Education is important at the individual level, but it is clear that it also affects the well-being of nations. Literacy is a cornerstone of education, and it’s important to realize how much it impacts both relative and absolute poverty. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes that true poverty is often a self-replicating cycle because poor children have less access to education and are not as well prepared to take advantage of the education they do receive.
A number of factors are at play here, but issues such as reduced linguistic skills and lack of access to equipment play a big role in reducing access to learning.
Literacy programs that focus on the needs of the poorest members of society can help to break this cycle by preparing children for education and allowing them to reach their full potential. Better literacy skills also allow children to access materials and support that promote UNESCO’s aims of heightening their awareness of their rights and responsibilities, and enhancing their abilities and self-confidence.
The results of this in developing countries include reductions in the number of child marriages and improved maternal survival rates.
While UNESCO’s aims focus on adult literacy as a tool for reducing extreme poverty, research suggests that the best long term way to achieve this is to ensure universal primary education. This is the level of education most accessible to poor children and the key point for achievements that help them break the cycle of poverty.
Reducing the social exclusion caused by illiteracy is one of the major factors in decreasing extreme poverty, as it allows individuals and communities to share skills and seek and give help more easily. This contributes directly to both individual and community development, helping economies and improving people’s personal circumstances. Literacy is a basic need for both individuals and their communities. Without it, opportunities for development and growth are limited, and further education is not possible.