Education is the only solution to the problem of poverty. Do you agree?

“I believe that God’s gift of brain potential is not discriminatory. Kindergarten is much too late to worry if a child is ready to learn. We must begin in the first days and weeks and months of life to get children ready to learn. Our hopes for society’s future depend on our being able to bring about improvements in education.”

-Irving B. Harris, American Businessman and Philanthropist. (1910-2004)

In his book “Children in Jeopardy”, Irving B. Harris examines ways and methods in which children can be helped to escape poverty. He emphasizes the importance of starting early and educating children from a young age, ensuring that these less well-off children get the same educational opportunities as students who are richer. While the quote is aimed largely at children, I believe by liberating the children of the society from the problem will eventually rid poverty from society itself. I agree to a large extent that providing education is a powerful method to solve the problem of poverty which has lasted for generations. The trend in poverty is a low national productivity, leading to economic decline, low personal income and thus a lack of funds for education, producing an under-trained workforce. The cycle is repeats itself over and over. Education is a powerful boost, under-developed countries like Vietnam are now doing better after first world countries of ASEAN educated their farmers to improve their agriculture techniques, creating greater crop yields and generating more income. The effects of education has repeatedly proven itself to be a reliable strategy to break the cycle of poverty. However, it is never that simple. Providing education is not enough to solve the problem of poverty, it must be used in conjunction with other strategies to produce successful results.

Poverty is not that simple; it is not just a low income level, but a lack of access to sufficient food and water, sanitation, health services, et cetera. People in poor families may not have enough food to keep their mind focused on learning. Their home environment may not be conducive to study. Children who are studying may be required to help out in strenuous housework or even labor. No one, especially children which most providers of philanthropists are targeting, can learn when they are under significant social or emotional stressors weighing them down. They are still unable to use the availability of education to their full potential. In order to compete, to start effective education, they must be lifted from such emotional or social stressors to assist their development.

Human capital, in the form of health is needed for economic growth. A higher number of workforce will produce a higher national income. UN economists also believe that good infrastructure such as roads and other communication network helps the market reform and aid economic development. They bring the market more accessible for the poor, allowing trade to occur more easily. This also makes knowledge more accessible, thus these remote primary workers can use knowledge to their gain and produce a higher yield of raw materials. Traders, with necessary information and knowledge, can sell their goods to buyers that brings the best price.

Aid in the form of money, can also decrease the problem of poverty by providing the poor citizens with money. In pilot projects in Namibia, there is such a program where a monthly income grant of US$13 is provided, people were able to afford tuition, increasing the percentage of children receiving education by 92%. Child malnutrition rate fell by 30%, economic activity grew by 10%. Other programs, such as Conditional Cash Transfers is rewarded based on desirable actions such as enrolling children in school. Instead of encouraging families to stay at home rather than work, since the program is conditional and neglectful behavior may face suspension, the people work as hard as ever.

As a conclusion, while education is an important if not necessary cornerstone for economic development and solution to poverty, there are multiple problems that it cannot alone address such as corruption of Government, political instability and war. The various methods that can be used in conjunction with education to produce satisfactory or even better results must not be overlooked. The needs of people in extreme poverty go far beyond availability of education. Education is not the only way, however important and useful it is.

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