Education and Teaching and Learning

Studying for a career as a teacher or school administrator? Composing your thesis on the benefits of early childhood education? Use this page to further your understanding of the importance of education healthy development and quality education. 

Schools are the bedrock and beginning of a child’s path to socialization and development, and good teachers are the cornerstone to providing quality education and realising desirable learning outcomes. In tandem, both serve as the backbone of any education system and lay the foundation for all children to realise their full potential and become productive members of society.

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 is education, and early childhood education in particular, beneficial to a child’s development?
  • What are the benefits of investing in early childhood education?
  • How can education help to improve social cohesion?
  • How can education help to shift harmful social norms?
  • How can education reduce and address racism?
  • Can teachers help to close the achievement gap?
  • How can schools serve as a base to deliver cross-sectoral benefits?
  • Why is investing in teachers important?
  • What are the benefits of inclusive education?
  • How does infrastructure impact education quality?
  • What are the benefits of safe schools?
  • What education practices can deliver benefits to refugees and the most marginalized?

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.

  • Good teachers are the backbone of education systems and on the frontlines of social change
  • Well-trained and supported teachers are highly effective in positively influencing children – both academically and socially
  • The quality of an education system is only as good as the investment in its teachers
  • Countries are facing a global teacher shortage
Inclusive education
  • Inclusive education has been shown to be the best method for educating children with disabilities, rather than segregating them into special schools or classes
  • Inclusive education is a low-cost investment with high returns
  • Inclusive education requires more teacher training and additional need-specific support and resources
  • Only 10% of countries have laws supporting full inclusion in education
  • When people with disabilities receive higher levels of education, their household will be less likely to live in poverty
Social change
  • When anti-racist pedagogies are coupled with other education policies, including redistributions of inequitable spending, education can be a force for positive change
  • 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
  • Harmful social and gender norms can be shifted through school-based educational interventions for boys
  • Children taught in their native language, and with culturally relevant materials, are more likely to stay in school and achieve better results
Early childhood
  • Early childhood education is the foundation for a child’s growth and developmental potential, alongside other crucial early years investments
  • Approximately 90% of a child’s brain development takes place before the age of five
  • Every dollar invested in early childhood education can yield a return as high as US$17 for the most disadvantaged children
  • Improving the effectiveness of early childhood education boosts social mobility
  • Marginalised children in rich and poor countries are less likely to have access to quality early childhood education
  • School-based delivery of health interventions for school-age children can be significantly more cost-effective than alternative delivery approaches
  • Schools can provide essential psychosocial support for children, promoting improved mental health and helping young people reach their full potential
  • School-based mental health interventions yield high economic returns for individuals and their communities
  • Schools provide an ideal delivery point for school meals and nutrition
  • Healthier school meals lead to better learning outcomes
  • Good infrastructure is key to delivering a quality education for all
  • Inadequate infrastructure or infrastructure shortages create barriers to learning, particularly in the most disadvantaged schools
  • Basic classroom infrastructure such as lighting and air conditioning can make the difference between quality learning and marginalisation
  • Effective transport infrastructure is essential to enable all pupils to access school
  • Building schools with accessibility features is more cost effective than adding them later
Safe schools
  • Safe schools increase school attendance for LGBTQ+ students
  • Education promotes appreciation and respect for differences, contributing towards an end to discrimination for LGBTQ+ students
  • Nurturing migrant communities with culturally responsive teaching can help young people become exceptional contributors to their new societies
  • Safe schools are an investment in strong, safer communities that promote opportunity and growth
  • Integrated schools can play a key role in building relationships across political, religious and ethnic divides

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 teaching and learning here.


  • There is a global shortage of teachers. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for education by 2030, countries will need more than 69 million more teachers. (UNESCO, 2016)
  • Teachers need support to teach financial literacy. In the US, less than one-fifth of teachers were prepared to teach any of the six personal finance concepts normally included in financial education courses. (GFLEC Testimonies, 2013)
  • Teachers need more support to teach effectively in a multicultural or multilingual setting. From the TALIS 2018 survey of teachers from 49 education systems around the world, more than half reported not feeling prepared to teach in a multicultural or multilingual setting. (OECD, 2019)
  • Investment in the education and professional development of teachers in the sub-Saharan region 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)
  • Teachers are often underpaid for their critical services. The starting wage of a teacher was perceived as lower than fair in 80% of 35 countries surveyed globally. (Dolton et al., 2018)
  • Many teachers are qualified and trained, but not in the content area they teach. In Georgia and Saudi Arabia, fewer than 60% of science and maths teachers were formally trained in their subjects. (GEM, 2022)
  • Teachers are the cornerstone to the delivery of quality education during pandemics or other emergencies. Providing the support they need to be successful is critical, yet fewer than 30% of countries in sub Saharan Africa trained and supported teachers implementing new distance learning initiatives during COVID-19. (UNICEF, 2021)
Inclusive education
  • 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)
  • Students with disabilities are disproportionately excluded from education during times of emergencies. Just 33% of low-income countries were able to provide needed support like sign language interpretation, closed captioning, or braille through their remote learning initiatives during COVID-19. Only 19% of teachers believed their students with disabilities were able to learn while schools were closed. (UNESCO et. al., 2020) (World Bank, 2021)
  • When schools are closed, students with disabilities face increased mental health challenges. The number of university students with disabilities who reported major depressive disorders was double that of students without disabilities in the U.S. (Sutton, 2020)
  • 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)
Early childhood
  • 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)
  • A substantial increase in investment is needed, particularly in early education. In 2017, nine major donors in health, nutrition, education, and sanitation spent less than 6% of total official development assistance on early childhood development. Only 1% of all early childhood development aid was directed to education. (Zubairi and Rose/Theirworld, 2018)
  • Pre-primary aged learners were hit hardest by the pandemic. The youngest learners lost more days of school due to COVID-19 related closures compared to primary and secondary aged children, and were the least likely to have access to remote learning. (Nugroho et al., 2021)
  • The consequences of COVID-19 related early childhood education closures are significant. An estimated 11 million additional children will be pushed off track developmentally due to the pandemic. (McCoy et al., 2021)
  • Early childhood education may protect against learning lost during the pandemic. New data suggest that pre-primary education may be a safeguard against learning loss. (Kim et al., 2021)
  • 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)
  • Access to devices and connectivity at home impacts educational outcomes. Even before Covid-19, one in five teenagers aged 13 to 17 in the US said they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or an internet connection. (Pew Research Center, 2018)
  • Distance learning rates are linked to household income. Only 60% of low-income students are regularly logging into online instruction, compared with 90% of high-income students. (Dorn et al., 2020)
  • 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)
  • Differences in access to remote learning opportunities during the pandemic were extreme. Just 6% of students in Africa would have been able to attend classes online, whereas online platforms were used in 96% of high-income countries. (UNESCO et al., 2021) (GEM, 2021)
Economic cost
  • Education cuts after an economic crisis can hurt learning and future growth. In the US, when school spending was cut by 10% after the 2008 recession, test scores fell by nearly 8%. (Jackson et al., 2019)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Many schools lack basic infrastructure to support safe and healthy learning environments. 818 million children lack access to basic hygiene facilities like clean drinking water or bathrooms at school. (UNICEF, 2020)
  • Basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities are critical to realizing education for all. Access to basic WASH in schools improves access and learning outcomes — particularly for girls — by providing safe and inclusive learning environments. (UNICEF, 2018)
  • 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 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)
  • Persistent stress and poor mental health can impact on children’s learning levels. Children experiencing stress and poor mental health are prone to disrupted brain development, with long-lasting consequences to their ability to learn and function as successful adults. (Ritchie & Roser, 2018) (Patton et al., 2016) (Shonkoff & Garner, 2012)
Refugees and migrants
  • 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)
  • 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)
Skills and jobs
  • Many youth are not satisfied with the education and training they are currently receiving. In a global survey of 531 youth in 2018, 39% reported that their formal school did not prepare them with the skills they needed for the jobs they wanted. (Deloitte & GBCEd, 2018)
  • The global learning crisis is a critical barrier to youth employment. 69% of youth in low-income countries will not attain basic primary level skills by 2030. (Deloitte & GBCEd, 2018)
  • 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)
  • Corruption squanders the resources available for schooling. One-quarter of all funds for public education — and occasionally up to half — never reach schools. (Dehn et al., 2003)
  • Corrupt school administrations can drain a school of its financial resources. In Nigeria, 8,000 reports of non-existent “ghost” teachers created by administrators, or school personnel collecting an inflated salary, were made across four states in the first half of 2016 alone. (UNESCO, 2017)
  • Teacher recruitment based upon nepotism, bribery, or favouritism places unqualified teachers into classrooms. (Kirya, 2019)
Distance and remote learning
  • Distance learning initiatives utilized during pandemics need to be strengthened. Nearly 80% of parents believed that their children had learned little or nothing while schools were shuttered during the COVID-19 crisis. (Save the Children, 2020)
  • Even short-term school closures during pandemics significantly increase learning loss. One simulation suggested that just three months of school closures could translate into a year of learning loss. Another suggested that a full year of school closures could mean up to three years of learning loss. (Kaffenberger, 2021) (Angrist et. al., 2021)


  • Additional investment in teacher education would help to reverse the current decline in the number of known trained teachers around the world. From 2013 to 2017, the percentage of primary school teachers known to have been trained globally decreased to 85%. The qualifications of a majority of teachers worldwide remains largely unknown. (GEM, 2019) (GEM, 2022)
  • A single good teacher can change a child’s life trajectory. Children in primary school who have even one highly effective teacher are significantly more likely to go to college, attend better colleges, have larger salaries, higher savings, live in better neighborhoods, and are less likely to become teenage mothers. (Chetty et al., 2014)
  • 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)
  • Teachers have great influence. Aside from immediate family, teachers are the figures who have the greatest influence on young people. (Chetty et al., 2012)
  • The quality of an education system is only as good as the quality of its teachers. Across 45 countries, student achievement rose and low performance decreased as the quality of the teachers increased. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Teachers are a force multiplier, with cross-sectoral impact, often serving as counselors, caretakers, psychologists, translators, nurses, or surrogate parents. Particularly in under-resourced areas, teachers may be the only provider of needed psychosocial support, connection to a host community, or protection for a child. (Fazel & Betancourt, 2018)  (Munz & Melcop, 2018)  (IRC, 2017)
  • Strong school leadership means increased student learning. It is estimated that school leadership accounts for over one quarter of the difference in student learning across schools. (Leithwood et al., 2008)
  • 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)
  • Strong teachers increase academic achievement. In Poland, a student attending a school with low teacher quality is one-third more likely to score below the science benchmark, and one-quarter more likely to score below the maths benchmark, when compared with a student with high teacher quality. (EFA GMR, 2014)
  • Quality teaching matters. Having a good teacher is equivalent to an average gain in learning of one school year; having a great teacher is equivalent to 1.5 years of learning; but having a weak teacher may mean mastering less than half of the expected subject content. (Malala Fund, 2015)
  • Teachers are a force multiplier for change. 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)
  • To impact learning, policy needs to focus on what happens inside the classroom. Evidence is clear that, while many education reforms focus on organisational structures, curricula, or inputs, the most effective interventions change what happens inside the classroom and how teachers teach. (International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, 2017)
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)
  • More investment in early childhood education is crucial to help children reach their full potential. It is currently estimated that 250 million or 43% of children under five in low- and middle-income countries will not reach their developmental potential, which means a loss of 19.8% in adult annual income. (Black et al., 2017)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Children who attended early childhood education are more likely to be on track with learning outcomes. In low- and middle-income countries, 44% of children who attended early childhood education programmes are on track in literacy and numeracy skills compared with only 12% of children who did not attend any programmes. (UNICEF, 2019)
  • Missing out on nurturing care in the early years can lead to lower cognitive, language, and psychosocial outcomes. A study showed that 15-year-old immigrant youths who attended early childhood education on average scored 49 points higher in reading, equivalent to more than one year of school. (GEM, 2019)
  • 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)
  • Early childhood development is a key opportunity to develop important 21st century skills, including cooperation, teamwork, communication, creativity, self- discipline, and motivation. Early development of these critical skills will create a virtuous cycle and help children to continue to learn and engage in later life. (Global Business Coalition for Education, 2018)
  • The cost to integrate early childhood development into existing services is not high. An additional US$0.50 per person each year is all that is needed for early childhood development to be integrated into existing services. (Light for the World, 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, 2016Copenhagen Consensus Centre, 2016)
  • 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)
  • Early childhood education is particularly important for minority groups. Community and family-based early childhood programmes allow caregivers to come together to discuss and resolve the challenges they face. In doing so, they also help forge and sustain relationships across social, ethnic, religious, and political divides. (UNICEF, 2015)
Economic benefits
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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).
  • 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)
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 is also the most financially efficient way to educate students with disabilities. Segregated education systems can cost seven to nine times more than inclusive education. (Hayes & Bulat, 2017) (Labon, 1999)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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 acquires, the likelihood that their household belongs to the two poorest quintiles falls by 2-5%. (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016) (Filmer, 2008)
  • Early disability-inclusive education is a great investment with strong economic and life-changing benefits. Early identification and intervention can lead to long-term gains in higher academic performance and increased chance of graduating school. (Hayes & Bulat, 2017) (Heckman & Masterov, 2005)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Proper school infrastructure can provide extra capacity for children in times of crises. More than 200,000 Syrian refugee children were able to attend Lebanese public schools in 2018, receiving instruction after Lebanese children in the afternoons. (Theirworld, 2020)
Health and nutrition
  • Pairing education with complementary health care services in schools increases the benefits a mother’s education transfers to her child. Children in Ethiopia whose mother had attended a primary school coupled with access to antenatal care were 39% less likely to be stunted at the age of one than children with a mother who had attended a primary school with little or no access to antenatal care. (Sabates, 2013)
  • 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)
  • Using schools to distribute take-home meals boosts nutrition. Take-home rations can extend nutritional benefits to entire households, which has been proven to boost the nutritional status of younger family members. (Kazianga et al., 2014)
  • Investing in early childhood education and nutrition yields immense economic gains. Each US$1 invested in early childhood nutrition can generate up to US$18 in economic returns. Solving malnutrition could reap economic benefits 100 times as large as the interventions needed. Conversely, malnourished children who do not meet their developmental potential may forfeit up to a quarter of adult earnings, costing some low and middle-income countries twice their national expenditure on health. (Theirworld, 2020) (Save the Children, 2013)
  • Healthier and more nutritious school meals lead to higher learning. One study found healthier school meals could raise student achievement by about four percentile points on average. (Anderson, et. al, 2017) (Nutrition Policy Institute, 2017)
Social benefits
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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, 2007) (Dekker, 2003)
Mental health
  • Schools serve as important community hubs to deliver critical mental health services. Schools can connect healthcare professionals, communities, teachers, parents and students. Particularly in resource-poor contexts, the lack of health facilities can mean that schools and teachers may be the only channels for children and families to obtain psychosocial support. (Vostanis, 2016) (Fazel and Betancourt, 2014) (Munz & Melcop, 2018)
  • School-based mental health education yields high returns. Every US dollar invested in social-emotional learning interventions in schools can yield a return of US$11. Normalising and prioritising mental health from an early age makes financial sense. Globally, depression and anxiety lead to 15 billion lost days of work every year, at an estimated annual cost of US$1.15 trillion. (Belfield et al., 2015) (Chisholm et al., 2016)
  • Schools equip children and youth who have experienced conflict or disruption with essential psychosocial support. Investment in education-based psychosocial support creates stable routines and opportunities for friendship and play, reduces stress, provides a sense of belonging, dignity and hope, encourages self-expression, and promotes collaborative behaviour, which are often undermined by migration or displacement. (UNESCO, 2010) (Masten et al., 2013) (INEE, 2019)
  • 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)
  • Education and psychosocial support are particularly helpful for children in emergencies. Approximately 24 million children living in conflict today could be experiencing high levels of stress and have mild to moderate mental health disorders needing an appropriate level of support. An additional seven million children are at risk of developing severe mental health disorders. (Save the Children, 2019)
  • Education provides stability and a sense of normalcy. Education can create structure, routine, and predictability in an otherwise disrupted life, helping children understand their chaotic environment and providing a sense of belonging. (INEE, 2010)
  • Education is a conduit for healing and creating healthy communities after crisis. Education can encourage resilience and help communities rebuild by healing some of the trauma and encouraging social cohesion, reconciliation and peacebuilding. (Nicolai, 2009) (Novelli and Smith, 2011)
Tolerance and diversity
  • 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, counterspaces, 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)
  • Addressing implicit bias can improve student outcomes and allow students to reach their full potential. Reflective teaching, fair discipline policies based on data and use of external feedback are some strategies schools can use to reduce implicit bias. (Staats, 2015-16)
Refugees and migrants
  • 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)
  • Strengthening the capacity of national education systems to accommodate refugees can benefit local communities too. In Pakistan, more than US$45 million was invested in more than 730 educational projects over nine years. 84% of the 800,000 who benefitted were local Pakistani children, while 16% were Afghan refugees. In Lebanon, the double-shift school system supports public schools which serve both Lebanese and Syrian refugee children. More than 200 public school buildings have been rehabilitated in line with national standards, of which 50 were individually restored to improve accessibility to children with physical disabilities. (UNHCR, 2019(UNICEF, 2018)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
Child marriage
  • 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)
Child labour
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Teachers think climate change education is important. In the United States, a recent study showed that 86% of teachers think climate change should be taught in classrooms. (Kamenetz, 2019)
Skills and jobs
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

Key opinions

Kevin Watkins

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the biggest education emergency of our lifetime. Schools not only provide children with a space to learn. For many children, school also keeps them protected from harm - where they can be referred to child protection and mental health services. But with school closures, children are missing out on these essentials. The protection schools provide is particularly important for the most vulnerable children, such as children living in conflict-affected areas or refugees. These children are at risk of being recruited into armed groups; being forced to do hazardous and exploitative work; and being forced into marriage and early pregnancy.

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children

Prefer an audio medium to better understand the connection between education and teaching and learning? 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.

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.

Interview Special: Young campaigners on changing global education:

Young activists share their ideas on campaigning to end the global education crisis. Sarah speaks to four of Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors, including Wanja Maina is an inclusive education campaigner from Kenya.

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