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Education alone can’t solve the poverty problem: Abhijit Banerjee

According to Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, education, even if it doesn’t raise a person’s income, certainly makes him a different person. Access to education is in a sense a fundamental block of how we conceive of a democratic society. In that sense the economic aspect of education is just one aspect. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)Premium
According to Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, education, even if it doesn’t raise a person’s income, certainly makes him a different person. Access to education is in a sense a fundamental block of how we conceive of a democratic society. In that sense the economic aspect of education is just one aspect. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

  • Banerjee said it has been found that poverty cannot be alleviated just by educating people, as education may become meaningless if labour markets did not provide jobs

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NEW DELHI : Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has given a fresh perspective on the role education plays in solving the problem of poverty among nations. Speaking at 2021 Yidan Prize Summit, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said education is key to democracy as it provides people full access to society’s resources and makes them full participants in various societal activities.

Speaking on the session—“ Putting Children at the Heart of Teaching and Learning"—along with with co-Nobel laureate Dr Esther Duflo, Banerjee pointed out that education may be an important aspect that has helped reduce poverty. He added, though, that  it certainly did not hold the key to an economic upgrade.

“[Irrespective of whether] education is key to poverty alleviation or not, it is key to democracy. [Education is fundamental to the] idea of being in a society where people can be full participants and have full access to the society's resources and to their own possibilities. With democracy I don’t mean political democracy necessarily but mean democracy in a deeper sense of giving everybody a chance," Banerjee said.

“Education, even if it doesn’t raise a person’s income, certainly makes him a different person. Access to education is in a sense a fundamental block of how we conceive of a democratic society. In that sense the economic aspect of education is just one aspect," he said.

Abhijit Banerjee, with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics (the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) for helping to develop an innovative experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Banerjee said that poverty is not one problem and it's like a cancer that manifests different problems and each one deserves its own answer…there are different reasons why people are depressed, people are people are sick, people have no access to financial markets, people have no access to infrastructure.

“…all kinds of very good reasons why people don't reach their potential. What education does is create their potential it gives them the option of being who they can be. I think that's a fundamental sense in which education is different. Its constitutive, it makes us who we are," Banerjee said, and added that their learnings have showed that poverty cannot be alleviated just by educating people, as education may become meaningless if labour markets did not provide jobs.

Duflo said that one of their experiments in Ghana showed that education was responsible for starting the cycle of changing life but at the same time absence of labour market was creating hindrances.

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