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Tw The Key Icons Set 4 2022 09 16 Rural Education
Education and

Rural Areas

Key message

Access to quality learning and education opportunities continues to lag in rural areas, where half of all youth in developing countries live.


Yet we know that education is a powerful vehicle for poverty reduction, empowerment, and development, particularly for those most marginalised. Without eliminating the financial and structural barriers preventing rural children and youth from getting the quality education they deserve, we will never realise education for all.
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Key challenges
  • Children from rural areas are more than twice as likely to be out of primary school than their urban peers. 
    (UNICEF, 2022)
  • Schools in rural areas often have limited teaching resources. Limited teaching resources can contribute to lower student outcomes such as test scores, which could limit teacher promotion in contexts where teacher advancement is based on students' progress.
    (Evans et al, 2023)
  • Disadvantages and disparities for the most marginalised — girls, ethnic minorities, and the disabled — are further compounded for those living in rural areas. In Ethiopia, 30% of rural young women were literate, compared to 90% of urban young men.
    (EFA, 2014)
  • Rural areas face a shortage of experienced, quality teachers, contributing to large class sizes and worse learning outcomes for rural children. In South Sudan, rural Jonglei State has an average pupil/teacher ration of 151:1, in comparison to 51:1 in the more urban Central Equatoria State.
    (EFA, 2014)
  • The education of children living in largely rural countries was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Weak or zero internet connectivity required for remote learning in the many rural and remote areas of the Plurinational state of Bolivia forced the government to cease education programming altogether in many instances.
    (Dube, 2020)  (Eulich, 2020)
  • Access to technology is more challenging in rural areas, increasing the digital divide. In India in 2020/21, approximately 50% of urban schools were connected to the internet, compared to less than 20% of rural schools.
    (UNESCO, 2023)
  • Limited access to quality education in rural areas can hinder economic development. If children are not given access to high quality education, this can result in a lack of skilled workers in these areas which is crucial for economic development and breaking the cycle of poverty.
    (Wood, 2023)
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  • Education increases the chances of obtaining stable, secure work. In rural El Salvador, 7% of workers without a primary education have a secure, working contract, in contrast to nearly half of those with a secondary education.
    (EFA, 2014)
  • Rural children who are educated are healthier. In rural South Africa, each additional year of education completed led to a 7% decrease in the probability of becoming infected with HIV.
    (Bärnighausen et al., 2007)
  • Education can reduce intergenerational poverty in rural households. In rural Nicaragua, chronic poverty was 21% less likely when household heads had at least six years of education. In rural Senegal, boys with educated mothers were nearly one-third more likely to find higher paying employment outside of agriculture.
    (Stampini & Davis, 2006)  (Lambert et al., 2011)
  • Education boosts income and access to better jobs for those living in rural areas, particularly for girls. A young rural woman with a secondary education has a 10% greater chance of accessing higher paying and more stable wage labor. Young rural women are twice as likely as young rural men to neither work nor attend school.
    (IAFD, 2019)
  • Education empowers rural families to diversify their income, building flexibility and resilience, and increasing earnings. In rural India, 17% of women with no education work outside of agriculture, compared to 72% of women with a secondary education.
    (EFA, 2014)
  • Technology allows student populations in rural areas to continue learning. 75% of all schools in Kazakhstan are in rural areas. The country developed over 3,000 TV based lessons purchased digital devices for low-income families and more than 400,000 students, and utilised free online platforms and websites offered by private companies. This has allowed students to continue to learn remotely.
    (UNESCO, 2021)
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