Education can save lives, help reach sustainable development goals – UN agency

A student in a classroom in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: World Bank/Alfredo Srur

18 September 2014 – If all women in poor countries completed primary education, child mortality would drop by one-sixth saving almost one million lives, the United Nations educational agency today reported highlighting the links between schooling and achieving a new set of sustainable development targets.

“The benefits of education permeate all walks of life right from the moment of birth,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which produced the “Global Monitoring Report.”

Calling education “the bedrock of sustainability,” she stressed that “we must work together across all development areas to make it a universal right.”

According to the UNESCO paper, the release of which coincides with the Tuesday opening of the high-level segment of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, education is critical to escape the cycle of poverty.

“Education is a fundamental right and the basis for progress in every country,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said. “Parents need information about health and nutrition if they are to give their children the start in life they deserve.”

Among the areas highlighted in the booklet, the authors note that education helps recognize early warning signs of illness in children, seek advice and act on it.

Education can also help prevent maternal death by helping women recognize danger signs, seek care and mare sure trained health workers are present at births.

If all women completed primary education, maternal death would be cut by two-thirds, saving 189,000 lives each year, according to UNESCO.

Poverty reduction is also linked to education, the UN agency reported. One year of education is equal to a 10 per cent wage increase, and stops the cycle of transmitting poverty between generations.

People with higher levels of education are also more likely to express concern for the environment. In 47 countries covered by the 2005–2008 World Values Survey, a person with secondary education was about 10 percentage points more likely to express such concern than a person with primary education.

UNESCO is appealing to all to sign up online saying they pledge to collaborate and work together in the future. The full list of signatories will be presented to the Secretary-General’s Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning at the end of the General Assembly.

The international community is in the process of completing a new set of sustainable development targets to begin in 2016, following the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty reduction, health and wellbeing, and environmental protection are among the newly proposed goals.

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