Before We Can Teach Poor Children, We Have To Educate Their Parents

The 10 most effective ideas for improving the world.
May 10 2012 2:06 PM

To Educate Children, We Have To Teach Their Parents

We can improve education in poor countries by showing parents the importance of schooling.

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Because the programs increase the intensity of child investment in school as well as child time in school, they help to break the cycle of poverty whereby poor parents underinvest in their children’s schooling and doom their children to poverty. 

By increasing child attendance, Orazem argues, we should even see an increase in teacher attendance, which will increase the quality of schooling offered to the poorest children.

Yet, cash-transfers programs are much more expensive than nutrition or health interventions.  That might explain why cash transfer programs are concentrated in wealthier countries while nutrition programs typically focus on the poorest countries. 

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In general, the climate for all of these interventions is worse where the positive  returns are depressed by poor government institutions.  Therefore, the best places to try these interventions are countries that protect individual economic and political freedoms.   Of course, those countries would also have the better capacity to implement an intervention, whether distributing medication, transfer payments, or information on the benefits of investing in schooling.

What priority would you like policymakers and philanthropists to give these educational investments? Have your say in today’s poll:

While Slate readers have been having their say each day, a panel of Nobel laureate-level economists has been considering the research findings. After many months of reading different drafts of research papers, this panel has met to interview the researchers over the past few days.

On Monday, I’ll report on their conclusions—and, I’ll also present the final findings of Slate readers and respond to your comments and questions. Remember, there is a poll in each of the stories published to date, and until Monday you can go back and vote in all of the polls to have your say about what politicians and philanthropists should prioritize.

In this series, Bjorn Lomborg explores the smartest investments to respond to global challenges—and readers get to have their say. See the earlier articles here. Be sure to vote in the poll at the bottom of each article. On Monday, Bjorn Lomborg will present the Slate reader results, showing which priorities you think are most urgent for policy-makers and philanthropists. And he will reveal the findings of a panel of Nobel laureate economists that has also been considering the research.

Bjørn Lomborg is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and directs the Copenhagen Consensus Center. He is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, and most recently How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?

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