Saturday, December 7, 2013

Providing Minimal Levels of Education, Especially for Women

Providing Minimal Levels of Education, Especially for Women
There is fairly convincing evidence that female education especially of 4th grade and above correlates strongly with reduced desired family size, although it is unclear the extent to which the female education causes reductions in desired family size or whether it is a faster pace of development which leads both to increased demand for female education and to reduction in desired family size. There is also a relatively widely held theory -- though not statistically validated -- that improved levels of literacy contribute to reduction in desired family size both through greater knowledge of family planning information and increasing motivational factors related to reductions in family size. Unfortunately, AID's experience with mass literacy programs over the past 15 years has yielded the sobering conclusion that such programs generally failed (i.e. were not cost-effective) unless the population sees practical benefits to themselves from learning how to read -- e.g., a requirement for literacy to acquire easier access to information about new agricultural technologies or to jobs that require literacy. Now, however, AID has recently revised its education strategy, in line with the mandate of its legislation, to place emphasis on the spread of education to poor people, particularly in rural areas, and relatively less on higher levels of education. This approach is focused on use of formal and "non-formal" education (i.e., organized education outside the schoolroom setting) to assist in meeting the human resource requirements of the development process, including such things as rural literacy programs aimed at agriculture, family planning, or other development goals.
1. Integrated basic education (including applied literacy) and family planning programs should be developed whenever they appear to be effective, of high priority, and acceptable to the individual country. AID should continue its emphasis on basic education, for women as well as men. 2. A major effort should be made in LDCs seeking to reduce birth rates to assure at least an elementary school education for virtually all children, girls as well as boys, as soon as the country can afford it (which would be quite soon for all but the poorest countries). Simplified, practical education programs should be developed. These programs should, where feasible, include specific curricula to motivate the next generation toward a two-child family average to assure that level of fertility in two or three decades. AID should encourage and respond to requests for assistance in extending basic education and in introducing family planning into curricula. Expenditures for such emphasis on increased practical education should come from general AID funds, not population funds.

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