Poverty’s Affect on Education and Where Are My Car Keys? Part I

                                                                                                                                       By H Mac Wooten


Most everyone agrees that the current state of education has problems, everywhere…. IF they are as intelligent and you and me, correct?  Well, what do we Fix First?  Not all children wear size 10 shoes and no one answer is the correct answer to the education problems. So the question becomes, where do we start?” And the answer I suspect is, everywhere.  We start with one classroom, one district, one community at a time.  A grand problem with this is education policy makers world-wide didn’t get the memo.  So many have decided globally, that one-size fits all. The children that don’t wear size 10 shoes will walk barefooted to the employment line.

We have to make a starting point (the children) and go from there to a point where the individual child gets a strong educational foundation. From there we must create education that provides for the individual, a greater span of choices in how to participate and contribute to community and society at large.

My poor attempt at an analogy; “Where are my car keys?”           Step #1. I was going to the store, got in the car and … What happened since I realized my keys were missing?   What is their socioeconomic background.  Where did they start in school? Did they have parents who supported and helped them? Do they have the ability to learn at a pace with the majority of other children?

Step #2.  Retrace my steps.  Are they being taught?  If not, Is the problem the Teacher or the Child? … HINT …. The correct answer is NOT  TEST  TEST  TEST!  If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they can learn. Michael J Fox

Step #3.  Check my pockets one more time.  Go back to step #2 and Hire a Consultant, Blame the Teacher and Design a New Test. Just kidding …..  I believe the majority of educators will agree that their colleagues are some of The Very Best and  Less Than The Very Best people in the field of education.  Sadly, too many of the best are getting tired of fighting the good fight and leaving, but, none the less, the very worst are leaving also and that opens the door for corporations and consultants to keep the poor and uneducated in poverty while … the rich get richer.  This seems to be the pattern in many countries, both Developed and Develop-ing.  My personal short-term fix is that I now keep an extra set of car keys and X-ray my dog often!

There is no quick fix.  All the children out there have different shoe sizes and too many politicians are listening only to the people who put money in their pockets.Dutch Boy

 In recent years it has become increasingly clear that basic reading, writing and arithmetic are not enough anymore as our now global economy continues to evolve.  And so, the dilemma in developing nations grows even more complex. Making sure children are taught the right skills early on, is much more effective than trying to improve skills in adulthood for people who were let down by their educational system.  However, developing countries must teach basic skills more effectively before they start to consider a broader agenda of skills. There is little point in investing in pedagogies and technologies to foster 21st century skills, when the basics of numeracy and literacy aren’t in place.

“The world economy no longer pays for what people know but for what they can do with what they know.”- Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director for education.

Poverty is a persistent problem throughout the world and has damaging impacts on almost all aspects of family life and especially impacts the futures of children. Poverty affects a child’s development and educational outcomes beginning in the earliest years of life, both directly and indirectly. School readiness, and the child’s ability to utilize and benefit from their education, has been recognized as playing a distinct role in escaping from poverty in the U. S. and other developed countries but even more so in developing countries.

The economic definition of poverty is typically based on income measures, with the absolute poverty line calculated as the food expenditure necessary to meet dietary, recommendations supplemented by a small allowance for nonfood goods.  Half of the economic growth in developed countries in the last decade came from improved skills.


*1 Many poverty researchers use a broader definition suggesting that “poor” means lacking not only material assets and health but also capabilities, such as social belonging, cultural identity, respect and dignity, and information and education. Poverty is a dynamic process, with many families cycling in and out of poverty in a relatively short time, resulting in intermittent rather than persistent poverty.  In a study of 30,000 households in India, Peru, and Uganda, Krishna *2 concludes “Up to one-third of those who are presently poor were not born poor; they have fallen into poverty within their lifetimes, and their descents offset the success stories of those that have managed to climb out of  poverty.”  Many studies suggest that the factors that move families out of poverty may differ from the factors that
lead them in to poverty however, the majority of studies show that education has the most positive effect.

The World Bank states that the poverty level in Peru is (Nationally) at 23.9% down from 25.8% in 2012.  

Make no mistake about it. There are two Peru’s. Lima, with about 10 million and a growing middle class and falling poverty rate and the rural Andes and Amazon areas where there is little change. There are still plenty pockets of poverty around Lima and many shanty towns.  According to the World Bank, people in Lima earn 21 times more (in general) (2011) than a resident of the outback, where the rural poverty rate is a staggering 54 percent. *3 Many of Peru’s indigenous children live in poverty.

Poverty Cycle

Poverty Cycle

Poverty does not necessarily lead to malnutrition ,but malnutrition certainly leads to poverty.  Generally, the answer has to lie in educating women as a malnourished mother will have malnourished babies and children. It is a daunting task since there is a window of about 1000 days (from pregnancy to about 2 years of age) when brain and physical development will deteriorate if it is not nourished properly. When that window is closed, by the time children start formal education it is too late hence the high rates of dropouts and educational failure. What future can these children have? A life of menial jobs and subsistence farming and struggling to make ends meet. The circle then continues when these children grow up and start having children themselves. Governmental programs of health and education are largely out of sync with the cultural and environmental needs of indigenous people. Too often, governmental revenues for social aid is transferred to the hands of local municipalities, who don’t have the expertise to build sustainable infrastructure that arrives at long-term growth for the people. Funds are horribly misused, and programs fail or are never finished. Melissas Pictures 125 Because of the low literacy rate, candidates solicit votes with their name painted (on the sides of homes and walls) and often exchange a bag of rice in return.  In a recent election here in the Ancash region of Peru, a candidate was elected because he promised S/500. (soles) to each family for their vote.

1. RAVALLION, M. 1992. Poverty Comparisons: A Guide to Concepts and Methods. Living Standards Measurement Study Working Paper 88, World Bank, Washington.

2. KRISHNA, A. 2007. Escaping poverty and becoming poor
in three states of India, with additional evidence from
Kenya, Uganda, and Peru. In Moving Out of Poverty:
Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Mobility. D. Narayan .

3.Marie Arana, a journalist, and adviser to the library of Congress

Some pictures are courtesy of Google Images.  Thanks to Google Images

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas in Peru.   Please visit us aT http://WWW.T www.teachateacher.org and   www.teachateacher.wordpress.com and at teachateacher on Facebook.

Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit and occasionally loses his car keys and x-rays the dog before placing blame.  A native of Greenville S.C.   We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.


2 thoughts on “Poverty’s Affect on Education and Where Are My Car Keys? Part I

  1. Many many people have NO idea how poverty actually hinders education. Just because there is a school and a teacher doesn’t mean kids have equal opportunities. These kids don’t have access to books or internet, they don’t have adequate nutrition or academic supplies. They don’t have support from their parents, who are trying to eke out a living. Your article is very good to draw attention to this. The poor are at an unfair advantage to try to get out of the cycle of poverty. Our school in Guatemala tries to help but struggles with financial restrictions also: http://colegiocristianoguatemala. I founded the school and taught there for 14 years. It was the greatest blessing of my life to try to help these poor kids. Many got out of gangs and drugs. Others didn’t.

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