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Education is KEY to Development

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Education is the process where an individual acquires or imparts basic knowledge to another. It develops skills essential to daily living, develops judgment and reasoning, learns social norms as well as how to discern right from wrong. A quality education gives a person the knowledge and skills they need to face daily life challenges. This indeed prepare the person to take advantage of economic and lifelong learning opportunities.  Thus, education is a human right, a powerful driver of development, and one of the strongest instruments for one’s success in the life. It leads towards reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability of any community, a country, or the globe. Thus, one cannot simply ignore ‘education’ and think of a prosperity of life.

Education is generally divided into three categories: formal education, informal education and nonformal education

Formal education is the type of education usually provided in class at an educational institution. It is there that students are taught basic skills such as reading and writing, as well as more advanced academic classes. Also known as “formal learning”, it usually starts at elementary school and leads to post-secondary education. It is provided by qualified teachers or professors and follows an academic program.

Informal education, on the other hand, is the type that is done away from a school’s premises. Often, it’s when someone is learning skills or gaining knowledge at home, visiting libraries, or browsing educational websites through a device. Learning from elders in your community can also be a significant form of informal education. This education is often not planned or deliberate and does not follow a specific schedule or program of study. It is spontaneous and can also be said to be a natural form of education.

Non-formal education is similar to formal and informal education. It follows a schedule and is consistently implemented, but not necessarily within a school system. It is flexible in terms of time and program and usually has no age limit. The most common examples of non-formal education are community courses, vocational training or short programs which are not provided by professional instructors.

Generally, traditional schooling dictates the way one’s education success is measured. It is prominent that higher level of school education has led more and better opportunities that leads to success in all ends. For instance, in developing countries, every additional year of school increases a person’s income by 10 percent. According to UNESCO, 171 million people could get out of poverty simply by giving basic reading skills worldwide.

The following factors demonstrate the importance of education for a person and for society.

  • Education leads to develop communication skills by learning how to read, write, speak and listen. The ability to read, write and do arithmetic gives power. When people are able to read, they have access to endless learning and information. When they can figure out their expenses and budget, they can start a small business. Together with the ability to form opinions, literacy makes people more independent and gives them confidence.
  • Education enhances critical thinking, which is important for using logic in decision-making and interaction with people. Educated people are important to building a country’s economy. Studies have shown that countries with higher literacy rates are more likely to make progress in human and economic development. National economic growth starts with individual, often educational, economic growth.
  • Education helps an individual meet basic professional qualifications and makes him or her more likely to get better jobs. One’s income is often linked to one’s level of education. Worldwide, there are more job opportunities for those who complete high school, graduate, or graduate studies. These can also mean higher salaries.
  • Education fosters gender equity and contributes to the empowerment of girls and women. It makes a difference in the lives of women, children, and the world. World bank evaluates that teen pregnancy rate can be reduced significantly by extra one year of education for girls. In an ideal world, there is no room for discrimination based on race, gender, religion, class or level of literacy. Here comes the value of education. With education, you can develop strong, well-thought-out opinions – and learn to respect the views of others. Many experts agree that education makes an important contribution to peace in societies.
  • Education decreases child mortality. UNESCO reports that a child born to a mother who knows how to read is 50 per cent more likely to survive after the age of five. In general education leads to a better health of an individual or a family. Families with higher incomes can more easily purchase healthy food, have time to exercise regularly, and pay for health services and transportation.

Considering the literary rate (criteria for assessing literacy vary between countries), world population older than 15 years 86% are literate. Developed nations mostly have an adult literacy rate of 96% or better.  Central Asia, Europe and North America have the highest literacy rates for youth aged 15-24 at nearly 100 percent. The sub-Saharan region of Africa has the lowest, at 75 per cent. According to UN, two thirds of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women. Nearly 72 million children of primary school age are not attending school, out of which over 39 million (or 54 per cent) are girls.  However, the numbers are reducing in some regions of the world. The global youth literacy rate has increased to 89 per cent, while the gender gap has declined to 5 percentage points.  here is a tendency for poverty and illiteracy to go hand in hand. Education is frequently less available in poor areas. In addition, even where education is available, a distressed family may need their children to work and earn money instead of going to school. Most of the countries with the least literacy are in South Asia, West Asia, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which also include most of the world’s poorest countries. Figure 1 shows the literacy rate in different countries of the world. You would notice the issue is much severe in African continent. Table 1 and 2, show the most literate and least literate countries in the world.

Educational approaches for children and adults vary from country to country and from region to region. A nation’s wealth and stability often impact what it can deliver. How each country has contributed to education, has shown the degree of success of this country over the long term as well. One of the most significant measures of a nation’s development is its educational system. In developed countries, education opportunities are plentiful and affordable, and most adults have literacy skills and at least lower secondary education. These countries are likely to rank amongst the smartest countries in the world. The following map (Figure 2) shows the most educated countries in the world, and you would notice that most of them are developed countries.

Source: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-educated-countries

According to a 2017 UNESCO report, the number of students in higher education institutions around the world has risen from 100 million in 2000 to 207 million in 2014. But what are the more educated countries? This is not as easy a question to answer as one might hope, because “most educated” is an imprecise term. For example, which would be considered more educated: “A country in which 50% of the residents have completed secondary education and 25% have attained a tertiary degree, or one in which 100% of residents have completed secondary education but none have a tertiary degree”.  Although the concept is vague, many surveys and studies have done their best to identify which countries have the most educated population. One of the world’s best-known analyses comes from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, which released its list of the world’s best-educated countries in 2018 (Table 3).

The OECD list compares the percentage of each country’s residents ages 25 to 64 who have completed some form of tertiary education: a two-year or four-year degree or a vocational program. According to OECD data, Canada is the best educated country in the world, with 56.71 per cent of adults meeting OECD criteria. Japan has the second highest share at 51.44%, followed by Israel at 50.92%. However, it’s worth noting that this list compared only the 43 countries that are members or partners of the OECD, leaving out roughly 150 countries that happen to not belong to the OCED. It should also be pointed out that these rankings change if the data are broken down by age group (Table 4).

Table 4. Percentage of Citizens who have completed Tertiary education by Generation – OECD 2021

Obviously, education plays a critical role in human, social and economic development. Education can promote gender equality, reduce child marriage, promote peace, and increase a person’s chances of having a healthy life. The education to be a human right, one that grants every person more opportunities in life, such as employment opportunities, better health, and the ability to participate in the political process. Thus, don’t hesitate to invest in education!






Saman Janaranjana Herath
Saman Janaranjana Herath
PhD (NRE). MBA (Fin). Associate Professor, University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, USA. Writer,


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