDIGENOUS POOR
Seventy per cent of the indigenous
women in Bolivia's Chuquisaca and
Potosi departments are illiterate. Women in
the poor, rural region also suffer the country's
highest maternal mortality rates.
An innovative UNFPA-supported project
addresses both issues, by providing
simultaneous literacy training in the indigenous
Quechua language and Spanish, and
information on reproductive health, health
insurance and safe motherhood.
Between 1999 and 2002, over 100,000
women and men learned to read and write.
A technical team trained more than 100
trainers, who in turn trained 3,500 literacy
teachers. Each taught classes of 25 people,
three times a week for eight months. Men
and women met separately, to ensure that
all could speak freely.
"I have learned how to keep myself and
my house clean, how to plan with my husband
how many children we are going to
have, to have a good pregnancy check-up
and to go to the health centre for checkups,"
said one participant. "I wish we had
been taught this before so we wouldn't
have had so many children."
The project, implemented by the Vice
Ministry of Alternative Education and funded
by the nited Nations Foundation, was
promoted through local events, radio, and
community groups. Activities were coordinated
with local NGOs. In 2000, it was
awarded UNESCO's Malcolm Adiseshiah
Participants have learned about the
availability of lifesaving health services. In
one project area, the number of attended
deliveries doubled in two years as a result.
"In the past, we didn't know about these
things," said Modesta Hinojosa. "We
walked around with our big bellies herding
the sheep, planting with our husbands,
carrying the babies. There weren't any
health centres, the women died and
nobody said anything. Thank God we are
now better informed and we will look after
our health better."
IMPACT ON REPRODUCTIVE AND CHILD
HEALTH A great deal of evidence documents the benefits
of schooling, particularly women's schooling, for health
and nutrition, child survival, and lower fertility.
For example, immunization rates among children of educated
mothers are consistently higher than those of uneducated
mothers, even after controlling for other associated
factors (37). Gains
in women's education account for an estimated 43 per
cent of the reduction in child malnutrition between
1970 and 1995, more than any other factor (38).
And the nutritional status of children is, in turn,
linked to their cognitive achievement and early school
The causal pathways that link schooling
to reproductive and child health outcomes have not been
firmly established, but there is little doubt that education
encourages women and enables them to understand and
use information, to incorporate norms, and to make choices
that lead to better outcomes for themselves and their
Education is also strongly linked
to better reproductive health for women. Numerous studies
have shown that educated women are more likely to have
adequate prenatal care, to have skilled assistance at
the delivery of their babies, and to use contraception
to avoid unwanted and mistimed births. Educated women
also tend to initiate sexual activity later, to marry
later, begin childbearing later, and to have fewer children
than uneducated women (41).
The relationship between education and such life cycle
events is reciprocal; girls who marry and have children
early are unlikely to be in school while those in school
are less likely to start a family.
Men's education tends to have less
influence than women's education on reproductive health
and family formation patterns in many countries, but
its effects are generally positive. They reinforce the
effects of women's education rather than substitute
for them (42).
ECONOMIC RETURNS Investments in the education and
health of the poor yield returns in productivity, income and
economic growth. Anti-poverty programmes in different arenas
interact. Better education leads to better health and higher
incomes among workers; improving workers' health increases
their earning potential.
Strong and consistent evidence shows
that a country's level of education has a positive effect
on economic growth. And inequality in the distribution
of education holds back growth, whatever the absolute
level of education (43).
Educational inequality also holds down per capita income
in many countries (44).
The economic policy environment affects this relationship:
investments in education have a greater impact on growth
in economies that provide greater prospects for workers
to use their education and skills.
Households with low education are
highly vulnerable to ill health and disability, price
and credit swings, and natural and environmental disasters.
Education helps to buffer such shocks by enabling more
secure employment, higher incomes, and better access
to economic assets and credit. The educated are generally
more healthy than the uneducated, even those with similar