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Education alone is not a shield against hunger. It should nevertheless be a key ingredient in any policy that aims to reduce poverty, dependence, environmental degradation, excessive population growth and other factors that are most often the direct causes of hunger.

Education and Agricultural Production

EDUCATION allows farmers to make use of new farming techniques and technologies. Research demonstrates that basic education has a clear effect on agricultural productivity.

A World Bank study found that farmers in all countries, when armed with a minimum of four years of primary education, were able to increase their productivity by an average of 8.7 percent.

Rural primary education is sometimes more efficient and/or cost-effective when it adapts a non-formal approach and relies on:

Rural women attending a literacy class

Literacy as a Gender Issue

Girls are less likely than boys to be enrolled in school. In the age-group 6-11, which corresponds broadly to that of primary or first-level education, nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) of the world's girls are estimated to be out of school (85 million) compared to around one-sixth (16.4 percent) of the world's boys (60 million).

Largely as a consequence of this longstanding imbalance in participation in formal education, the literacy rate of the world's women (71.2 percent) is significantly lower than that of men (83.6 percent), although the gap is slowly closing.

Nearly two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women (565 million); most of them live in the developing regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Illiteracy, a Major Obstacle to Development

NEARLY 70 percent of the world's estimated 885 million adult illiterates live in rural areas. In order to be effective, education in rural areas needs to be both formal and non-formal and to provide:

Learning Environmental Awareness

Environmental degradation is a major threat to food security. Sometimes performed as a result of ignorance or short-sightedness, practices leading to soil erosion or water pollution could be considerably reduced through education.

Teaching needs to alert people to dangers their practices can cause to their environment as well as to alternative modes of cooking, farming, heating and waste disposal.

Estimated number (millions) of literate and illiterate males and
females aged 15 and over in developing countries, by region, 1995

Why Invest in Education?

Several United Nations Conferences held in the 1990s have identified and emphasized the direct link between education, sustainable development and improved living standards.

For example, the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, in its report to UNESCO, affirmed "its belief that education has a fundamental role to play in personal and social development".

The report goes on to say that education "is one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, oppression and war".

These conclusions have emerged as sharp reactions to the widespread deterioration of education systems in the 1980s, a time when many policy makers considered spending on education as a low priority.

The shift in emphasis has come as a result of a broadening view of development, one that no longer views education as a financial burden, but rather as an investment that, like physical and capital investment, is assumed to result in high returns.

Ignorance and Malnutrition

A MALNUTRlTlON can result from eating the wrong type of food. People at all ages could be helped in maintaining a healthy diet by being taught to consume. that meet their nutritional requirements.

It is important to include basic information on nutrition in formal and nonformal educational curricula as well as in mass information campaigns targeting girls and women in particular.

A tanzanian father feeds his child

Education = Income = Food Security

lNCOME is the key to nutrition for all those who purchase, rather than produce, food. As a general rule, education:

What is this body's working future without an education?

Education and Population

HIGH RATES of population growth put increasing strains on available food resources both at the global level and within households and communities.

There are clearly established inverse correlations between a population's rising level of educational attainment and declining fertility and child mortality rates.

Educated women tend to marry later, are more likely to use family planning methods and consequently to give birth to fewer children.

Large families are still the rule in most developing countries

This Fact Sheet Was Contributed by UNESCO.
For further information, please contact
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Office of Public Information, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP France
Tel. (33 1) 45 681010; Fax (33 1) 45 67 16 90

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