Role of Education in Alleviating Poverty

Persisting conditions of social inequality lead to high levels of poverty and contribute to permanence of generational poverty. Such an outcome of social inequality arises since it does not allow individuals to access equal opportunities for education and job placement in society. As such, children born in poor families are likely to have unproductive environment for learning and may fail to attend school so that they cater for other basic needs of the family. Subsequently, these children are likely to perform poorly in school thus fail to get the qualifications needed to become competitive in the contemporary job market. As such, although effects of poverty are pervasive, the effects on education are quite devastating yet education offers the means through which children from poor families can break the poverty cycle.

Poverty primarily affects education because it presents conditions that deter effective learning. For instance, Evans observes that children brought up in low-income households are more likely than children brought up in middle- or high-income households to experience “greater levels of violence, family disruption, and separation from their family” (78). Such events, coupled with material deprivation and financial pressure can lead to reduced quality of family interactions, which could compromise the parents’ ability to be responsive to their children’s need for affection (Hilferty, Redmond and Katz 66). When this is the case, children may be unable to develop the emotional competencies that they need to participate proactively and learn effectively in class.

In a poor family environment, children are also likely to develop negative attitudes towards school and perceive school to be a nuisance. This may occur where parents do not inculcate the schooling culture early in their children’s life. For instance, predominant poverty results into the family placing more importance on entertainment than investing in the long-term project of education. Payne exemplifies this in an observation that families in generational poverty tend to find respite in entertainment to avoid facing the reality of their poor conditions (52-54). For example, they will tend to live in the moment without any consideration for the future ramifications of their actions, usually enjoy good sense of humor that mainly involves ridiculing other people, and lack organization in their lives (Payne 53).  An example of such negative attitude to schooling was noted by Beegle who had experienced life under abject poverty during her childhood. She observes that, even during her early schooling days, she perceived school to be a stressful endeavor characterized by “the stress of trying to arrive on time; having the right clothing, shoes, and lunch; and completing homework projects” (11). As reflected in such statement, children coming from a poor family will find it more challenging to acclimatize to the school environment and thus may not concentrate on schoolwork leading to poor performance.

Negative perception of education and academic performance may also arise where the prevalence of poverty for many generations leads to the inculcation into the belief that academic achievement is the preserve of the rich. When children from poor backgrounds are initiated into such beliefs, even the gifted children in that society may fall to peer pressure and disregard the importance of education and thus lower their effort. In one study, for instance, Ford, Grantham and Whiting found out that gifted black students perceived that “acting white” corresponded with school achievement, positive school behaviors, and intelligence while “acting black” corresponded with low intelligence, negative achievement in school and poor behaviors (216). In this context, the black students are more likely to come from poor backgrounds compared to the white students. Such likelihood arises even with the rise of social class as a prominent determinant of an individual’s economic endowment. As an example, Storer et al. note that income inequality between African Americans and whites has remained constant since the early 1970s, with many African americans earning less than 60 percent of the median income of the whites (18). Accordingly, when children from the poor backgrounds hold the perspective that the rich are more likely to succeed, entrenched stereotypes that discourage the students from poor backgrounds from working hard in school to achieve better may arise.

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