Education for Social Welfare

Education is key for reducing poverty, increasing economic growth, and fostering more peace and equality in the world. Here are the key components of education, its global benefits, and how organizations are working toward a future where every country has quality education and an opportunity for lifelong learning.


Education involves imparting information, knowledge, values, skills, habits and beliefs in order to facilitate learning. This is done through discussion, training, teaching, storytelling, and directed research. Learners can be taught by educators or through self-directed learning.

Types of Education
There are several common approaches to education.

Formal education is structured and takes place over a specific period of time. There is a set curriculum that is well-defined, and it is taught by teachers trained in the subject. This could also include activities that take place outside the classroom. In this approach, students have to abide by a strict set of rules. This is the leading type of school in many countries.

In the United States, students start formal education at six years old. They attend elementary school for up to six years, and then go on to secondary school, which consists of middle school or junior high school, and then high school. Upon high school graduation, students are awarded a diploma or certificate. They can then choose to go on to college at a state college, community college, private college or an institute of technology.

In the United Kingdom, primary education starts at five years old to 11 years old, after which they move on to secondary education from 11 to 16 years old, where they will have to sit for their GCSE’s. Students can then go on to further education by sitting for their A Levels if they intend to go to college or university.

Informal education

Informal education is neither planned nor structured. It is also not organized by any particular organization, and there is no fixed schedule or curriculum. An example of this would be learning how to do math by shopping in the store, or learning how to make a sale by helping at a parent’s shop. There is no conscious effort made to education but it happens through experience.

Non-formal education

Unlike informal education, non-formal education is still planned, deliberate and implemented systematically. While not considered formal education, it still serves the needs of a group that is homogeneous. It could take place over the course of a lifetime as opposed to any fixed period of time. It is often similar to formal education, but takes place outside the realm of formal education. An example of this could be a homeschool group that follows a set curriculum.


Self-directed education is also known as auto didacticism, and it’s a process that involves learning by yourself, educating yourself through the resources found on websites and libraries. This can be done in any field and at any point in your life. Some notable autodidacts include Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci.


Indigenous education incorporates indigenous models, knowledge, content and methods within education systems. This often takes places in a post-colonial context, to combat the loss and leaching of indigenous knowledge, culture and language through colonialism.

Benefits of Education
Education has a profound influence over a society. Research has been performed by UNESCO and others to identify the factors that education impacts and the following has been reported.

Reduce poverty

It has been found that poverty would be reduced by 12% globally if all students in low-income countries had basic reading skills by the time they left school. This would mean 171 million people rising above poverty. The reason for this is because education equips people with skills and knowledge which can boost their productivity, leading to better jobs. Every year an individual stays in school equates to a 10% lift in their earnings.

Helps our environment
When individuals are educated, they are more aware of the environment and are able to make decisions which are sustainable. With 1.1 billion people lacking regular access to clean water, climate change, frequent natural disasters, the loss of biodiversity, and rapid depletion of the earth’s natural resources, it is crucial that people know how to take proper action.

Improve economic growth

Education is the key to economic growth for societies, as individuals who have received education are much more prepared to contribute to society by performing more sophisticated employment roles. This translates into both long and short term economic growth. With at least 40% of adults having reading and writing skills, a country is able to achieve and sustain rapid economic growth. Girls receiving an equal educational opportunity as boys is essential for boosting developing countries’ growth, and yields a higher return on investment than any other investment. Each year of education allows a person to increase their earnings by 10%, equating to a .37% increase yearly in GDP.

Save children’s lives

A child with an educated mother is more than two times as likely to live to the age of five, and is 50% more likely to receive vaccinations. Women who have been educated for 6 years or more are more likely to look for care while pregnant, for the childbirth, and after the birth, cutting down on the risk of child and maternal illness and mortality.

Fosters peace

Education is essential for developing a democratic and inclusive society. Each year of school decreases a man’s likelihood of being involved in violence by 20%. It is a potent tool against extremism and terrorism, by providing opportunities and alleviating injustice.

Reduce Hunger

Individuals who are better educated are able to cultivate agriculture that results in higher wages, productivity and agricultural income. In Kenya, agricultural yields increased by 22% when women farmers received equal education and input as men.

Promotes gender equality

Education allows women and girls to make healthier decisions for themselves economically and personally. Not only can this help to increase their self-esteem and power to make decisions; education will also reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS and poverty, improve wellbeing of women and children, increase the age of marriage, and reduce female genital cutting.

Healthier population by combatting HIV/AIDS and other diseases

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is reduced by 50% among youths who complete primary education. If every single child regardless of gender finish primary school, it could prevent at least 7 million incidences of HIV within 10 years. Furthermore, women in Malawi who have completed secondary education have 32% higher rate of knowledge about reducing HIV transmission with the use of the mother taking drugs during pregnancy. Known as a ‘social vaccine’, education has proven to be the singularly most effective tool against the virus. This is because it facilitates access to treatment and helps to reduce discrimination and stigma.

Increased life expectancy

There is a strong association between education and increased life expectancy. In a study among 15 OECD countries, a 30-year-old man who has received tertiary education can be expected to live eight years longer than one who has not finished upper secondary education. Adults who are more highly educated are also more likely to show stronger engagement in civic spheres, including volunteering, voting, political interest and building trust interpersonally.

As you can see, education is key to a healthy, stable, productive, and peaceful society. As such, it has been placed as a priority for organizations worldwide.

Literary Rates in Different Countries

UNESCO 2015 reports

UNESCO compiled a list of countries sorted by literacy rate. See the chart here. The results are based on self-reports from people aged 15 and above who are literate. Globally, the literacy rate was 86.3%, with 90% for males and 82.7% for females. This rate varies from country to country, with developed nations having the highest rate at 99.2% and the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the world’s illiterate people are found in West and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, with women forming close to two-thirds of those who are illiterate.

2016 country rankings

Another more recent study conducted by Central Connecticut State University analyzed literacy in more than 60 countries. Here you can see the findings.

Source: John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn

Helping Countries with Poor Literacy Rates
One important question is, what can we do to improve education globally to improve literacy rates and consequentially, quality of life? Here are the initiatives which are in place currently.

World Bank’s Global Investment in Education Goals
The World Bank is committed to helping all countries that request financial and informational support to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to achieve quality education and opportunities for lifelong learning for all by 2030.


In Bangladesh, there has been a 27% increase in enrollment in secondary education among poor children, and the passing rate on the secondary level has risen from 55% to 85% in 2014. In Bulgaria, close to 80% of at-risk children passed school readiness diagnostic tests after receiving early childhood education, as compared to only 40% before the scheme.

India saw an increase from 50% to 78% of its elementary school teachers receiving improved training in 2012. Enrollment of girls also increased to over 48%. There has been an increase from 72% to 85% of separate toilets for each gender in schools. In Indonesia, more than 500,000 impoverished children below the age of 6 received early childhood education in a period of 6 years. Jamaica saw an improvement of its literacy rate from 70% to 78% in 2009.

In Nigeria, post-basic education was boosted, with the number of students attaining B and above in science and technology two times the expected number. Results based financing benefited both Pakistan and Vietnam, with 8000 students in the latter country having access to non-public professional secondary school and non-public upper secondary schools. Tuition subsidies reduced the rate of dropouts and increased access to higher quality education.

19 ‘Africa Centers of Excellence’ received support in Universities located in West and Central Africa, educating more than 2000 students on subjects that are crucial for developing the country. These subjects include sanitation, water engineering and crop science, and are open to students from the whole sub-region.

In Yemen, there is an increase in girls’ access to secondary education, with retention rate in Grade 10 to 12 increasing from 78.3% to 84.5%. Equipment and resources were improved in 50 schools, with 43 schools being built, improving the learning environments of its students.

Individual Countries’ Investment in Education

In addition to the World Bank’s efforts toward improved education, individual countries are also launching programs to help the expansion of education. Here are a few examples:

U.K Programs
The U.K. has a department of international development through which they provide support for education around the world. You can read the latest on their projects and programs on their policy page here.

Canada Programs

Canada designed programs to improve access to education, improve the quality of infrastructure, recruit and train teachers, and provide an income stream for adults.

U.S. Program

Through USAID, the US Government is investing in Pakistani children and youths by improving access to quality education. It has repaired or built over 1,000 schools, trained more than 20,000 teachers and school administrators, and offered more than 15,400 scholarships for students temporarily displaced to attend institutions of higher education. By improving the quality of basic education, removing barriers to enrolling in school, and nurturing a culture of higher education, the US wishes to help the Pakistani society thrive by making sure both boys and girls receive education.

Private Programs
In addition to government funded programs, there are also private organizations with the aim to improve the state of worldwide education. One such example is ProLiteracy. They are a program that supports other initiatives that promote adult literacy instruction as well as advocates for laws that promotes literacy. Additionally, they provide tools and resources for teachers and students. Their vision is to help adults become literate in order to alleviate poverty, further human rights around the world, and improve public health.

The benefits of education are irrefutable, cascading down to all levels of society. Ensuring that all have access to a quality education is one of the most important goals of the century which governments on all levels are working towards along with private efforts.