(Not for release before 3 December 2002)
Investments in education bring substantial
returns. Female education, apart from empowering the
woman herself and widening her choices, is particularly
cost-effective because benefits pass on to her children.
Educated women value education and are more likely to
send their children to school.
Although overall access to basic
education has risen substantially over the last decade
in many developing countries, the poor are still less
likely to attend school. In many countries, most children
from the poorest households have no schooling. A recent
study of 35 countries in West and Central Africa as
well as in South Asia showed that in 10 countries, one
half or more 15-19 year olds from poor house-holds never
completed grade one.
Education patterns among the poor differ distinctly
by region. In South Asia and West and Central Africa, a large
minority of poor children never enrol in school. In Latin
America, in contrast, virtually all children complete the
first grade, but subsequent dropout rates are high. In Brazil,
for example, 92 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds from poor
households complete first grade, but only one half complete
In almost all countries, children aged 6-14 from the
wealthiest 20 per cent of households are substantially more
likely to be enrolled in school than children from the poorest
40 per cent of households.
The evidence from a range of developing
countries suggests that a larger percentage of public
spending on education goes to government actions that
benefit the wealthy. Many countries would reach the
goal of universal primary education just by raising
enrolment among the poor.
While the “gender gap” in education has narrowed over
the last decade, their relative disadvantage still deprives girls
of secondary education in most of South Asia, sub-Saharan
Africa and several other developing regions. About 31 per
cent of women were without any formal education in 2000,
compared to 18 per cent of men.
Investing in education is critical for the future.