Imagine this, about 775M1people in this world are uneducated. Another 152M1 children are following the dreadful footsteps towards becoming illiterate. Considering today’s world population of 7.4B, a staggering 12% people are either illiterate or are deprived of education.
This is disturbing data, for education is the single most force which can bring a meaningful and measurable change towards the progression of humankind. There are numerous researches, pieces of evidence and statistics that prove how education has uplifted a nation, erased poverty, created a progressive society and eradicated crime. Lance Lochner, a Western economics professor and CIBC Center, Director in his paper, “The Impacts of Education on Crime, Health, and Mortality, and Civic Participation,” explained the correlation between high school graduation and crime. Through the analysis he proved that in the year 1990 United States had 100,000 fewer crimes because of increase in high school graduation providing an annual benefit of about $2 billion.
“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” is an apt aphorism to denote how human psychology works. Schools and colleges give people routine, discipline and a social channel to engage in a logical and sensible manner with society. Education gives people a purpose, a sense of belonging. It is the only tool that gives hope to change one’s socio-economic status and is the only equalizer to diminish the differences between the rich and the poor. When students drop out of a school or a college, they become purposeless, there is nothing that they can look forward to and often, confused, they are drawn towards evil. With nothing to do they get into bad habits like drugs, alcohol and soon money becomes a concern that leads them to petty crimes. Once they escape unscathed from a crime, their confidence increases and before they know it, they become habitual offenders, leading them to prison and ending a beautiful life.
There are about 1.5M individuals who are in the US prisons, costing the US an estimated $1 Trillion. The cascading cost is way more than the accounted expense, for most of the defaulters have a difficult time getting a decent life going post their jail terms and often becomes repeat offenders. Not to forget their immediate families go through the repercussions and the hardships.
There are various studies done by noted education researchers and statisticians2, which indicate early school leaving has a direct correlation to delinquency and arrest. One such study done by Ward et al. 2015 interestingly shows delinquency peaks at age 14 and the first arrest peaks at age 18. A cross-sectional data shows a direct correlation of such arrest to school dropouts. Kuan Chung’s (7th Century BC) wisdom it shows why education is so important: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.”
In the 18th century while the world’s strongest economies were going through a seismic change because of the industrial revolution, there was another important development that took part in a subtle fashion: the structured education system to produce legions of skilled workforce to manage the factories and machinery. Though not often talked about, it was one of the key reasons why education today is ubiquitously present. Between 1833 and 1902, various acts were passed making education accessible for children from poorer population, particularly the education Act in 1880 that made school attendance of children up to the age of 10 compulsory.
Despite such early intervention, unfortunately education in today’s world has become a question of affordability. 60% of the world’s population is in developing nations and a significant portion of this population are either uneducated or school dropouts, both equally dangerous by any measure. Victor Hugo lived in this era and may have seen the vast impact of education on society at large, and thus coining the famous words.
I had the good fortune to hear Mr. Shiv Nadar talk on his belief of giving back to the society. Mr. Nadar runs not for profit schools, for grades 6 through 12, called VidyaGyan in a place called Bulandshahr, about 100 KMs from New Delhi. Every year the foundation goes through a rigorous process of identifying a handful of children who are in the top of the bottom of the pyramid. These bright kids from absolute poverty get a world-class facility in VidyaGyan boarding school. Mr. Nadar’s belief is simple yet powerful. According to him, the impact of teaching these handfuls of children is beyond comparison, for they, in turn, will uplift an entire society. It is like a chain reaction, which can eliminate poverty, reduce crime and create a socially responsible world. The first batch of VidyaGyan graduated about two years back and many of them got admission in prestigious US schools. There is only one condition imposed by Mr. Nadar on the graduating students – to give three years of service to their home country India.
In conclusion, I strongly believe in the words, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” Education not only reduces crime dramatically but it can also create a progressive nation and a blessed humankind.