Development Report 2000/2001 indicates that the biggest problem of poverty, besides the lack of food, is
the lack of power directly related to a lack of knowledge. Worldwide
almost 1 billion people lack a basic skill to acquire knowledge: they are
illiterate. They are illiterate because they have had no primary education or
because the quality of their primary education was too low.
Basic education, an investment that
The value and role of
”knowledge” is different in every culture but good basic
education is essential in every culture and at all levels. A carpenter needs to know what an angle of 90 degrees is. When a mother does not want her child
to get diarrhea, she needs to know the basics of hygiene. Millions of
Africans do not have access to information on HIV/AIDS because they cannot read. (See "Education
and economic growth" Morrison)
knowledge and access to information enables people to choose good governments
(or to oust bad ones). The effectiveness of investments in health and sanitation depends on good basic knowledge among villagers.
The effectiveness of extension services for poor farmers depends on their
capacity to understand what is being explained to them.
A recent OECD study states that those few
countries in Africa that years ago significantly
invested in (primary) education, now derive economic
growth from this investment. Going
back in history, it is generally acknowledged that the introduction of
compulsory primary education in Western Europe
in the 19th century has been a crucial factor for economic and
priority to primary education does not compete with other sectors, it supports
their development. A well educated
population is also crucial for countries wanting to take advantage of
market opportunities, wanting to export or to
attract foreign investment. Free market access is important but what
do you do with it if your country has no competitive enterprises because
its population cannot read or calculate or is not innovative.
The consequences of not getting good
The absence or the poor quality of basic education not only becomes
visible in illiteracy but also shows its effects among people who do finalize
secondary school and university.
factories, hospitals and farms in developing countries often work
inefficiently, not because the people working there are not capable but because they lack the right knowledge and skills.
A test in Nicaragua
showed that 7 out of 10 engineers could not calculate the contents of
a cube with sides of 1 meter. The argument was that they did not
have the formula at hand. A doctor in Ghana claimed seriously he had
vaccinated more than 120 % of the village
population. Are these engineers or
doctors “stupid” or less intelligent? Of course not, something went
wrong when they passed through primary school.
They probably got teachers without an adequate level of knowledge, who were
poorly prepared or who were not motivated.