Education is the best investment

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Blogging from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York City.

New research by Chris Murray at the University of Washington gives us powerful evidence of the importance of achieving MDG 2 -- education for all.  Murray found that half the reduction in child deaths over the past 40 years can be attributed to better education of girls.  For every one-year increase in the average education of reproductive-age women, a country experienced a 9.5 percent decrease in child deaths.

Fifty countries have already achieved universal primary education, but there are still 70 million school-aged children who are out-of-school - more than half are girls.  Girls also lag behind boys in completing school.   This is unacceptable. World Bank President Bob Zoellick just announced an additional $750 million in IDA support over the next five years to help girls and boys - mostly in Africa - to get in school, stay in school and learn. 

This money will help address some of the biggest obstacles to education in poor countries, including hiring more qualified teachers, bonuses for high-performing teachers and schools, scholarships, early childhood development and nutrition programs, and cash transfers to families which depend on sending their girls to school. 

We know these interventions work: for example, in Malawi, a conditional cash transfer program reduced the dropout rate among adolescent girls by more than 40 percent. The Malawi study is only the most recent evidence of the effectiveness of similar interventions in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Mexico. A good quality education is the most powerful tool we can give our children to help them escap poverty and lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.

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Photo credit: Alfredo Srur / World Bank


Elizabeth King

Non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

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