STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mauritius
Mauritius is a beautiful island nation in the Indian Ocean long marveled for its exquisite beaches, temperate climate and tropical wildlife. On March 12, 1968, Mauritius gained independence and has since worked to stabilize its people and economy.

Under the parliamentary system, there have been ups and downs. There has, however, been a large push in recent years to equalize and promote equality of girls’ education in Mauritius.

Mauritius School Enrollment

Over the years, Mauritius has had an increase of boys enrolled in school, both in primary and secondary grades. However, with an uptick in the care for girls’ education in Mauritius, there has also been an increase in the girls attending school.

As of 2015, the gender parity between the sexes was 1.03, an indication that there are actually more boys left out of the current curriculum than girls. This is a big difference from the 1970s where the disparity was between 0.93 and 0.95. Such a change shows the work that Mauritius has done to assure that girls’ education in Mauritius is a forefront focus of the country.

The problem women face in the Mauritius economy does not end at the education level. In fact, girls education in Mauritius is one of the rare areas in which women outshine their male counterparts. While women currently outperform men in the school systems, female unemployment is quite high and women are mostly not employed in upper-tier jobs.

Gender Inequality

A documented reason for such a void is the lack of women with STEM-related degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) since they are mostly focusing on the humanities instead. Mauritius values the higher paying STEM careers, and there exists a continuous and gender unequal payment gap as a result.

Unfortunately, the history of colonialism in Mauritius displays its ugly side even today and has contributed to the classist privilege for certain people to obtain education over others. Many children, primarily from the non-elite groups in Mauritius, leave school before passing government tests.

Additionally, 20 percent of the students that do leave are considered to be functionally illiterate, which leads to marginalization — especially of women in society. Poverty rates then also increase as a result.

STEM Focus

There has been a recent push in papers written and subjects explored to explain the lack of women in STEM careers. These studies included determining how equipped schools are to teach these subjects and found that the lack of collaborative practices in the classroom is a large factor in keeping girls education in Mauritius at its low level in these subjects.

The conclusions from such papers include that while girls education is a priority in Mauritius, STEM-related teachings need to be more predominant and further encourage female participation.

Implementation of New Systems

The Minister of Education and Human Resources of Mauritius recently determined that there would be various new tactics used to encourage education for girls in Mauritius. While the Minister agrees that girls education in Mauritius is improving at a rapid and excellent pace due to the fact that Mauritius is a small country, he concedes that more of a focus needs to be placed on the STEM subjects.

With the Minister of Education focusing so heavily on this, a promotion of STEM-related areas for girls education in Mauritius should expand greatly. This will provide the country with a strong, talented workforce, and further boost the prosperity of Mauritius.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guyana
The Guyanese government allocated an estimated $31.8 billion to education in Guyana in 2015, nearly 16.6 percent of the total budget. In 2016, $40.3 billion was dedicated to education, which equates to about 17.5 percent of the total budget. This increase in the budget seems to be a trend for Guyana, one which is making a positive impact on the educational system of the country.

Guyana ranks among the top proportional spenders on education in the world. This educational expenditure is viewed by governmental officials as an investment in the country’s long-term socio-economic development.

Guyanese President David Granger said in his address at the National Education Rally in September 2017, “We will improve the delivery of education, the Department of Education System Innovation and Reform is a reality within the Ministry of Education. Innovation will lead to improvement, nothing stands still. There must be more computers in schools, every school must have Wi-Fi and we are working towards that.”

At this rally, President Granger said that “every child in school” is not a slogan, but a declaration of intent and a commitment on the part of his government to eliminate anything in the way of youths accessing education and to help them reach their fullest potential. This declaration is among the explanations Granger has for why Guyana invests so much in education.

The allocated funds have gone towards things like access to schools, construction, extension, rehabilitation and maintenance of Guyana’s educational facilities. It has also gone to things like the “President’s Five Bs”, which are buses, boats, bicycles, breakfast and books. The country’s rural areas are most affected by transportation costs, so by addressing that issue, school attendance is increasing, as families no longer have to shoulder many of the financial burdens of educating children. Many children had to walk or row for hours simply to get to school in the morning, but with new buses, that will not be an issue anymore.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education has already shown incredible promise. At the First Global Challenge in Washington D.C. this past year, the Guyana team placed tenth out of 165 countries overall.

Granger has said that “What we want is a generation of young people, who are educated, who can use computers, who can use machines and help themselves to make a good living… Once you get an education, you would be able to use it…your skills and your technology to use the very products that are coming out of your region in what is called agro-processing. Anything you produce can be processed and exported.”

Agro-processing is among the specific reasons that Guyana invests in education and shows that it is a socioeconomic benefit for Guyana in the long-run. Granger stated that Guyana has all of the necessary resources of fertile land and produce, as well as a tourism industry, but does not yet have enough educated people to develop those resources into full-fledged industries.

It seems that investing in education in Guyana will make President Granger’s vision of a better socioeconomic country a reality with the coming generations.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

STEM Education

Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have been coming in a distant second to their male counterparts for the entirety of STEM’s history.

Since Marie Curie was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. This number is drastically lower than the 572 men who have won Nobel Prizes in that time.

Additionally, only 28 percent of researchers worldwide are women. This immense gender gap has motivated people across the world to alleviate the adversity women continue to face in the STEM world.

Among these is Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who has recognized that many countries hold girls back at a young age due to discrimination, biases and social norms and expectations.

Because girls are turned away from the quality STEM education that boys have access to, girls tend to lose interest in these subjects between early and late adolescence.

At the Cracking the Code: Girls’ Education in STEM conference in Bangkok from August 28-30, officials discussed this gender gap and the ways it can be improved.

Currently, only 35 percent of college students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female, which is undoubtedly low because of the lack of STEM opportunities for girls throughout primary and secondary school.

Progress has been made in some countries, known as “model countries”, that are fighting this gender gap. Malaysia has partnered with UNESCO to achieve gender parity, which has led to 57 percent of degrees in science-related fields being held by women.

Malaysia and UNESCO are working in the global south and several African countries to improve STEM education opportunities for girls. Schools across the globe are being encouraged to pay more attention to female students and provide curriculum and other learning materials that stray from the stereotypical masculinity of sciences.

Support for girls pursuing a STEM education starts at home. Family biases and gender norms are a big contributor to the low number of females in STEM-related fields.

Thus, it is increasingly important for families to encourage young girls to join science and math-related activities and clubs outside of the classroom. Science and math clubs, competitions and camps are a great source of empowerment for girls in STEM education.

While UNESCO and model countries are working to eliminate the gender gap in STEM, it takes the support of educators and role models globally to change the fate of female students.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr



Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.


Millennium Challenge Corporation Impacts STEM Education in Georgia
A $140 million compact signed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government of Georgia in July 2013 improves STEM education in Georgia. The compact, including a partnership with San Diego University (SDSU), is increasing the number of professionals in the STEM fields as well as empowering women and reducing poverty.

Georgia suffers from a lack of professionals in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Few women delve into these fields, and gender inequality can hinder economic growth and poverty eradication.

The MCC compact will improve STEM education and raise the earning potential for Georgians. The SDSU partnership with Georgian universities gives Georgians access to earning accredited STEM degrees. Twenty percent of the first class of students in the program are women. The more that percentage rises, the more poverty rates can drop and gender gaps can close.

STEM programs are important for developing countries like Georgia because they give individuals the skills that they need to make critical decisions about problems in our world, such as lowering environmental impact while improving standards of living.

As the former Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research stated, STEM education will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and to help people make decisions that affect global development.

The MMC compact to improve STEM education in Georgia is only one of many compacts that are giving nations worldwide more access to development opportunities. If Congress passes the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act (M-CORE Act), nations would be permitted to enter into a second Millennium Challenge Compact and reap the benefits of the additional development efforts.

In order for nations to get a second compact, one or more of the compacts must meet specific economic qualifications, and the nation must show progress with its current compact. Supporting the M-CORE Act is supporting poverty reduction and increased economic opportunity for developing nations.

If Congress passes the M-CORE Act, the MCC can implement more opportunities like STEM education in Georgia and increase development efforts worldwide.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr


The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are being heavily encouraged in developed countries, but developing regions are also encouraging and financing STEM education.

STEM focuses on the areas of education that have a scientific focus. Students who earn these types of degrees are able to gain employment in information technology (IT), medicine, higher education and many other fields.

Encouraging STEM growth in developing countries is important because many new jobs are being created in the booming medicine, computer and IT industries worldwide. Educating people in these fields is going to bring tremendous growth to the nation’s economy and help get people out of poverty.

India has been working hard to promote STEM in their educational programs. Even in the United States, the results of their nascent success are visible. However, regions all over Africa are also promoting STEM education to help bolster their economies.

India still suffers from tremendous poverty throughout the country, but the country is trying to change this partly through educational initiatives. The India STEM Foundation strives to build up STEM education as described in their vision: “To create a world where young people are encouraged to celebrate fun and excitement of science and technology, and inspire them to take science and technology based career paths to become tomorrow’s much needed technology leaders.”

To get that vision to come to life, the foundation supports robotics programs and competitions for children. They have many world partners helping to create these positive learning environments such as Lego, John Deere, Caterpillar and United Technologies, to name a few.

Africa is another place that is using education, specifically STEM education, to move people out of poverty. In 2014, the World Bank approved financing for “19 university-based Centers of Excellence in seven countries in West and Central Africa. These competitively selected centers will receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.”

The World Bank is hopeful that this financing will help fill the shortage of skilled workers that Africa is facing in health, telecommunications and industry. Another benefit of financing universities in Africa will be that more students will have STEM education in relative proximity to their homes instead of having to travel abroad for education. This allows more students to have the option of a good higher education. Also, since those students will be trained in their own countries, the skilled workers have an incentive to remain in their regions strengthening the skilled labor force and even creating economic growth.

The United Nations has published findings that affirm that STEM education “can remove poverty and reduce inequality in developing countries.” However, there are several cultural challenges that countries face when implementing long-term improvements in STEM, including children losing interest in STEM classes and the gender stereotypes that often leave girls behind.

Those issues are being addressed. Robotic camps are popping up all over the world, not just in India, and they help encourage children’s interest in STEM fields through fun activities. In addition, more and more women are emerging into STEM fields and breaking down some common gender barriers.

STEM education is becoming more of a focus as our world becomes ever more digital. With the wonderful encouragement that children in developing parts of the world are getting, STEM education and the respective fields should continue improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: George Mason University, India STEM Foundation, UN, World Bank
Photo: Benignant De Eagle