Better education can decrease wealth Iinequality
Today the world is doing a lackluster job of findingsustainable solutions to global inequality. This crisis is evident in citieslike Lima, Peru where a “wall of shame” separates the wealthy neighborhoodsfrom the poor shantytowns. It is disconcerting that the United Nationsestimates today that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day, whileForbes reports that the world’s 1,810 billionaires hold a net worth of $6.48 trillion.
The world’s failure to effectively fight poverty can besignificantly attributed to corruption, as most heads of state are moreconcerned with pleasing their wealthy financiers and retaining power. Inaddition, global thought leaders use inequality as a quest for global fame andpadding their bank accounts. Sadly, the majority of influential global leaderslack sincere passion for the poor and compete for awards or reelection, insteadof working together to find legitimate solutions, such as enhancing globaleducation.
Solutions, Not Problems
Today many economists highlight growing middle classes inChina and India as hope for the global poor and decreasing inequality. However,this is a false hope as the UN and OECD defines a middle class citizen assomeone spending or earning at least $10 per day, which in reality is not alarge sum. Plus, as OECD’s Director Mario Pezzini highlights, many middle classcitizens work in the unstable informal sector, lack a good education andknowledge to sustainably accumulate wealth.
In order to make strides in decreasing global inequality,we need to focus on bridging the disparity in education between the rich andthe poor, as nearly 1 billion people today are illiterate. One could argue thatinequality in global education is at the forefront of global wealth inequality.The rich have access to an elite education and use the skills that they acquirethrough learning to grow their income; while the poor lack access to qualityeducation and remain marginalized without the proper tools needed to thrive butinstead barely survive.
At the most basic level, enhancing the education level ofthe poor can help them find quality jobs to provide for their family. Equallyimportant, education creates more brainpower that can work on formulating innovativeideas to solve pressing global problems. Think of the amount of untappedbrilliant minds among the billions of the uneducated who can actually find thesolutions to global problems, instead of being the problem that some peoplewrongly think they are.
Plus, today, if someone lacks basic literacy or numeracyskills then they cannot truly access the educational or social benefits of theInternet. In addition, a country with an educated population is extremelyvaluable to its economic development, as studies show that a country needs atleast 40% adult literacy in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. Notto mention the proven effects of education in the growth of democracy,enhancing health and increasing farming production.
However, when implementing new education programs, we mustavoid a common mistake made in past poverty solutions, which is painting allthe poor with the same brush. We must learn that not all solutions can be fullyapplied in all places, because each region has a unique cultural fabric,geography, history and religion.
This means that just because a solution worked in Ghana 15years ago, it does not mean it will work in Bolivia today. Thus, educationprograms must have different elements to their curriculums in each unique placein the world and include direct input from local leaders.
The first step to improving education for the poor will beurgently addressing the infectious corruption in the Global South that preventsforeign aid from reaching its intended targets. UN Secretary General Ban KiMoon even admits on record that a ghastly amount of 30% of total developmentassistance each year is lost to corruption. This means billions of dollars arestolen by the rich and not invested in the needs of the poor, such aseducation.
Looking into the future, the Global City Institute inCanada has calculated that by year 2100, as a result of rising birth ratescities such as Lagos, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam and Mumbai will each have over 65million people. Hence, as the global phenomenon of urban migration continues,it appears the inequality gap will widen, unless we find solutions fast.
With a rapidly growing developing world population, it istime to put words into action and give the poor a greater education that theycan use to defeat poverty and inequality. The new United Nations globaleducation goal can guide the way, but it needs to be complemented by legitimategrass roots initiatives, as we cannot count on global leaders. Plain andsimple, we need to decrease the global inequality gap through enhancing qualityeducation for the poor, so we can increase global peace.
This article original was published in the Fair Observer
Brad Brasseur is a Canadian international developmentspecialist who has traveled to over 80 countries in the world, while working inseveral NGOs, including extended time on education programs in Peru andUkraine.