Education and Sociology

Studying comparative systems of education in your sociology class? Considering a career in public policy or research? Writing your thesis on the education of child labourers? This page will convey the critical role education plays in alleviating social ills and developing a fair society that functions for all.

Whether working to eliminate child marriage, advance the rights of refugees and minority groups, or reject racism, education is the single best investment one can make to solve society’s most difficult challenges. Serving as a force multiplier, education’s impact ripples through a wide array of sectors with a diversity of benefits that create a more just, equitable world.

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.

  • What is the relationship between education and child labour?
  • How can education help to create a more equal and just society for all?
  • What is the relationship between racial inequality and education?
  • How can education help to improve social cohesion?
  • How can education help to shift harmful social norms?
  • How can education help to eliminate child marriage?
  • Why is it important to ensure that refugees and migrant populations can access quality education?
  • What is the relationship between education and social mobility?
  • How can education help to create safer, more tolerant societies?

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.

Social benefits
  • When young people are provided education and opportunity, they are less likely to enter the criminal justice system
  • Quality and inclusive education is the foundation for peaceful societies
  • When education is equally accessible, the risks of radicalisation and vulnerability to extremism are lower
  • Historically, countries with higher levels of education have been less likely to engage in violent conflict
  • Education plays a fundamental role in sustaining peace and reconciliation following conflict
  • Social mobility creates more peaceful and equal societies.
  • Equal education for minority groups reduces the chances of conflict
  • Harmful social and gender norms can be shifted through school-based educational interventions for boys
  • Higher education increases a person’s social mobility and their chances of escaping poverty
  • Improving the effectiveness of early childhood education boosts social mobility
  • Education is a human right
  • Education unlocks knowledge of human rights and enables full participation in economic, social, cultural, civil and political life
  • Education promotes tolerance – of religion, race, sexual orientation and immigrants
  • Integrated schools can play a key role in building relationships across political, religious and ethnic divides
  • Education has the power to promote a more equal and just society
  • Education has a tremendous power to equalise the playing field early in life and helps reduce inequalities between income groups and for minority populations
  • Education can create more equitable societies, if investments provide opportunities to the poorest and most marginalised.
  • Budget cuts to education systems stand to impact racial and ethnic minorities the most
  • When anti-racist pedagogies are coupled with other education policies, including redistributions of inequitable spending, education can be a force for positive change
Teaching and learning
  • Several strategies, including intergroup dialogue pedagogies, supporting and training teachers who reflect the diversity of the student population, and addressing implicit bias, can improve social cohesion and learning outcomes.
  • Children taught in their native language, and with culturally relevant materials, are more likely to stay in school and achieve better results.
Child marriage
  • The level of education a girl attains is the strongest predictor of the age at which she will marry
  • Providing universal secondary education would have the single biggest impact on ending child marriage
Child labour
  • Accessible, quality education helps prevent child labour and break the cycle of poverty
  • Offering incentives, such as cash transfers, encourages families to send children to school instead of work
Migrants and refugees
  • Investing in education for refugees provides hope and opportunity for children who have experienced unthinkable tragedy and disruption to their lives
  • Supporting refugee education can also help improve education for host communities
  • Refugee education creates more tolerant, peaceful societies and helps ensure people are able to contribute to their host communities and be prepared to return home and rebuild their communities
  • Nurturing migrant communities with culturally responsive teaching can help young people become exceptional contributors to their new societies
  • Homophobic and transphobic violence affects students’ education, employment prospects and wellbeing
  • Safe schools increase school attendance for LGBTQ+ students
  • Education promotes appreciation and respect for differences, contributing towards an end to discrimination for LGBTQ+ students
  • Education systems have the potential to engage in social transformation as agents of change

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 and sociology here.


Social benefits
  • 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)
  • When peacebuilding efforts fail, the costs to countries due to lost education and human capital are high. Over a three-year period, conflict cost nearly US$470 million (1.7% of GDP) in the DRC and US$2.9 billion (1.3% of GDP) in Pakistan. (Jones & Naylor, 2014)
  • It is important to ensure all young people understand that education is a human right that applies to everyone. A recent survey of UK youth revealed that 89% of respondents aged 14-30 believe that education is a basic human right; however, only 44% strongly agreed that refugees deserve this right. Additionally, only 62% of boys aged 16-18 said they strongly believe that girls and boys have an equal right to education. (Theirworld, 2020)
  • 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 education budget cuts due to Covid-19 could negatively impact racial and ethnic monitories. Given the economic damage, state budgets are already stressed. Cuts to primary and secondary education are likely to hit low-income and racial- and ethnic-minority students disproportionately, which could further widen the achievement gap. (McKinsey & Company, 2020)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Providing equitable education opportunities starts with more equitable education financing. Governments often spend the least on the children most often excluded from education. In Malawi, the most educated 10% consume 130 times the amount of public education funds than the bottom 10%. (UNICEF, 2015)
  • Progressive education policies are needed to proactively address systemic learning inequality. Across 30 countries, children from the poorest quintile of households were four times more likely to be out of school compared with those from the wealthiest households (40% versus 10%). (UIS, 2012)
  • Poverty is a vicious cycle: those who need education to escape poverty are the least likely to have access to it. Children from the poorest households are nearly five times more likely to be out of primary school than those from the wealthiest. (UNICEF, 2022)
  • Increased investment in quality early childhood education sets a fair playing field and expands social mobility. Increasing the educational effectiveness of early childhood programmes would have a greater impact on increasing social mobility than simply increasing attendance, with benefits that outweigh the costs. (Barnett & Belfield, 2006)
  • Great disparities in education exist between the rich and the poor, and those living in rural and urban areas. A 34% gap in attendance rates for children ages 3-5 exists between the richest and poorest quintiles, and a 16% gap between urban and rural areas according to a study of 61 low- and middle-income countries. (GEM, 2021)
  • Even when children are in school, many are not learning, with the poorest and most marginalised bearing the brunt of the learning crisis. Globally, 617 million children are unable to meet minimum proficiency in maths and reading, though a full two-thirds are in school. (UNICEF, 2022)
  • Even when in school, children living in poverty learn far less than more wealthy peers. Just 10% of children in low-income countries have acquired the ability to read with a minimum level of comprehension by age ten, compared to 91% of children in high-income countries. (Azevedo et al., 2019)
  • Children from rural areas are more than twice as likely to be out of primary school than their urban peers. (UNICEF, 2022)
  • Disadvantages and disparities for the most marginalised — girls, ethnic minorities, and the disabled — are further compounded for those living in rural areas. In Ethiopia, 30% of rural young women were literate, compared to 90% of urban young men. (EFA, 2014)
  • Rural areas face a shortage of experienced, quality teachers, contributing to large class sizes and worse learning outcomes for rural children. In South Sudan, rural Jonglei State has an average pupil/teacher ration of 151:1, in comparison to 51:1 in the more urban Central Equatoria State. (EFA, 2014)
  • The education of children living in largely rural countries was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Weak or zero internet connectivity required for remote learning in the many rural and remote areas of the Plurinational state of Bolivia forced the government to cease education programming altogether in many instances. (Dube, 2020) (Eulich, 2020)
Child marriage
  • Less educated girls who marry as children contribute great economic costs to governments. If child marriage was ended and girls were in school, governments could save up to US$17 billion per year by 2030. (World Bank, 2017)
  • Girls with no education are up to three times more likely to marry early than those with a secondary education. Over 60% of girls with no education marry before the age of 18. (Girls Not Brides, 2020)
  • If efforts to provide universal education and protect girls from child marriage are not accelerated, 950 million girls will be married in childhood by 2030. To eliminate child marriage by 2030, global progress needs to be 12 times faster than the rate over the past decade. (UNICEF, 2014) (UNICEF, 2018)
  • Child marriage reduces girls’ expected earnings in adulthood by 9%. The World Bank estimated that lost earnings associated with child marriage for 15 high prevalence countries could reach US$26 billion in 2015. (World Bank, 2017)
  • The COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes progress made in reducing child marriage. An estimated ten million additional girls are at risk of early marriage over the next decade due to the pandemic. School closures have increased the risk of child marriage by 25% per year. (UNICEF, 2021) (UNICEF, 2021)
Child labour
  • Child labour is a primary reason for children being out of school. One-quarter of all children out of school can be directly attributed to child labour. (UNGEI, 2012)
  • Child labour hinders education even when children are able to attend school. Children attending school who are involved in child labour have lower levels of academic achievement and are less likely to progress to the next grade. (Emerson et al., 2017)
  • The quality of education matters in eliminating child labour. A survey of out-of-school children across a number of countries cited lack of interest and engagement as a primary driver of not attending school. (ILO, 2018)
  • Child labour greatly constrains the ability of a child to attend school. In nearly every country, a significant gap in attendance rates exists between those involved in child labour and those not. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, child labourers are four times less likely to be in school. (UCW, 2020UNGEI, 2012)
Girls’ education
  • Millions of girls are out of school. It is estimated that 132 million girls and young women are not in primary or secondary school. (GEM, 2020)
  • Failure to educate girls is costly. Ongoing barriers to girls’ education are costing countries between US$15 trillion to US$30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. (World Bank, 2018)
  • For girls, being out of school increases the risk of child marriage, teen pregnancy, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and child labour. During the Ebola outbreak, teen pregnancies in certain parts of Sierra Leone increased by 65%, and child labour by girls increased 19% (UNDP, 2015) (UNICEF, 2021)
Refugees and migrants
  • Crisis and conflict disrupt education. 128 million children had their education interrupted in 2021 due to conflict, emergency and disaster. 27 million children are out of school in conflict zones. (UNICEF, 2021) (UNICEF, 2022)
  • The number of displaced children is larger today than any time since World War II. Today, 42% of the 84 million displaced people globally are children. One in three children living outside their country of birth are refugees (UNHCR, 2022; UNICEF, 2022)
  • Communities suffer if refugee children are uneducated. The less education a child receives, the more likely they are to live in poverty and poor health, adding strain to host communities. (Save the Children, 2018)
  • Refugees are more likely to be out of school. Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children and youth around the world. (UNESCO, 2016)
  • Higher education is not a reality for most refugees. Only 3% of refugees have access to higher education. (UNHCR, 2019)
  • 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)
  • Anti-immigrant policies can impact on a young person’s ability to learn in school. A survey of 730 schools in 12 US states found that two-thirds of the respondents reported a negative impact of immigration enforcement and the constant threat of deportation on their teaching and learning. 90% of administrators observed behavioural or emotional problems among their immigrant students, and 70% reported observing academic decline. (Gándara & Ee, 2018)
  • More than 258 million children and youth are currently denied their right to education by being out of school. ((UNESCO, 2019)
Inclusive education
  • Disability is the most significant barrier to quality education, outweighing all other individual and household characteristics. Nearly 50% of children with disabilities are out of school, compared with only 13% of those without disabilities. (Mizunoya et al., 2016)
  • Approximately one billion people are living with a disability — the largest minority group in the world. At least one in ten people with a disability — 240 million — are children. (UNICEF, 2021) (GBC-Education, 2022)
  • Children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school. Children with a sensory, physical or intellectual disability are 2.5 times more likely to have never been in school than their peers without disabilities. (GEM, 2020)
  • Even when in school, students with disabilities are at greater risk of not learning. Children with disabilities are 42% less likely to have foundational reading and numeracy skills in comparison to children without disabilities. (UNICEF, 2021)
  • Changing laws and policies to support inclusive education is not enough, it is essential to invest more resources into both mainstreaming and need-specific support. In Fiji, lack of resources to provide a good inclusive education meant that the needs of students with intellectual disabilities were better addressed in special education settings. (GEM, 2020)
  • Exclusion of children with disabilities has high economic costs. In Bangladesh, the lack of schooling and employment for learners with disabilities and their caregivers costs an estimated US$1.2 billion annually, or 1.74% of GDP. (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016) (World Bank, 2008)
  • Teaching children in their native language can result in lower drop-out rates, higher retention, and increased academic achievement. Half of all children in low- and middle-income countries are not taught in their native language, many of them belonging to a minority group. A number of studies show a near-zero level of understanding by children not being taught in their mother tongue. Children in Mali taught in their native language were five times less likely to repeat the year and more than three times less likely to drop out of school. (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2016) (Smits et al., 2008) (Alidou et al., 2006)
  • Education infrastructure shortages are a barrier to learning at all income levels, with particular impact on the most disadvantaged schools. In Indonesia and Jordan, 40% of head teachers noted that infrastructure issues hindered learning. (GEM, 2018)
  • When schools are attacked and destroyed without being rebuilt, a generation of children can lose the chance to receive a quality education. Damage to classrooms, materials, and property greatly impacts on student learning, with additional consequences such as overcrowding. In Iraq, 85% of schools were destroyed or closed as a result of war, affecting millions of children. (Save the Children, 2020) (EAC/UNESCO, 2013)
  • Schools are often designed without considering all the needs of the community, excluding children from an education. Zero primary or secondary schools in Niger, Burundi, or Samoa met indicator 4.1 of the SDGs, outlining the proportion of schools with access to ‘adapted infrastructure for students with disabilities’. (GEM, 2020)
  • Inadequate school infrastructure can exacerbate learning inequities. In Turkey, 69% of head teachers in schools serving marginalised populations reported that learning was inhibited by infrastructure issues, in comparison to 4% of head teachers serving better-off populations. (GEM, 2018)
  • 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)
  • A significant proportion of LGBTQ+ students experience homophobic and transphobic violence in school. This is shown consistently in data from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and the Pacific, with the proportion affected ranging from 16% in Nepal to 85% in the US. (UNESCO, 2016
  • LGBTQ+ students report a higher prevalence of bullying at school than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. In New Zealand, lesbian, gay and bisexual students were three times more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual peers; in Norway, 15-48% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported being bullied compared to 7% of heterosexual students. (UNESCO, 2016)
  • Students targeted are more likely to feel unsafe in school, miss classes or drop out. In the U.S., 70% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school; in Thailand, 31% of students who were teased or bullied for being or being perceived to be LGBT had reported an absence from school in the past month, and in Argentina, 45% of transgender students dropped out of school. (UNESCO, 2016)
  • LGBTQ+ students consistently report a higher prevalence of violence compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Male students who fail to conform to ‘masculine’ norms – i.e. those who are gay or bisexual, and male-to-female transgender students – seem more likely to be the targets of violence. (UNESCO, 2016)
  • LGBTQ+ students avoid school activities when they feel unsafe. 49% of young LGBT respondents said they sometimes chose not to participate in class discussions in a 2013 European survey. (Formby, 2013)
  • LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk of dropping out of school. In Argentina, a study found 45% of transgender students dropped out of school, either due to transphobic bullying by their peers or being excluded by school authorities. (UNESCO, 2012)
  • Hostile school climates impact on the educational attainment and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth. Students in hostile school environments are less likely to go to college and more likely to have self-esteem issues. (GLSEN, 2015)


Social benefits
  • Higher levels of education are associated with lower levels of racial intolerance. In Latin America, people with secondary education are 47% less likely to express racial intolerance compared with those who only have primary education. (UNICEF, 2015)
  • Education creates a safer and more inclusive society. Better educated individuals are more trusting and tolerant of strangers and those they know. (Borgonovi & Burns, 2015)
  • 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)
  • Equitable education reduces the likelihood of violent conflict. Greater education equality between male and female students decreases the likelihood of violent conflict by as much as 37%. (FHI 360, 2015)
  • Unequal access to education seriously raises the probability of war. Unequal access to education doubles the possibility of conflict, after controlling for wealth, political regime, and geography. (Østby, 2008) (FHI 360, 2015)
  • Increased levels of education reduce a country’s risk of armed conflict. Each additional year of schooling decreases the chance of a young person engaging in violent conflict by 20%. (GPE, 2015)
  • Government commitment to expanding education helps reduce the risk of conflict. Ensuring universal primary enrolment globally would decrease the probability of war by one-third. Increasing educational expenditure from 2.2% to 6.3% of GDP would decrease the probability of civil war by more than one-half. (Thyne, 2006)
  • 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)
  • The greater the number of young people enrolled in school, the less the probability of civil war. A 50% increase in secondary school enrolment would reduce the probability of civil war by almost two-thirds. If average male secondary school enrolment increased by 10%, the risk of war would decline by a quarter. (Thyne, 2006) (Collier & Hoeffler, 2004)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Early childhood development provides the base for violence prevention. Children who have received proper stimulation and care exhibit healthy biological stress systems, secure early attachment, and healthy socio-emotional and cognitive development, leading to decreased propensity to violence in their older years. (Leckman et al., 2014)
  • Education builds sustainable and lasting peace. Over the long-term, education can help to redistribute resources and opportunity more equitably, bring recognition and respect to diverse groups and identities, ensure representation through civic participation, and encourage reconciliation. (Novelli et al., 2015)
  • Equitable education makes us safer. Reducing the level of educational inequality by half can lessen the probability of conflict by nearly 10%. (UNICEF, 2015)
  • Education can channel tensions into peaceful actions. Individuals and communities with higher levels of education are more likely to channel their concerns through nonviolent civil movements, like protests, rallies, and boycotts. (Wang et al., 2015) (Shaykhutdinov, 2011)
  • Higher levels of education are historically associated with a lower likelihood of violent conflict. Analysis of 120 countries over 30 years found that countries were less likely to experience violent conflict if their populations had higher levels of education. (GEM, 2016)
  • Education can reduce vulnerability to extremism and radicalisation when it is part of a broader socio-economic strategy. When there is equal access to education, schools invest in the creation of safe spaces for their students at all levels, and the job market is adjusted to the educational level of graduating students, there is a reduced likelihood of vulnerability to violent extremism. (Sas et al, 2020)
  • Schools can play important roles in reconciliation and rebuilding in post-conflict communities. Integrated schools positively influence minority group identity and a sense of forgiveness, lessening discriminatory attitudes and creating an environment ripe for healing. (Alexander & Christia, 2011) (Hansson et al., 2013)
  • Instruction and curricula can positively influence post-conflict inter-group relations. Conflict-sensitive teaching can promote inclusion and eliminate harmful stereotypes, creating a pathway to social reconstruction, transitional justice and lasting peace. (Freedman et al., 2008) (Cole & Barsalou, 2006)
  • Peace education — including human rights, civics, and multicultural education — can help to prevent future violence. Peace education interventions can lessen youth aggression, bullying and support of violence, and improve the probability that students will try to prevent conflict. (Barakat et al., 2013)
  • 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)
  • Education underpins the investments made in traditional security and peacebuilding efforts. Education builds capacity and supports the development of social cohesion, reintegration, and economic growth for all, which are integral to the success of broader peacebuilding interventions. (Novelli, 2015)
  • Learning about human rights in school encourages active civic engagement later in life. Evidence from 88,000 adolescents from 27 countries shows that students with more knowledge of human rights were more politically efficacious and more likely to support joining human rights organisations and other social justice-oriented groups. (Torney-Purta et al., 2008)
  • 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, 2009EFA GMR, 2013)
  • 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)
  • 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 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)
  • 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).
Teaching and learning
  • There are pedagogies that promote antiracism. Experiential learning methods, such as Intergroup Dialogue, are particularly effective at reducing colour-blind attitudes, helping students understand the structural nature of inequality, and building intergroup empathy and collaboration. (Zuniga et al,. 2007)
  • Training and recruiting teachers who reflect the diversity of students can help promote learning. Studies show that when teachers’ ethnicity reflects that of the student body, there are improved learning outcomes, higher expectations and fewer disciplinary actions. (Economics of Education Review, 2015)
  • Black Studies courses benefit black students, even in predominantly white institutions. Data revealed several benefits, including psychological empowerment, self-determination, and community perpetuity. (Chapham-Hilliard & Beasley, 2018)
  • Helping schools to implement education policies that support racially integrated schools has many social benefits. Such schools have been found to promote greater social cohesion and cross race relationships. (Eaton & Chirichigno, 2011)
  • Pedagogy matters. Data from 38 countries that participated in the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study in 2009 show that students in classrooms that encourage open democratic discussions are 5-8% more likely to endorse equal rights for all ethnic groups. (Sandoval-Hernandez et al., 2018)
  • 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)
  • 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, 2012Alexander and Christia, 2011)
  • Open classroom environments can advance the rights of minority groups. Students who perceived their classroom environment as open were more likely to endorse equal rights for all ethnic groups and believe that this was a benefit for democracy. An open classroom climate can foster political participation by students from disadvantaged backgrounds. (Treviño et al., 2018) (GEM, 2019) (Campbell, 2008)
  • 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, 2007Dekker, 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)
Boys’ education
  • Educated men are more likely to be healthier. Young men who had participated in group educational activities were more likely to be tested for HIV, seek medical care, be vaccinated, avoid contracting an STI, and use condoms. (ICRW, 2011) (Parker et al., 2017)
  • Education creates more equitable and caring partners and fathers. Men who have completed at least some secondary education are more likely to take on a fair share of domestic work and childcare, and take paternity leave. (ICRW., 2011)
  • Boys’ education reduces gender-based violence. Better educated boys and young men are less likely to perpetrate physical violence against an intimate partner, and are more likely to report sexual harassment or violence. (Fulu et al., 2013) (El Feki et al., 2017)
  • Boys’ education deters recruitment as a child soldier. More than 90% of boys in the Democratic Republic of Congo believed that being in school would make them less likely to be targeted by child soldier recruitment. (Save the Children, 2014)
  • Harmful social and gender norms can be shifted through school-based educational interventions for boys. Well-designed and delivered educational programmes can increase knowledge and awareness, helping to promote gender equality, and shift harmful social norms that are recognised as primary drivers of gender-based violence. (Ellsberg et al., 2014) (Fula et al., 2013)
  • Quality education for boys creates more tolerant societies. Boys and young men with higher levels of education tend to have less homophobic attitudes. (ICRW, 2011)
  • Educating boys makes us safer. The higher a young man’s educational attainment, the less the probability they have participated in criminal behaviour, been involved in a physical altercation, or been imprisoned. (ICRW, 2011)
Child marriage
  • Providing universal secondary education would essentially end child marriage. In all regions of the world, girls with higher levels of education are less likely to marry as children. (ICRW, 2006)
  • 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 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)
  • Girls who are educated and not married as children are healthier and pass those benefits to their children. Children born to mothers who are not child brides are 60% less likely to die in the first year of their life. (IWHC, 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)
  • 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)
  • Education prevents child marriage. Universal secondary education for girls can virtually eliminate child marriage. In 18 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, girls with a secondary education are six times less likely to be married as a child compared to girls with no education. (World Bank, 2018)
Child labour
  • 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)
  • Education has an intergenerational impact on child labour. Educated parents are more likely to invest in their own children’s education, and children of educated parents are far less likely to be child labourers. (UCW, 2017)
  • Providing education and eliminating child labour is good social and economic policy. Eliminating child labour and implementing universal education would deliver benefits seven times greater than the costs. (ILO, 2004)
  • 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 education is a key tool to eliminating child labour. Children enrolled in early childhood education programmes are more likely to transition successfully to primary school rather than the workforce. (ILO, 2018)
Early childhood
  • Early childhood development is one of the best investments that can be made. Each dollar invested in early childhood education can yield a return as high as US$17 for the most disadvantaged children. (Theirworld, 2017)
  • 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)
Economic benefits
  • Education lifts children out of poverty and decreases the likelihood that their children will be impoverished. If all students in low income countries acquired basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • 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)
  • One additional year of school can increase a girl’s earnings by up to 20% – reaping benefits for the girls themselves, their future families and their communities. (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Educating girls leads to economic growth. Even a 1% increase in the number of women completing secondary education can increase a country’s economic growth by 0.3%. (Brookings, 2016)
  • Educating girls raises earnings. Each additional year of schooling helps a woman increase her wages by about 12%. (Brookings, 2016)
  • Education lifts people out of poverty. If all adults had a secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty – more than half of the world population still living in extreme poverty. (UNESCO, 2017)
  • Each additional year of education significantly reduces poverty. Every additional year of education is linked to a 9% lower poverty rate for young adults (aged 25-34) worldwide. (UNICEF, 2015)
  • Even learning basic skills is enough to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. If all students in low-income countries acquire basic reading skills, there would be 171 million fewer people living in poverty. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Education raises individual income, especially for women. Each additional year of schooling can raise an individual’s earnings by 8-10%, with larger gains for women. (World Bank, 2018)
  • When a country achieves universal primary education, its poorest households enjoy a higher share of income. The expansion of primary education enrolment from 50% to 100% is associated with an 8% increase in the share of income going to households in the poorest 10%. (World Bank, 2018)
  • 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)
  • Education helps minorities gain equal access to formal employment and social protection. In Peru, indigenous and non-indigenous people have similar chances of finding formal employment if they have equal educational levels of primary and tertiary education. (Montes et al., 2016)
  • Education promotes greater equality. Using data for 114 countries from 1985 to 2005, one extra year of education is associated with a reduction of the Gini coefficient by 1.4 percentage points. (UNICEF, 2015)
  • Investments in early childhood education promote equity. Creating a level playing field from the beginning improves the chances for a fair start in life, reaping benefits to nutrition and health, cognitive development, and school achievement. (GBC-Education, 2018) (Black & Dewey, 2014) (Nonoyama-Tarumi et al., 2009)
  • 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 marginal increase in education has transformative effects on inequality. One additional year of education is associated with a 1.4% decrease in income inequality. Societies with high income equality are able to reduce poverty 75% faster. (Patrinos & Psacharopoulos, 2013)
  • Prioritising education for the most marginalised provides the highest returns. Financing primary and early childhood education, and the education of the poorest, the disabled, and those with social disadvantages, is the quickest route to achieving equity, with the greatest potential social dividends. (Education Commission, 2016)
  • 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)
  • 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)
Girls’ education
  • Increasing girls’ education decreases violence. If girls and boys had equal access to education, the chance of violence and conflict would decrease by 37%. (Education Cannot Wait, 2019)
  • Better educated mothers have healthier children and families. If all mothers completed secondary school, the likelihood that their children will contract malaria would be 36% lower. (Brookings, 2016)
  • Educating women is key to breaking intergenerational poverty. The evidence is clear that an educated mother brings substantial health, nutrition, caregiving, and education benefits to her children. (Brookings, 2015) (Theirworld, 2016)
  • Education empowers individuals to advocate for themselves. In 54 countries, women with only a primary education are four times more likely to lack control over household resources compared with women with a secondary education. (Sperling & Winthrop, 2015)
Refugees and migrants
  • Providing educational opportunities for refugees creates more productive members of society. Education lays the base of foundational skills, preparing students for technical or vocational training, or university-level opportunities, leading to better job prospects and greater self-reliance for refugees. (UNHCR, 2016)
  • Schools are a safety net for refugee children. Without opportunity to attend school, refugees become increasingly vulnerable to child labour, recruitment by armed groups, child marriage, or sexual exploitation. (UNHCR, 2016)
  • Schools connect refugees to their host community’s culture and language, creating more tolerant, peaceful societies. Successfully integrating refugees promotes social inclusion, reduces tensions with locals, and creates more equal societies. (OECD, 2019)
  • Schools can serve as a stabilising force for refugee children, addressing social exclusion and mental health. Simply being in school can help refugee children’s psychosocial recovery, and school-based interventions can play a fundamental role in supporting children to deal with psychosocial transitions. (UNHCR, 2017) (Pastoor, 2016)
  • Quality education provides children with hope for a better future. A growing number of studies show that refugee students with access to education have hope and purpose in the future. (Save the Children, 2015)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Education of immigrants provides immense benefits to the host communities. Educated refugees with good qualifications have a better chance of finding work and contributing to the economy of their host country, contributing to stability at a local, national, and regional level. (UNHCR, 2016)
  • 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)
  • Education shapes attitudes about migrant communities. Data from the European Social Survey shows that an extra year of school correlates with an eight to 10 percentage point increase in pro-immigrant attitudes. (d’Hombres & Nunziata, 2016)
  • For first-generation immigrant students, school is a key site to build a sense of belonging to their new community. When culturally-responsive pedagogies are in place, students generally have a higher sense of belonging, safety, and support which has been linked to increased school attendance and performance. (Dee & Penner, 2016)
  • 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)
Inclusive education
  • With proper support, students with disabilities can learn just as well as any other student. More than 80% of students with special needs meet the same academic standards as other students, as long as schools give them the access, accommodations, instruction and support they need. (Thurlow et al., 2011)
  • 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)
  • Inclusive education is the most effective method for children with disabilities. When students with disabilities can learn in inclusive classrooms, they have higher maths and reading scores, less disruptive behaviour, and increased future employment opportunities. (Hayes & Bulat, 2017) (Hehir et al., 2016) (Myklebust, 2007)
  • 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)
  • Students without disabilities also learn better in an integrated classroom. A meta review of 26 studies in the US, Australia, Canada, and Ireland found that 81% of the findings reported positive or neutral academic effects on non-disabled students when they can learn with peers with disabilities. (Hayes & Bulat, 2017)
  • Inclusive education does not require a lot of additional resources. A quality inclusive education system, with well-trained teachers and strong peer support, can provide education access to as many as 80-90% of learners with disabilities in mainstream schools with only minor additional support. (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016)
  • Providing education to children with disabilities has many social benefits. It has been linked to lower crime rates, improved health and family planning, and increased citizen participation. (Hayes & Bulat, 2017)
  • When people with disabilities receive higher levels of education, their household is less likely to live in poverty. In low- and middle-income countries, for each additional year of schooling that an adult with a disability aquires, the likelihood that their household belongs to the two poorest quintiles falls by 2-5%. (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016) (Filmer, 2008)
Social mobility
  • Society is more peaceful when there is opportunity for social mobility. When people believe that they can climb the social ladder by virtue of their abilities and efforts, the likelihood of realising social cohesion is greater. (D’Addio, 2007)
  • Providing education for all will impact the social mobility of the poorest on a large scale. Securing universal secondary education would lift 420 million people out of poverty, cutting the number of poor globally in half. (UNESCO, 2017)
  • Education alleviates income inequality, a key barrier to social mobility. Education equips children with skills that increase employment opportunities and incomes, raising the most marginalised from the bottom of the ladder. (UNESCO, 2017) (Corak, 2013)
  • Education helps mitigate the chances of reduced social mobility. In Indonesia, one additional year of school decreased the probability of falling back into poverty by 25%. (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Higher education is a ticket to increased social mobility. A child born into the poorest quintile who obtains a college degree is one-third less likely to remain in the poorest quintile, and 15% more likely to reach the richest quintile, compared with a child in the poorest quintile who does not obtain a college degree. (Haskins et al., 2008)
  • Social mobility is good for economic growth. If social mobility were increased by 10% globally, economic growth would increase by almost 5% over the next decade. (World Economic Forum, 2020)
  • Education is a strong predictor and driver of social mobility. In Tanzania, workers with primary education were 20% less likely to be poor, and those with secondary education 60% less likely. Contrarily, 82% of workers with less than a primary education lived below the poverty line. (Guarcello et al., 2012)
  • Safe schools promote higher attendance rates for LGBTQ+ youth. More than one-third of gay youth have missed a day of school because they felt unsafe, and nine out of ten of LGBT teenagers have been bullied in school, which can cause students to suffer academically. (Century Foundation, 2016)
  • Teachers play a crucial role in supporting LGBTQ+ youth. LGBTQ+ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. (Trevor Project, 2019)
  • Education can reduce bullying and harassment. Students who learn about LGBT issues in the curriculum report less harassment. (Trevor Project, 2019)
  • Quality education for boys creates more tolerant societies. Boys and young men with higher levels of education tend to have less homophobic attitudes. (ICRW, 2011)
  • 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).
  • 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)
Prioritizing education
  • Education is a priority for children. In a survey of thousands of children across 17 emergency scenarios, 99% said education was a top priority. (Save the Children, 2015)
  • 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)
  • Education is a priority for refugee children and their families. Refugee parents consider education for their children to be their number one priority. (Save the Children, 2015)

Key opinions

Knowledge is power. Power leads to Freedom. Freedom leads to personal self esteem and a more loving society. Education makes all of this possible. Not educating our children is dooming them to years of oppression and discrimination.

David Mixner, Activist
Nadia Murad

Education is the key to addressing the root causes of sexual violence and to ending practices of toxic femininity and masculinity. If these issues are addressed from a young age, we will begin to see a world where women will occupy positions of power at the same rate as men and will know that they too belong in those spaces.

Nadia Murad, UN Goodwill Ambassador and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Filippo Grandi

For the 1% of the world’s population who are displaced, education is the key to unlocking a positive and resilient future. For children affected by crisis and conflict, education provides vital protection, and a sense of normalcy and safety. COVID-19 showed numerous examples of how refugees who had received support to harness their energy and complete their education were giving back to the communities which hosted them – as doctors, nurses, teachers and support workers. Access to a quality education prepares refugee students to take care of themselves and their communities, stepping up as leaders and role models and enabling rapid generational change which will in turn create a brighter future for their own children.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Fabrice Houdart

The single most important channel to overcome intolerance, discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people is through education and the exposure to different life expereiences and viewpoints that it offers. Advancement in education is part of the recipe for social change that led to a radical shift in public attitudes on LGBTQ inclusion we witnessed in many parts of the world.

Fabrice Houdart, Executive Director, Association of LGBTQ+ corporate Directors

Searching for more in-depth reporting or quick refreshers on the relationship between education and sociology? Check out Theirworld’s groundbreaking reports and explainers that examine the issue in further detail.

Prefer an audio medium to better understand the connection between education and sociology? Listen to Theirworld’s Better Angels podcasts, featuring stories from globally renowned campaigners, Nobel Prize winners, celebrities, politicians and remarkable young people who are experts in the field.

Who are refugees?

Sarah Brown speaks to Lord Alf Dubs, Gulwali Passarlay, Melissa Fleming and David Morrissey about the representation of refugees. Millions of words have been spoken and written about refugees but how many of these have been positive? This episode is about the survivors, battlers and new pioneers and explores why refugees are so often feared rather than celebrated.

How do you Solve a Problem like Refugee Education?

How do you actually make big change happen? In this episode, Sarah Brown explores the challenge of how to educate Syrian children who have been forced to flee their homes and schools due to the ongoing war. What are all the elements involved in getting hundreds of thousands of Syrian back to school and learning.

Elias Bou Saab: Interview Special

Sarah Brown talks to Elias Bou Saab, who served as the minister for education for the Government of Lebanon at a time when hundreds of thousands of Syrian children and families travelled across the border fleeing the horrific war. Elias Bou Saab has implemented the innovative double shift school system to accommodate around 200,000 Syrian children. In this episode he talks about his own personal experience as a child refugee who fled to Syria and the challenges in implementing real change.

Safe Schools

In this episode of Better Angels focusing on Safe Schools, Sarah Brown talks to the Director of Education Cannot Wait Yasmine Sherif, Nigerian lawyer Zannah Mustapha, who helped to secure the release of dozens of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, former Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador Courage Nyamhunga, and campaigner Slyvia Kayko about creating safe, inclusive schools for all.

How Do Activists Begin?

Sarah Brown chats to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Graça Machel, Kailash Satyarthi, Vuslat Dogan Sabanci, Tom Fletcher and Anoka Abeyrathne.  What makes us actually act to create sustainable social change?

More episodes here

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