New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 180

new internationalist
issue 180 - February 1988

[image, unknown]

The Great Brain Robbery
In the Third World it is poverty that prevents people from developing their intelligence and imagination. Even the education that is available is distributed unequally, favouring young urban males. In rich countries imagination and intelligence are also threatened by mass entertainment which encourages people to spend their time passively watching television. And it is the poor who are most vulnerable to its effects. Worse still, the mass entertainment of the rich countries is now being exported to the Third World where many children can expect no more than a couple of hours of primary school a day. Many children watch TV while parents work.

[image, unknown]

COULD DO BETTER

Between 1965 and 1978 spending on education rose fivefold in the industrialized countries and sevenfold in the developing world. Since then, however, despite large increases in the population of children, there has been a slowdown. Expenditure on education per head has declined in one third of African countries and in nearly two thirds of Latin American countries.1

  • In Ghana and Sri Lanka primary school attendance has dropped and drop-out rates have increased.2
  • In Jamaica and Brazil the percentage of children passing examinations has dropped sharply.2
  • In Bolivia both absenteeism from primary school and child labour have increased.2

Of the 1,500 million children in the developing world, 715 million are without places in school. If they all held hands they could encirlce the earth four times.


DROP OUTS

Photo: Dexter Tiranti In poor countries children may enrol in primary school but they often don't complete their courses.

Drop-out rates.2

Rich countries

Poor countries

Very poor countries

5%

30%

49%


Children drop out of school for many reasons, including:

  • No money for fees
  • Poor health
  • Distance to walk to school
  • Need to work during school hours

BRAINS OR BULLETS

Both rich and poor countries spend more on arms than on education.

[image, unknown]


EDUCATION FOR WEALTH

In poor countries fewer girls than boys enrol in primary school. In some African and Arab countries eight out of ten women are illiterate.7 Yet it has been shown that the maternal education is related to lower infant morality. This may be because literacy enhances a woman's status and employment prospects, or that it gives her greater access to information which will help her protect her health and that of her children.


LOST FOR WORDS

Of the world's 3,223 million adults, 893 million cannot read or write.3

Some of these people have never had any opportunity to learn to read and write. The elderly women are most often left out of education. Others may have been part of a mass literacy campaign which was imported without regard to the language, needs or interests of the people. The impact of such campaigns is brief.

[image, unknown] (%)

Industrialized countries

98

China & other East Asia

71

South Asia

44

Africa

46

Central & South America

83

Southeast Asia

79

West Asia

59


TV OUSTS READING

Despite sophisticated education systems and materials, the majority of people in the rich world fail to develpo their intellectual potential. Failure in school is very common among the under-priviledged, reading outside school hours is a very rare activity and the amount people read declines with age. In many rich countries children spend more time watching TV than they do on any other activity.

Children's use of public libraries in the UK in 1986 %2

Age

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Often

9

24

8

22

9

17

1

12

Never

31

26

27

19

29

18

34

26


There are good libraries in the UK, but they are used less as children grow older, and by boys less than girls. One survey found that reading is seen as girlish.

  • Children spent £49 million ($83 million) of pocket money on books or papers and £136 million ($245 million) on sweets in the UK in 1986.5
  • By the time American children reach the age of 18 they have spent more time watching TV than at school. The average American citizen watches an average of seven hours of TV each day.7
  • Canadian children aged between two and 11 years spend an average of 56.2 hours a month watching TV.6

GLOBAL PROGRAMMING

The TV habit is spreading rapidly to developing countries too. And the available programmes come mainly from the US, which dominates world trade in TV programme exports.

  • Egypt purchases 78% of its TV programmes from the US.8
  • Colombia purchases 80% of its TV programmes from the US.8

DOMESTIC SCIENCE

In rich and poor countries alike girls are channelled towards school subjects which bar them from the well-paid scientific and technical professions.

  • Two-thirds of girls in Danish technical colleges in 1982 were studying just three subjects; the clothing trade, textile design and the hotel industry.
  • In Ghana girls took only 20% of technical college places and most were studying just three subjects: dressmaking, embroidery and catering.9

1. Philip Coombs, The world in crisis in education, 1985.
2.
UNICEF, The State of the World's Children, 1987.
3.
David Morley and Hermione Lovel, My name is Today, Institute of Child Health, London, 1986.
4.
Ruth Leger Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures, 1986.
5. W. H. Smith Reading Survey, 1986
6.
Book Marketing Council Symposium, 1987.
7.
AC Neilson & Co., Survey 1984-5, Ontario, Canada.
8.
Marie Wynn, The plug-in drug - Television, children and the family, 1977.
9.
World survey on the role of women in development: United Nations' Conference on the State of the World's Women, Equality, Development and Peace, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985.

last page choose another issue go to the contents page [image, unknown] next page


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on The Facts

Leave your comment