United Nations: Improving women`s access to quality education could save an enormous number of lives in India and Nigeria which together account for more than a third of child deaths, a UN report has said.
In 2012, 1.41 million children under 5 died in India and 0.83 million in Nigeria. If all women had completed primary education, the under-5 mortality rate would have been 13 percent lower in India and 11 percent lower in Nigeria, the 2013/14 Education for All Global Monitoring Report said.
If all women had completed secondary education, it would have been 61 per cent lower in Indiaand 43 percent lower in Nigeria, saving 1. 23 million children`s lives, said the report published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Education also helps overcome gender biases in political behaviour to deepen democracy, it said.
In India, reducing the gender literacy gap by 40 percent increased the probability of women standing for state assembly election by 16 percent and the share of votes that they received by 13 percent.
The report said widespread poverty in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh affects the chance of staying in school until grade 5.
In Uttar Pradesh, 70 per cent of poor children make it to grade 5 while almost all children from rich households are able to do so.
Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, 85 percent of poor children reach grade 5, compared with 96 percent of rich children.
Once in school, poor girls have a lower chance of learning the basics. No more than one in five poor girls in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are able to do basic mathematics.
The report added that children who learn less are more likely to leave school early.
In India, children who achieved lower scores in mathematics at age 12 were more than twice as likely to drop out by age 15 than those who performed better.
In some countries, the engagement of teacher unions has improved policies aimed at helping disadvantaged groups. In India, teacher unions have a major influence on state legislatures and governments.
If days are lost because teachers are absent or devote more attention to private tuition than classroom teaching, the learning of the poorest children can be harmed.
Across India, absenteeism varied from 15 percent in Maharashtra and 17 percent in Gujarat two richer states to 38 percent in Bihar and 42 percent in Jharkhand, two of the poorest states.
There is much evidence of the harm done to students learning because of teacher absenteeism.
In India, for example, a 10 percent increase in teacher absence was associated with 1.8 percent lower student attendance.
Governments should work more closely with teacher unions and teachers to formulate policies and adopt codes of conduct to tackle unprofessional behaviour such as persistent absenteeism and gender-based violence.
It said codes of practice should be consistent with legal frameworks for child rights and protection and a range of penalties, such as suspension and interdiction, clearly stipulated.
Policy-makers should ensure the curriculum focuses on securing strong foundation skills for all, is delivered at an appropriate pace and in a language children understand.
"India`s curriculum, which outpaces what pupils can realistically learn and achieve in the time given, is a factor in widening learning gaps."