Brookings scholar on relationship between poverty, education 

Lecturer argues outlook for developing world depends on opportunities, youth

Winthrop. Courtesy Photo.

“Do poverty and conflict lead to poor educational attainment or does poor educational attainment really have a hand in fostering poverty and conflict?”

Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, addressed this question in a lecture on Thursday.

Entitled “Education in the Developing World: Helping to Solve the World’s Big Problems?” the lecture took place in the Greenspun Hall Auditorium.

Winthrop began by discussing how the developing world is defined and measured.

She showed several slides illustrating topics like poverty levels, challenges in developing countries and youth population.

“Another feature of the developing world,” she said, “it can be very depressing or very hopeful, largely depending on what educational opportunities exist [and] how young or youthful the developing world is.”

After addressing the defining qualities of the developing world, Winthrop spoke on the reasons that education is often inaccessible due to poverty levels and conflict.

“Conflict is one of the things that particularly impacts the ability of countries to have advanced education systems or to advance the educational attainment of their population, their children or their youth,” Winthrop told the audience.

Winthrop concluded her lecture by addressing ways that conflict and poverty hold back progress, how the power of education can battle those obstacles and how the global community should address these issues.

Massive teacher shortages, high student-to-teacher ratios and no school structure are among the problems education faces, Winthrop said.

She said that the presence of quality education in a country can improve its economic growth and its civil life as well as provide positive long-term health effects for the population.

She described several programs that address helping developing countries.

The Education for All program and the Millennium Development Goals are some of the programs that endeavor to enroll more children in school, Winthrop said.

“I think it was important to hear how the issue of global education is important to the U.S. for economic and national security reasons,” said Bill Brown, director of Planning and Communication at Brookings.

The lecture ended with a question and answer session.

Many in the audience were interested as to the actual effectiveness of policies designed to increase education in the developing world.

Audience members cited things like the caste system, religious sects, conflict and a lack of properly educated and committed teachers as some of the problems addressing education in developing countries.

After addressing these concerns, Winthrop concluded her presentation and met with the audience.

She said that if people were interested in getting involved in world education projects, the Brookings Institution has always welcomed ideas, input and involvement.