A study conducted by Results for Development Institute (R4D), revealed that out-of-school children of primary age significantly impact the economic growth of developing countries.
The Washington-based NGO conducted the study in response to what they said is a worrying trend in global education. They found that there are 57 million children of primary school age who are not enrolled – with most living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Milan Thomas, a program associate for R4D, stated although promising strides have been made in reducing the number of out of school children, progress has slowed down in recent years.
“The benefits associated with primary education are really undisputed at this point because there are countless studies showing that children who complete basic education tend to enjoy better health and higher incomes over their lifetimes," he said. "But, at R4D we feel that even for old policy questions with established answers, there are always new and compelling ways of presenting evidence to galvanize action.”
He pointed out that it was in this spirit that his organization led off its research with the question, “what is the estimated cost of a country’s out–of-school children?” In finding the answer, he said out of school children should be considered an untapped source of economic growth.
“So what our methodology does is we value the cost of out-of-school children in terms of loss of economic output," Thomas said. "We use data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics, as well as studies in developing labor markets to estimate the loss that 20 developing countries will suffer if strong measures are not taken to remedy the under-education of their children.”
The researcher pointed out that another big twist to their study is that it also took into account the earnings that out-of-school children will forego because their exclusion from basic education precludes their access to higher education.
Thomas said the research also found it is far more expensive in sub-Saharan to have children out of school than to educate them. He said on average the cost of out-of-school children dwarfs the spending required to achieve universal primary education by a ratio of five to one. Furthermore, he explained the cost of such children exceeds the value of a full year’s average economic growth for five of the countries in the study sample: Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mali, Senegal and Yemen.
What this means for example is, “for a country like Senegal, where the cost of out-of-school children is nearly 8 percent of their GDP—it takes a two-year stunting of its economic trajectory, if it does not educate this generation's out-of-school population.”
In another example he cited, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children, numbering at 10 million children. Thomas pointed out this equals 42 percent of primary age children not in school in the country.
“What does this translate to according to our study, Nigeria will lose a full one percent of its GDP in ten years when its children will enter the labor force, and that is equivalent to nearly $3 billion,” explained Thomas.
He said he hopes the detailed research will be used by local governments and policy makers to make a final push to achieve universal primary education.