International Dev: Education & Poverty

This text aligns direct and indirect relations between education and poverty through the lenses of various approaches namely: the human capital approach, the human development, human capability approach and the basic needs approach.

The human capital approach attunes to the direct impact education has on the reduction of poverty. The core of this approach suggests that education can increase knowledge, skills, abilities etc adding to the productivity of the individual thus increased likelihood financial earnings. The correlation between increased earning and levels of education is “universally and quite steeply and systematically, in case of general population and also of sub-groups of population (males, females, rural, urban, socially deprived sections, etc.)” (Tilak, 2002 p.192). Beyond economics, this approach highlights direct and indirect effects of education on social change, health, nutrition, increased democracy, income distribution, civil rights etc (View Appendix 1)

The basic needs approach dictates that education is a foundational need that contributes to overall quality of life. This approach contrast the human capital approach in that is does not directly value the economics of education but moreso as a need that fulfills other needs such as, “utilization of health facilities, shelter, water and sanitation, and its effects on the behaviour of women on decisions relating to fertility, family welfare and health (Tilak, 2002 p.193). (View Appendix 2)

The human development perspective identifies the deprivation of education as a ‘multi-dimensional’ problematic that goes beyond low-earnings as it impedes access to opportunities and the development of human capital. Moreover education not is seen as ‘means of development’ rather as ‘development itself’. In other words educational poverty is poverty itself as low education equates to poor capabilities and limited freedoms. This approach serves to cover weaknesses in the human capital approach by focusing on the human welfare and opportunities rather than the economic growth. From the human development approach spawned a separate branch  identified as human capability approach that differentiates income poverty and capability poverty. It suggests that education equates to low income, low capabilities and thus limited freedom. This theory is solidified with the notion that education should not be viewed as a means to end income poverty rather, “education constitutes a part of human freedom and human capability” (Tilak, 2002 p.196). The author concludes the synopsis of the approaches by indicated that both the human capital and human development approach recognize the human component. A hard emphasis is established on the human capability approach as being able to indirectly ‘influence social change and economic output’ (Tilak, 2002 p.197). Spawning social-political change can be accomplish through educative outcomes namely: increased literacy (read, write, critical thinking), the ability to select options in more informed ways, increased societal respect and the expansion of societal , political, historical understanding. The amalgamation of these variables and other increases the ability of the educated person to contribute to the democratic process.

This article continues to wield the connections between poverty and education by indicating a cyclical relation suggesting that income poverty causes educational poverty and educational poverty causes income poverty. Moreover it criticizes assumptions that suggest that education does not reduce poverty, trained qualified teachers are not important, non-informal education as an assistant of poverty reduction, poor people do not value education etc.

Within the same vein, Kayode (2012) defines poverty, human capital and goes further to explain the relationship between education, poverty and the lack of development in Nigeria. He compares Nigeria to the Countries known as the Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan), to the Scandinavian Countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark Finland) through the lens of public expenditure on education. Nigeria falls behind these countries many countries including China and Japan in regards to investing in Human Capital. The text attributes the growth and success of Western European countries that were decimated by wars to their investment in human capital. Moreover, countries whom are part of OPEC that have access to natural resources do not invest in human capital though education and thus have shortage of skilled manpower among many other issues. Nigeria is one of the riches countries in the world in regards to natural resources, however due to its lack of investment in human capital, weak educational infrastructure, inconsistent policy etc 70 percent of the population live in poverty.

Can education truly give us freedom or is the typical educational institutions simply the training grounds for a life of bondage in a destined office space.

Can increased levels of education contribute to the democratic process, why or why not?

Do you agree with the notion that increased levels of education can assist women in making better choices in regards to fertility, family and their overall health?


Kayode, A. (2012). Capital development and Poverty Alleviation in Nigeria: A Symbiotic Overview Retrieved from:

Tilak, J. (2002). Education and Poverty. Journal Of Human Development3(2), 191-207. doi:10.1080/14649880220147301