Education: a key element of sustainable development

Education is the foundation for a country’s sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.It must be regarded as a founding element of the right to a decent life and to individual development and as a key factor for reducing poverty and inequalities. As shown in surveys by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), education is a lever to reach other development goals at the level of health, nutrition, the environment and citizens, but it also depends on progress in other areas.

Equitable education increases the prosperity of individuals, families and societies while poverty is still the primary obstacle to primary school enrolment.

Education gives people the knowledge and skills necessary for occupational integration and boosts productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship:

  • each year of additional schooling increases annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.37%;
  • If all children in low-income countries could read, poverty would fall by 12%.

Aid for primary school amounts to $3 billion per year. However, according to the latest figures in the EFA Global Monitoring Report, needs for enrolling all out-of-school children in the world by 2015 are estimated at $25 billion a year (by way of comparison, Europeans and Americans spend $31 billion each year on ice cream). The deficit hence amounts to $26 billion a year.

Education promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women

Education plays a key role in the learning of equality, the promotion of rights, fertility control and in increasing women’s earnings:

  • one additional year of school can raise a woman’s earnings by 15% to 20%.
  • one additional year of school can cause women’s fertility rate to fall by 10%.

Education improves health and nutrition for all; conversely, health and nutrition contribute to the quality of education.

Education helps reduce the infant mortality rate and improve child nutrition and health: a child born to a mother who can read and write is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five.

Empowerment through education is a powerful antidote against the risk of early pregnancy: women who have studied longer are more likely to postpone and space out pregnancies and to seek medical care and supervision.

Education helps combat the great pandemics: women who have had a post-primary education are five times more likely than illiterate women to be informed about HIV/AIDS. In countries where the HIV/AIDS infection is high, HIV/AIDS accounts for 77% of teacher shortage.

Education helps ensure environmental sustainability.

Education in sustainable development is the cornerstone of changing values and behaviour with a view to preserving resources and the environment.

Education in sustainable development means learning to

  • respect and recognize the value and the riches of the earth and to preserve them;
  • live in a world where there is food for everyone to ensure a sound and productive life;
  • assess, care for, restore and improve the state of our planet;
  • build a better, safer and fairer world;
  • be concerned and responsible citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities at all levels, whether local, national or global.

Publication: Fact sheet France Education for All

France Education for All

Figures quoted from:UNESCO

Updated : May 2014

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