Why is education important in order to achieve the MDGs

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The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established after the 2000 Millennium Summit in which United Nations Member States and International Organisations consented to achieve by the year 2015 (United Nations Millennium Development Goals, 2010). The MDGs set time bound targets in improving social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries, which progress towards reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion, while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability. They also embody basic human rights so that each person on the planet has the right to health, education, shelter and security (Ki-Moon, 2010).

Three major areas of Humanity are focused in the MDGs: Firstly, reinforcing human capital by improving infrastructure, and increasing social, economic and political rights, specifically focusing on increasing the basic standards of living (United Nations, 2006); Secondly, improving infrastructure through increasing access to safe drinking water, energy and modern information communications technology, amplifying farm outputs through sustainable practices, improving transportation infrastructure, and preserving the environment; and finally the social, economic and political rights, including empowering women, reducing violence, increasing political voice, ensuring equal access to public services, and increasing security of property rights. The goals are intended to increase an individual's human capabilities and advance the means to a productive life (United Nations, 2006).

As individuals acting together we have the power to take action and influence the process of reaching the MDGs by 2015 (End Poverty Millennium Campaign, 2010). Education is important in achieving these goals. A basic education of a good quality is necessary for developing an understanding of the world and the possibilities it provides, and for being able to function effectively within it. Without the knowledge and various skills developed through schooling and basic education programs, the opportunities for individuals and the ability to act independently are greatly reduced (UNESCO, 2010).

Intensifying the movement towards education MDGs will lead directly to an acceleration of many of the other MDGs (2010 MDG SUMMIT, 2010). In this essay I will explain why education is important in order to achieve each of the eight millennium development goals.

The first goal of the millennium development goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Poverty forces children out of school displacing their education driving them into the low paid work force because parents cannot afford to educate them. Haines & Cassels (2004) explain that one year of schooling can increase a person's earnings by 10% with each additional year of schooling lifting the average annual GDP by 0.37%. Accessible education can help feed an impeccable cycle of enhanced growth and an elevated reduction in poverty, aiding the poor and benefiting society as a whole. Education provides people with the skills and knowledge they require in order to increase income and develop employment opportunities. By educating the poor, women and vulnerable groups it opens doors to jobs and credit and has the potential for economic growth. With strict laws on compulsory education the millennium development goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger should be achievable in the future.

The second MDG is to achieve universal primary education. Every child regardless of where they live deserve the right to an education. The Development Education online Depository (2010) state that universal primary education involves entering school at an appropriate age, progressing through the system and completing a full cycle of primary education. By eradicating primary school fees millions of children worldwide have the chance to gain literacy and numeracy skills increasing the percentage of educated people in the world, increases the opportunities for employment and a stable future for many children which in hand will help in achieving the MDG of achieving universal primary education.

The third MDG focuses on promoting gender equality and empowering women. Attaran (2005) state that there are 759 million people in the world that cannot read or write, and of those people two-thirds are female. Females face many barriers to education in several countries around the world, ranging from negative attitudes to the burden of household work and distance to school. In order to redress the balance education needs to be made a priority, special efforts such as employing female teachers, supporting poor families and making the education system girl-friendly could help in promoting gender equality and in empowering women.

Severine & Shahani (2009) claim that there is a strong correlation between educating females and an increase in women's earnings, improved child and family health and nutrition, an increase in school enrolment, protection against HIV infection, higher maternal and child life expectancy, reduced fertility rates and delayed marriage.

Equal schooling for both boys and girls is the foundation for development in achieving the MDG of promoting gender equality and empowering women.

The fourth MDG aims to reduce child mortality. Providing education to girls provides a great chance of survival to her children in the future. Severine & Shahani (2009) claim that a mother with secondary or higher education more than halves the risk of child mortality compared to a mother with little or no education.

As mentioned above there is a strong connection between educating females and higher maternal and child life expectancy as well as improvements in child and family health and nutrition, they are also more probable to immunize their children.

Educating women, with at least primary education, the MDG of reducing child mortality is more likely to be achieved.

The fifth goal aims to improve maternal health. Maternal education is one of the strongest antidotes to childbearing-related risks (United Nations, 2010). By educating females it enables them to make improved health associated decisions, fewer mothers would die and the MDG of improving maternal health would have a greater chance of being achieved.

The sixth MDG intends to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Education is the key to combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and many other diseases. Education institutions take a central role in the prevention of HIV and other communicable diseases as they can reach out to a large number of people, encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours providing them with the knowledge and skills to reduce their chance of contracting HIV. School health programs are also ideal in providing awareness and hygiene practices to help fight malaria and other diseases.

Haines & Cassels (2004) state that women with an education higher than primary level are five times more likely than literate women to be aware of and know about HIV/AIDS. Education offers an important measure of protection against HIV and other diseases. The MDG for universal primary education is estimated to prevent 700, 000 new HIV infections each year (MDG Monitor, 2007). It is claimed that education reduces the vulnerability of girls, and each year of schooling offers greater protective benefits.

Education is the best vaccine against HIV and Aids and other diseases it is also the most cost effective way to achieve the MDG of combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

The seventh MDG is directed at ensuring environmental sustainability. Education for sustainable development (ESD) can help us to live sustainably. ESD is defined by UNESCO as the aims to help people to develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon these decisions. By providing education for environmental sustainability it also educates students on key issues including poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, global warming and climate change, gender equality, corporate social responsibility and the protection of indigenous cultures (TeachMDGs, 2010) ESD will allow individuals to make decisions that meet the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations. Education is essential for ensuring environmental sustainability.

The eighth and final millennium development goal is directed at developing global partnerships for development. Developing countries financially cannot provide universal primary education for free to their people. Therefore a global partnership is needed to fill the financial gap for education so that globally the education-related development goals can be achieved. And if developing countries make education a priority they can then in turn boost their economy, which can help to achieve all of the millennium development goals.

Teaching and learning in schools should aim to enhance skills, knowledge and behaviour related to the millennium development goals. Schools should plan their curriculum so that content covered increases the impact that education has on the MDGs. Such as, in order to combat child mortality and to alter female empowerment, curricula on cleanliness, sanitation, and measures to minimize contagious diseases. In the case of environmental sustainability the school should include programs such as the need to conserve water and trees. To improve the nutritional status of the students the school can introduce meal programs to ensure the students have atleast one nutritional meal each day. Schools can also promote gender equality by the different roles that school leaders take. Positive behaviours aimed at achieving the MDGs can be learned and reinforced throughout education.

By introducing adult education and literacy programs for both men and women can provide opportunities for employment, improving labour productivity and introducing programs such as water and sanitation. The impact of adult education for women can result in lower child mortality rates and higher levels of maternal health. With the completion of secondary education women are more likely to seek out antenatal care and better medical treatment, are more likely to send their children to school, and have greater economic opportunities that will alleviate poverty and hunger. All in all adult education in occupational and life skills will positively impact the millennium development goals.

2010 should not be the beginning of the 'new and uncertain' journey towards the millennium development goals, rather it should be the 'refueling' point on this voyage that has been going on for the past ten years. The next five years complete the journey in achieving the MDGs by 2015. With the implementation of the millennium development goals in school curriculums globally the plan to reach the destination should be achievable.


Attaran, A. (2005). An Immeasurable Crisis? A Criticism of the Millenium Development Goals and Why they cannot be Measured. PLoS Medicine 2(10) 318.

Development Education online Depository. (2010). Making Global Connections through Education. Retrieved from http://www.developmenteducation.info//

Haines, A. & Cassels, A. (2004). Can the Millennium Development Goals Be Attained? British Medical Journal, 329(7462) 394-397.

MDG Monitor. (2007). Quick Facts. Retrieved from http://www.mdgmonitor.org/country_progress.cfm?c=BEN&cd

Moon, K. (2010). Millennium Goals. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml

Severine, D., & Shahani, L. (2009). An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency. Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

TeachMDGs. (2010). The Millennium Development Goals. Retrieved from http://teachmdgs.net///

United Nations. (2006). The Millenium Development Goals Report: United Nations Development Program. Retrieved from www.undp.org/publications/MDGReport2006.pdf

United Nations Millennium Development Goals. (2010). Summit on the Millenium Development Goals. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/milleniumgoals/