Education and Geography

Learning about the interplay of communities, cultures and economies in your Human Geography class? Researching the latest in regional development trends? Crafting a paper on refugee education efforts? The resources on this page will help you understand how education is the constant to freedom, prosperity, and safety across all geographies, human or physical.

Education is the foundation to a peaceful, productive society at levels — local, regional, and global — and across all cultures, no matter the language or tradition. In our increasingly globalised world, investing in education means investing in a better, more tolerant world for all.

Looking for questions to centre your research efforts or interesting issues or problems to explore? These research questions can help provide a path to a focused research and writing process.

  • How are intergovernmental organisations engaging in education?
  • What role should the developed world play in global education?
  • What is the status of education throughout the different regions of the world?
  • What are the different approaches being taken with the provision and financing of education throughout the world? 
  • Why should more developed countries invest in education in other countries?
  • Why should host countries invest in refugee education?
  • What barriers to education do migrant children face?
  • What are the benefits to educating refugees and migrant populations?
  • What is the relationship between poverty and access to quality education?
  • What is the relationship between racial inequality and education?
  • How is access to early childhood education affected by a country’s poverty level?
  • What does the teacher shortage look like across the regions?

Looking for clear topic sentences to express your opinion, or thesis statements to serve as the core of your essay? Theirworld’s examples can help to form the base of your argument.

  • Marginalised children in rich and poor countries are less likely to have access to quality early childhood education
  • Providing all students with basic cognitive skills can boost economic outcomes, especially in developing countries
  • Global migration is higher than ever before
  • Many young people migrate for educational opportunity and hopes of social mobility
  • Migrant children have to overcome significant barriers in schools
  • Nurturing migrant communities with culturally responsive teaching can help young people become exceptional contributors to their new societies
Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Investment in education and opportunity is vital to Africa’s growth and future development
  • Education is the key to unlocking the unprecedented cross-sectoral gains possible throughout the sub-Saharan region, raising millions out of poverty and building the foundation for stable, sustained, and inclusive development
  • If current education trends continue, fewer than one in five young people will be prepared for the future of work in sub-Saharan Africa
Central and South Asia
  • Girls’ primary education completion has progressed the fastest of all regions, but much work is yet to be done
  • South Asia is home to one of the largest youth populations in the world, 30% of whom are not in education, employment, or training
Latin America
  • Latin America and the Caribbean has been ranked as the region with the widest skills gap for over a decade
  • Covid school closures had the greatest impact on instruction time disrupted in Latin America and the Caribbean

Seeking key messages, facts, and opinions to build your evidence base? Find the most up-to-date, pre-sourced data points to help you make a robust case for education at the intersection of human and physical geography here.


Global level
  • Children are on the move more today than ever before. In 2020, 36 million children in the world were international migrants, in addition to another 20.4 million children who were internally displaced. (UNICEF, 2021) (UNICEF, 2021)
  • Being on the move is a significant disruption to a child’s education. In a global survey of 4,000 migrants and refugees aged 14-24, 33% said they had lost one to three years of education, while 25% had lost more than four years of education. (UNICEF, 2018)
  • The number of stateless children is increasing daily, placing new demands on education system responses. More than one-third of the world’s children are stateless, with one stateless child born every 10 minutes in five countries alone. Data from OECD countries in 2015 shows that almost one in four students aged 15 years are immigrants or have immigrant backgrounds. (UNHCR, 2014) (OECD, 2018)
  • Policy barriers still exist in many places that prevent migrant children from accessing school. A study of 28 countries found that 40% of the developed countries and over 50% of developing countries did not allow children with irregular status entry into education. (Klugman & Pereira, 2009)
  • International finance is in danger due to the global pandemic which has caused a shock greater than the 2008 financial crisis. Global aid is likely to decline by up to US$2 billion from 2018 to 2022 as a result of recession caused by Covid-19, resulting in a 12% drop in international support for education. (UNESCO, 2020) (World Bank, 2020)
  • Lagging support for education may result in more children being out of school than before the pandemic. If current funding trends continue, the number of out-of-school children — particularly those hardest to reach in many of the poorest countries — will continue to increase. It is estimated that 10 million children previously in school will not return after. (Save the Children, 2020)
Low- middle- and high-income countries
  • If current trends continue, by 2030 less than 10% of young people in low-income countries will be on track to gain basic secondary level skills. The costs of this education crisis – unemployment, poverty, inequality and instability – could undermine the very fabric of our economies and societies. (Education Commission, 2016)
  • Enrolment in early childhood education is woefully inadequate for marginalised children in rich and poor countries alike. More than 175 million children, almost half of all pre-primary-age children globally, are not enrolled in preschool. In low-income countries, only one in five are enrolled. (UNICEF, 2019)
  • There is a stark global divide in access to early childhood education. While more than 80% of children in high-income countries are attending pre-primary education, more than 80% of children in low-income countries are denied access. (Zubairi & Rose, 2019)
  • Access to early childhood education varies markedly within countries. In low-income countries, rich children are eight times more likely to attend early childhood education programmes than those who are less well off. (UNICEF, 2019)
  • In the poorest countries, household access to the internet is extremely limited. In the least developed countries, only 12% of households have internet access at home. (GEM, 2020)
  • The benefits of education for all will not be fully realised without quality education for all. Great inequities exist in learning and the quality of education provided — even for children with a primary education — with learning outcomes often the lowest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In low- and middle-income countries, only 18 of the poorest youth complete secondary school for every 100 of the richest youth. In at least 20 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, hardly any poor rural young women complete secondary school. (GEM, 2020) (UNICEF, 2015)
  • International aid for education needs to increase if lower-income countries are to reach the SDGs. Estimates at the introduction of the SDGs suggested that after domestic resources were maximised, international support for education to developing countries would need to increase from a current estimated US$16 billion per year to US$89 billion per year by 2030. (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016)
  • Despite aid increases for education, global aid priorities do not align with the need. Only 47% of aid to education was spent on basic and secondary education in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the two subsectors and two country groups perceived as most in need. (UNESCO, 2020)
  • Investing in education in developing countries to reduce inequality is a moral imperative. On average, a low-income country will invest US$1,300 in a child’s education, while the average high-income country will spend US$110,000 (World Bank, 2020)
  • The gender gap in the digital divide is more pronounced in poorer countries. Girls and women are 23% less likely than boys and men to be able to use mobile internet in low and middle-income countries. (Save the Children, 2020)
  • The intersection between gender and poverty in determining digital literacy is especially worrying. In seven low- and lower-middle income countries, fewer than 1% of women in the poorest 60% have spreadsheet skills. (GEM, 2020)
  • Employment in the future is likely to place an increased premium on digital literacy. 84% of multinational and large national companies surveyed reported being ready to digitize work. Yet the percentage of adults with basic spreadsheet skills is 7% in lower-middle-income countries, 20% in upper-middle-income countries, and 40% in high-income countries. (GEM, 2020) (World Economic Forum, 2020)
  • Distance education requires innovative solutions to overcome the digital divide. Only 47% of households in developing countries and 12% in the least developed countries have access to the Internet at home. Even in countries with wide Internet access, such as Italy, one in four households lack a strong enough connection to download and stream education content. (GEM, 2020)
  • Financial literacy is important in rich and poor countries. Just over one in 10 15-year-olds across participating OECD countries are able to solve difficult financial tasks. (GFLEC, 2015)
Community level
  • Teachers are concerned about the digital divide’s impact on equity. 84% of teachers fear technology is widening the gap between affluent and disadvantaged schools and districts. Nearly one in five students said they had trouble completing homework because of internet access issues. (Pew Research Center, 2013)
  • There are large gaps in access to the internet for girls and those living in rural areas. Women are 17% less likely than men to use the internet in the Arab States and Asia and 25% less likely in Africa. (GEM, 2020)
Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Education attendance and attainment correlate with race. According to the 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report, although there have been advances towards increasing access in recent decades, there is still enduring racial inequality in educational attendance and attainment in Latin American countries. For example, in Uruguay and Peru, attendance rates are lower for Afro-descendants aged 12-17 and they are less likely to complete secondary school. (ECLAC, 2019)
North America
  • Education can only be a solution for antiracism when it is coupled with other practices, policies and redistributions of inequitable investments. A recent study in the US shows that school districts with a majority of students of colour receive US$23 billion less than predominately white school districts, despite serving the same number of students. (EdBuild, 2016)
  • Current responses to distance learning are perpetuating inequalities. In the US, engagement rates are lagging behind in schools serving predominantly black and Hispanic students; just 60 to 70% are logging in regularly. (McKinsey & Company, 2020)
  • The digital divide affects all countries. About 14% of US households with school-age children do not have internet access. (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2018)
Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Education needs to be a clear priority which transcends political priorities. Since 2015, there have been more than 25 changes in leadership across sub-Saharan Africa. (ISPI, 2020)
  • New and additional sources of funding for education are required. Sub-Saharan Africa currently faces an annual education financing gap of US$40 billion. (AfDB, 2020)
  • Adequate infrastructure is needed to provide quality education for all in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 34% of primary schools in the region have access to electricity and 44% have access to clean drinking water. (UNESCO UIS, 2019)
  • Investment in teachers is crucial. More than 15 million new teachers are needed in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve universal primary education by 2030 — the largest total of any global region. (GEM, 2021)
  • Investment in the education and professional development of teachers in sub-Saharan Africa is critical. The region has the lowest percentage of teachers meeting national standards, with pupil to trained teacher ratios twice as high as the global average. Across six African countries surveyed, 84% of Grade 4 teachers did not meet the minimum learning levels. (GEM, 2021) (World Bank, 2019)


Low- middle- and high-income countries
  • Ensuring equity in teaching improves girls’ lives. Increasing the ratio of female teachers improved girls’ access to education and achievement in 30 developing countries, particularly in remote areas. (Huisman and Smits, 2009)
  • Investing in education delivers impressive and lasting health returns to society. Each US dollar invested in a one-year increase in schooling generates a health-inclusive benefit of US$10 in low-income countries. (Jamison & Schaferhoff, 2016)
  • Literacy matters. If all young people acquired functional literacy skills within the next 15 years, middle-income countries would achieve economic gains equivalent to more than eight times their current GDP over the next 80 years. In Pakistan, women with strong literacy skills earn 95% more than those with weak literacy skills. (EFA GMR, 2013) (OECD, 2015)
  • Secondary education provides economic opportunity and raises millions out of poverty. If every child in low-income countries completed secondary school by 2030, income per capita would increase 75% by 2050 and the elimination of poverty would be advanced by 10 years. (GEM, 2016)
  • Increasing enrolment in early childhood education in every low- and middle-income country by 50% would result in an 8-18% return on investment. Early learning programmes can have a return on investment of up to 10:1 for disadvantaged children. (Engle et al., 2007) (Global Business Coalition for Education, 2016)
  • Education is an important source of economic growth. Increased educational attainment, especially for girls and women, accounted for about half of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years. (OECD, 2012)
  • Investment in education can yield high returns. Each dollar invested in education can yield more than US$5 in additional gross earnings in low-income countries and US$2.50 in lower-middle-income countries. (Education Cannot Wait, 2019)
  • Education is an important asset to securing formal employment. In developing countries, the share of informal employment decreases from 93.9% for workers with no education, 86% for those with primary education, 59.1% for those with secondary education, and only 32% for those with tertiary education. (ILO, 2018)
  • An educated and skilled workforce is key to growth and technological progress. Data from 19 OECD countries between 1960 and 2000 show that their growth was more driven by skilled human capital rather than the total human capital of the workforce. (Vandenbussche et al., 2004)
  • Investment in higher education is essential for research and development, and technological advances. Only 7% of young people in the least developed countries are currently enrolled in college, nine times less than the rate in developed countries. (Deloitte & GBCE, 2018)
Regional level
  • Quality education leads to positive growth scenarios for countries. Recent evidence shows that two growth scenarios – the ‘Latin American growth puzzle’ and the ‘East Asian miracle’ – are almost entirely explained by investment in learning and skills. (Hanushek & Woessmann, 2015)
  • Financial literacy helps households make the most out of remittances. Remittances raised spending on education over 50% in Latin America and over 35% in Africa and Asia. (GEM, 2019)
Community level
  • People with a higher level of education tend to be more accepting of immigrants which means increased social cohesion in the community. A meta-review of 100 studies found that education is one of the most powerful predictors of pro-immigration attitudes. (Hainmueller & Hopkins, 2014)
  • Schools are indispensable settings to champion the wellbeing of migrant and refugee students and families settling in a new community or country. Schools connect these children with the host culture, helping lay or rebuild a healthy social-emotional base to best prepare them for success. In Australia, school refugee wellbeing and transition committees have successfully helped families adjust to new learning environments and address psychosocial needs, while providing opportunities for the host communities to learn from a diversity of cultures. (UNESCO, 2019) (Foundation House, 2016)
  • Schooling reduces most types of crime committed by adults and adolescents. In the UK, secondary school drop outs are three times more likely to commit crimes than those who stay in school. In Italy, more than 75% of convicted persons had not completed secondary school. (Lockner & Moretti, 2004) (Belfield et al., 2006) (Buonanno & Leonida, 2006)
  • Human rights education helps increase empathy, respect, engagement, critical thinking, and interpersonal competencies. A three-year evaluation of a child’s rights education initiative in the UK shows improvements in social relationships, student behaviours, academic achievement, and acceptance of their responsibilities towards protecting human rights. (Covell & Howe, 2007)
  • Education advances tolerance for immigrant children. Higher educational attainment is correlated with more positive attitudes towards immigrants. People with secondary education were 16% less likely to express intolerance towards immigrants in Central and Eastern Europe in comparison to those without a secondary education. (Borgonovi & Pokropek, 2019) (GMR/Chzhen, 2014/2013)
  • Nurturing care interventions can mitigate the impact of poverty on brain development and early learning outcomes. A recent randomised controlled trial in Switzerland found that a biweekly home visit to the most deprived families led to a significant improvement in children’s adaptive behaviour, developmental status, and language skills, narrowing the learning gaps associated with poverty. (Schaub et al., 2019)
  • Inclusion makes a difference for students with special needs. In Norway, students with disabilities in inclusive education are 75% more likely to earn a vocational or academic credential compared with students in special classes. (Hehir et al., 2016)
  • Education integrates refugees into the local economy. Among refugees in Germany, good German speaking, reading and writing skills were associated with a 19% higher probability of employment and 18% greater wages. (Hanemann, 2018)
  • Providing ocean literacy in schools can have a direct and immediate impact. In the UK, a student-led education programme outlining the consequences of plastic waste in the oceans has led to more than 1,000 schools going plastic free. (Surfers Against Sewage, 2019)
  • Ocean literacy has intergenerational impact. With the aim of creating sustainability in their fishing stocks for the next generation, fishermen in Lira, Spain, created the Mardelira Project, providing marine environmental awareness training to children in classrooms, and related visits to the field. Children write a ‘Letter to the Future’ with their learnings, read at their local town council meetings. (FAO, Accessed 2020)
Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Better education increases tolerance of sexual orientation. In Argentina, people with a secondary education were nearly one quarter less likely to express homophobic attitudes than those with a primary education. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Education bolsters racial tolerance. In Latin America, people with secondary education were half as likely to express intolerance for people of different race than those with only a primary education. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Increased education increases tolerance of sexual orientation. In Argentina, people with secondary education were nearly one-quarter less likely to express homophobic attitudes than those with only a primary education. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Expanding access to schools reduces child labour. In Guatemala, each additional 10 minutes of travel time to school increases the chances a girl will be involved in child labour by 2.2%. (UCW, 2003)
  • A little cash can incentivise families to choose school over work. A review of five conditional cash transfer programmes in Latin America showed that cash incentives reduced the number of children working and the number of hours of child labour. (ILO, 2007)
  • Early childhood interventions lead to significant individual benefits later in life. In Jamaica, early childhood interventions in the cognitive and socioemotional development of stunted children aged 9-24 months old led to lower crime rates, better mental health, and 25% higher earnings 20 years later, compared to children not receiving any intervention during early childhood. (World Bank, 2018)
  • It is important to remember the long-term horizon. In Jamaica, providing toddlers with psychosocial stimulation increased earnings by 25%, but these returns only materialised 20 years later. (World Bank 2019)
  • Education increases income. In Guatemala, each additional school grade that a child completed raised their earnings as adults by 10%. Increasing their reading comprehension test score to the average score raised their wages by 35%. (Behrman et al., 2009)
Middle East and North Africa
  • Education in the early years contributes to peacebuilding in the later years. Early childhood education has been shown to reduce violent behaviour in later life. In Lebanon, early childhood interventions for Palestinian refugees has resulted in greater harmony and reduced conflict. (Walker et al., 2011) (Leckman, et al, 2014)
  • Human rights education for adults can be transformational. In Turkey, 93% of participants in a human rights education for women programme reported higher self-confidence and 90% reported better problem-solving skills; 63% said they now had the ability to stop domestic violence; 88% said they had become resource people in their communities for other women, and one-third of participants ended up joining a civil society group. (Amado, 2005)
  • Education promotes religious tolerance. In Arab States, people with secondary education were 14% less likely to express intolerant attitudes towards people of a different religion. (GMR/Chzhen, 2014/2013)
  • Integrated schools can play an important role in building productive, sustainable relationships across political, religious, and ethnic divides in post-conflict communities. Integrated schools can positively influence minority group identity, attitudes towards inclusion, and a sense of compassion. Arab-Jewish schools in Israel have been successful in reconciling conflicting narratives by guiding conversation that recognises ethnic, religious and other differences. (McGlynn, 2004) (Bekerman, 2012) Alexander and Christia, 2011)
  • Simple, cost-effective programmes can boost refugee enrolment. Cash transfer programmes for refugee children to support their transportation and other education costs can help increase school attendance by 20%, as was found in a randomized control study in Lebanon. (Hoop et al., 2018)
  • Schools deliver essential skills and tools to help students cope with trauma. Schools can help children deal with trauma through psychosocial support, through building self-confidence and emotional regulation skills, and fostering relationships based on trust. Syrian refugee students participating in school-based cognitive behavioural therapy demonstrated a significant decrease in anxiety, with symptoms of PTSD dropping by one-third. (Gormez et al., 2017) (Betancourt et al., 2013)
North America
  • Education in a child’s early years yields crime prevention benefits in their older years. Children who did not attend a government preschool programme in Chicago were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by the age of 18. (Lochner, 2011)
  • Education reduces crime and increases earnings. A US study calculated that a 5 percentage point increase in male high school graduation rates would have nearly US$20 billion in total benefit to the US economy via reduced crime and higher earnings. (DeBaun & Roc, 2013)
  • When education aligns with the flexibility and adaptability that mirror the future of work, it can have significant effects on students’ learning outcomes. A study of 62 schools in the US that adopted personalised learning approaches found an average increase of 11 percentiles in maths and eight percentiles in reading. This impact of personalised learning was significant compared with other types of interventions. (Pane et al., 2015)
  • Teachers are the single most important determinant of student learning. In the US, children with great teachers advance 1.5 grade levels or more over a single school year, while children with a poor teacher advance just half of a grade level. No other school- level factor has an impact on student achievement this large. (Hanushek & Rivken, 2010)  (Bruns & Luque, 2015)
  • Investing in quality teachers is a smart investment. A teacher in the top 15% produces over US$400,000 in added income for her class of 20 students through their future earnings. In the US, replacing the bottom 5% of teachers with average teachers has a present value of US$100 trillion. (Chetty et al., 2010)  (Hanushek, 2010)
  • Students with disabilities have high expectations for themselves but must overcome an enormous ‘belief gap’ by adults. 85% of students with disabilities in the US expect to graduate with a high school diploma. (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2014)
  • Education generates above average financial returns. One US dollar invested in a one-year increase in the average years of schooling attained generates a 10% rate of return in lower-middle-income countries, well above average returns to investment in stocks (4.6%), bank deposits (4.6%), housing (2.8%), and long-term bonds (2.7%). (Psacharopoulos et al., 2016)
  • Higher education leads to increases in productivity and earnings that feed back to governments through higher taxes. Over a 34-year period in the US, states that invested more in education ended up having higher per-capita income. (Contemporary Economic Policy, 2008)
  • In the US, virtually all growth in the labour force over the next 40 years is predicted to come from immigrants and their children. It is essential that this group is provided with a high-quality education to maintain economic growth. (Passel, 2011)
  • Better educated individuals are more resilient in the labour market. In the US, unemployed workers with at least a high school degree are 40% more likely to find a job again within one year compared with those who did not complete high school. Each additional year of schooling increases the chance of re-employment by about 6-7 percentage points. (Riddell & Song, 2011)
  • Most of the new jobs created in the previous economic recovery went to college-educated workers. After the 2008 recession, jobs for college graduates in the US sharply rebounded and increased by 8.4 million, but jobs for those with a high school diploma or less only increased by only 80,000. (Carnevale et al., 2016)
  • Early childhood education and increased childcare availability helps parents, especially mothers, re-enter the workforce. A low-cost, universal childcare programme in Quebec increased labour force participation by 12.3%. (MacEwan, 2013) (Lefebvre & Merrigan, 2005)
  • Teachers are a force multiplier for ocean literacy. In the US, 850 teachers who were trained on ocean science and conservation have educated 500,000 students in classrooms, and more than three million others through conferences and outreach. (NOAA, 2020)
  • Investment in STEM education and jobs will boost recovery. Cities with more STEM workers tend to have higher job growth, employment rates, patent rates, wages, and exports. In the US, for each high-tech job added, an additional five jobs are created. (Moretti, 2013) (Rothwell, 2013)
  • Innovation is almost exclusively accomplished by those with advanced degrees. In the US, more than 90% of patent holders have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 70% have at least a master’s degree. If Finland had not invested substantially into engineering education in the postwar era, the number of US patents obtained by Finnish inventors is likely to have been 20% lower. (The Hamilton Project, 2017) (Toivanen & Väänänen, 2016)
  • Almost all technology entrepreneurs in the US have a higher education. 92% of US-born tech founders hold at least a bachelor’s degree. (Wadhwa et al., 2008)
South and East Asia
  • When schools explicitly foster students to hone their critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, student-led innovation will benefit their entire communities. At the Green School in Bali, Indonesia, where the curriculum emphasises real-world problem-solving, students show greater resilience, motivation, and social entrepreneurship. In one year, student-led energy projects led to seven new renewable energy systems at the school, reducing their environmental footprint by 40%. (World Economic Forum, 2020)
  • Literacy reduces the chances of a girl being married as a child. In South and West Asia, girls who are illiterate are three times more likely to be married before age 15 than girls who are literate. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Increasing school enrolment is an effective way to reduce child marriage. In India and Pakistan, increased enrolment has been associated with a reduction in child marriage among girls younger than 14. (Hussain & Bittles, 1999) (Mathur et al., 2003)
  • Simply increasing the duration of compulsory education can reduce child labour. In China, requiring one additional semester of schooling reduced the rate of child labour by 8%. (Tang et al., 2029)
  • Educating girls saves lives. If all women in India and Nigeria had completed secondary education, the under-five mortality rate would have been 61% lower in India and 42% lower in Nigeria, saving 1.35 million children’s lives. (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Girls’ education is vital to prevent the impaired development and growth that accompanies malnutrition. If all women completed primary education, 1.7 million fewer children would be affected with stunted growth. If all women completed secondary education, this number would rise to 11.9 million. In Bangladesh, the odds of a child being stunted were 54% lower when both parents had a primary education. (EFA GMR, 2014) (Semba et al., 2008)
  • Digital connectivity in schools is possible and rapidly improving. Korea has rolled out fast connectivity to all schools, Uruguay is on track to connect all schools, and China is expanding full broadband coverage by 2020 with a priority to connect poor schools. (Education Commission, 2016; ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission, 2015)
  • Basic classroom infrastructure can make the difference between quality learning and marginalisation. Classroom features such as good electric lighting or daylight, shelter from heat, ventilation, and space to sit affect learning. In Southeast Asia, children exposed to higher classroom temperatures lost 1.5 years of school on average, a cost which could be entirely offset by air conditioning. (Barrett et al., 2015) (Randell and Gray, 2019)
  • In areas of potential conflict, reinforced school infrastructure can prevent attack and create a safe space for learning. In the wake of the 2014 Peshawar school attack, the Government of Pakistan issued guidance on the construction of safe schools to better facilitate protected learning environments. (GBCE, 2015)
  • Educating children with disabilities has high returns on investment. In the Philippines, returns on education for people with disabilities in terms of higher earnings can reach more than 25%. (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016) (Mori & Yamagata, 2009)
  • Educating girls means they can earn more and have more secure working conditions. Women with good literacy skills in Pakistan earn 95% more than women with weak literacy skills. (EFA GMR, 2013)
Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Education reduces the likelihood of young people joining armed groups. Youth in Sierra Leone with no education were nine times as likely to join rebel groups as those with at least a secondary education. (Humphreys & Weinstein, 2008)
  • Education minimises the risk of imminent conflict. Regions in sub-Saharan Africa with a very low average education had a 50% probability of conflict within 21 years, while regions with a very high average education experienced the same probability within 346 years. (Østby et al., 2009)
  • Improving the efficiency of public education spending in sub-Saharan Africa would significantly advance access to education. If spending efficiency for public education in Africa was the same as in Latin America, the primary school completion rate would increase from 79% to 98%. (AfDB, 2020)
  • Education can provide the security and stability necessary for sustainable growth and development. An estimated 40% of the world’s population younger than 18 will live in African countries vulnerable to fragility, conflict, and climate change by 2050, a region already host to the greatest number of refugees in the world. The risk of conflict in the areas of sub-Saharan Africa with the highest education inequality is almost double that in other areas. (UNICEF 2022) (ISPI, 2020) (Brookings, 2019) (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Education increases support for democracy, a crucial means for the protection of human rights. In 18 Sub-Saharan African countries, those with a primary education are 1.5 times more likely to express support for democracy, compared with people with no education. Those with a secondary education are three times more likely. (GEM, 2017)
  • When education is more equal for minority groups, the probability of conflict attributed to xenophobia or stereotypes of minority groups is reduced. In sub-Saharan Africa, the risk of conflict in the areas with the highest education inequality is almost double that of the areas with the lowest education inequality. (Smith, 2009) EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Simply providing school materials can reduce child marriage. In Ethiopia, providing school materials increased enrolment and reduced the likelihood of Ethiopian girls being married as children by 90%. (Erulkar et al., 2017)
  • Reducing child marriage provides savings for education. In Niger, the country with the highest prevalence of child marriage, ending child marriage and early child birth in 2015 would have created US$327 million in savings to the education budget by 2030. (World Bank, 2017)
  • Investing in the most disadvantaged generates the greatest impact. In Ghana, building nurseries for the poorest children in the poorest districts had an impact on primary completion four times that of providing nurseries to the general population. (UNICEF, 2016)
  • Providing equitable education is an important driver of national economic growth. More equal access to education reduces income inequality and poverty, offering all segments of society more equal economic opportunities. If education inequality in sub-Saharan Africa had been halved, the annual per capita growth rate would have increased nearly 50% over a five-year period. (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • A little bit of education goes a long way during a pandemic. When schools closed in Sierra Leone due to Ebola, a one-hour daily class for girls in life skills, sexual and reproductive health, and vocational learning was enough to reduce by half the rate of drop outs from school post-crisis. (Bandiera et al., 2018)
  • Educated women have a better understanding of healthy behaviour for themselves and for their children and are more likely to visit a healthcare professional for care. If all women completed primary education, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa would fall by 70%. (UNICEF, 2015)  (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • The child of an educated parent is more likely to access malaria prevention and treatment services and survive childhood. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo — where 20% of the world’s malaria-related deaths occur — the probability of using a bed net increased by 75% if the head of household had completed primary education. 50% of preventable school absenteeism in Africa can be attributed to malaria. (Ndjinga & Minakawa, 2010) (Malaria No More, 2020)
  • Schools can provide nutritional benefits for entire families. School meals provide nourishment that contributes to both learning and health outcomes for 310 million children in low- and middle-income countries daily, ensuring that children are not too hungry or malnourished to learn. In Uganda, school meals helped reduce anaemia in young girls by 20%. (WFP, 2019) (Adelman et al., 2019)
  • Education helps to ensure a diverse and healthy diet that includes micronutrients — a vital component to proper nutrition and disease prevention. In Tanzania, children whose mothers had at least a secondary education were twice as likely to consume food rich in micronutrients in comparison to mothers with a primary education or less. Young children lacking key nutrients like vitamin A and iron are more likely to be malnourished and more prone to infections like measles, diarrhoea and anaemia, that affect their cognitive development. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Education can save lives in the region. More than 3.5 million child deaths could be prevented in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 if all mothers had a lower-secondary education. (UNESCO, 2013)
  • Quality early childhood development prepares children better for future learning. Children in Uganda who did not attend pre-primary education are twice as likely to repeat first grade. (Brunette et al., 2017)
  • Children want education. During the Ebola crisis in 2014-2016, 71% children and youth said that what bothered them the most about the crisis was ‘no school’. (Global Education Cluster, 2015)
  • Learning traditional numeracy skills is a direct bridge to financial literacy with real world impact. In Somalia, teachers worked to address specific skills gaps by connecting numeracy to financial literacy and business development in primary school lessons. (CARE International, 2016)
  • Access to good education begins with quality infrastructure to enable pupils to get to school. In Mozambique, one-quarter of all students with disabilities dropped out due to difficulties traveling to school, including barriers like a lack of paved roads or motorised transport. In India, connecting a village with a paved road increased lower secondary attendance 7%, with children staying in school longer and performing better on standardized tests. (UNDESA, 2018) (Adukia et al., 2020)
  • Early childhood education is a sound investment. Investing US$1 in early childhood education can generate returns as high as US$17 for the most disadvantaged children. In sub-Saharan Africa, every US$1 invested in tripling pre-primary education enrolment can generate up to US$33 in returns. (Zubairi & Rose, 2013) (Education Commission, 2016) (Copenhagen Consensus Centre, 2016)
  • Education has a transformative impact on a country’s economy and future trajectory. Educational attainment explains nearly half the difference in growth rates between East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa over a 45-year period. If Guinea, whose citizens average 3.3 years of education attained, reached Kenya’s average of nine years, its GDP per capita could double. (UNICEF, 2015  GEM, 2016)
  • Providing early childhood education in sub-Saharan Africa yields significant returns. Every dollar spent towards tripling pre-primary education enrolment in the region could yield a return of as much as $33 return on investment. (Copenhagen Consensus Centre, 2016)
  • Providing quality education for all in sub-Saharan Africa would increase productivity and generate significant economic growth. If the region were to realise the highest education and health scores on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, GDP per worker could increase as much as 250%. (Brookings, 2020)
  • Education is essential to address the growing mismatch in skills and employment. Following current trends, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to the largest concentration of young people without the skills to participate productively in the workforce. Nearly nine in ten children in the region lack basic skills for the labour market. (Global Business Coalition for Education/Education Commission, 2019) (World Bank, 2019)
  • Education in sub-Saharan Africa is a smart business investment. By 2060, the populations of Africa’s two most populous nations, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, will have tripled and doubled, respectively. Companies investing in the education of emerging markets like these will not only create the skilled workforce needed to address the global talent gap, but also capture the economic benefit of the resulting newly empowered consumer base. (Brookings, 2013)
  • Education changes behaviours and fosters sustainable practices. In Ethiopia, a farmer with six years of education is 20% more likely to practise sustainable agricultural methods to adapt to climate change. (UNICEF, 2015)
Marginalised populations
  • Education leads to more respect for equity as well as the rights of women and other marginalised groups. A cross-national survey of men in Brazil, Croatia, India, Mali, Mexico, and Rwanda found that men with at least a secondary education are more likely to have gender-equitable attitudes and practices than those without. (ICRW, 2011)
  • Learning incomes improve for minority groups when they are provided with equal instructional materials, particularly when relevant and appropriate to their culture. More than half of the achievement gap between indigenous and non-indigenous speakers in Guatemala can be attributed to indigenous children attending schools with fewer instructional materials, a non-mother-tongue curriculum, and fewer qualified teachers. When books with stories that were culturally applicable for ethnic minority students were used in the Philippines, reading and language test scores rose by 40%. (McEwan and Trowbridge, 2007) Dekker, 2003)
  • Adapting education for minority groups saves money. Switching to mother-tongue instruction is cost-effective. In Guatemala, native-language-based bilingual schooling saved US$5.6 million a year through reduced dropout and grade repetition, even with higher start-up costs for teacher training and materials. In Mali, the cost of educating a student in non-native French is estimated to cost nearly one-third more due to repetition and dropout. (Partinos and Velez, 2009)

Key opinions

Tariq Al Gurag

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the world's interconnectedness like nothing before it. At this moment in history, the opportunity increases to reinvent institutions and paradigms of education. It requires the world to come together in ways that have never been seen or done before - across borders, sectors and disciplines. Big changes start with small steps, so let’s use this moment as an opportunity to build back better education.

His Excellency Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares

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