[ Question ]

Global basic education as a missing cause priority

by lucy.ea81 min read8th Aug 201915 comments

4

Cause candidatesEducation
Personal Blog

Why is basic education for everyone in the world (12 years/high school equivalent in usa) not a cause priority for EA?

One of the pillars that EA community works on is "Global Health and Development" while there are multiple definitions of development I read it as "Global Health and Economic Development" this is reflected in Give Wells recommendations with roughly 90% going to health interventions and 10% going to Give Directly (poverty alleviation/economic development).

Why is Global basic education not a cause priority? Both for its own sake and for its positive effects on health and wealth.

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment

1 Answers

GiveWell wrote about education in developing countries here. Also, Giving What We Can wrote about education in a more accessible manner here. However, Giving What We Can's report is from 2013 and may be outdated.

1lucy.ea82yI heard the podcast before, but it helped to go through it again. I learnt about LAYS (Learning Adjusted Years of Schooling) and went through the links for articles, interesting stuff. Thanks.

Hello, thanks for the links, I read through them. Giving What We Can depends strongly on Give Well. Both of them conclude or assume that education has no intrinsic value Give Well says "We do not place much intrinsic value on increasing time in school" and Giving What We Can says "...suggests that years in education does not itself increase happiness"

This is really puzzling since EA community is highly educated (from elite universities?) Education is what I value most in my life.

Why does the EA community think "Global health and (economic?) development" i

... (read more)
3saulius2yThinking that education has intrinsic value is might be more rare than you expect. Spencer Greenberg tried to "make a fully comprehensive list of intrinsic values that people report having" here [https://www.facebook.com/spencer.greenberg/posts/10104289467619302] and none of 112 items mention education, although few are related (e.g. "humanity continues to makes progress discovering things that weren't previously known", "people all around the world believe the truth rather than false things"). Are you sure that you value education intrinsically? That is, do you really value education for itself, not merely for its consequences? Would you continue to value it even if it were to cause nothing else? See more on what that means here [https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/ea-global-2018-intrinsic-values/].
-1lucy.ea82yI see education as oxygen or water, those are not mentioned in the list either. That is a very western, developed world list. In the poor parts of the world I assume they might say lack of hunger, malaria, ill-treatment etc.. I see basic education (high school equivalent) as an intrinsic value. (I watched the video) It is also interesting that the video says that money does not have intrinsic value, but Global (economic) development is a headline priority for EA.
5saulius2yWe value oxygen because of its consequences (help us stay alive), not intrinsically. If, for example, we would modify ourselves to survive without oxygen, we wouldn't care about it, hence it's not an intrinsic value. We care about global development because of its consequences too. E.g., we want fewer people to suffer from poverty and its consequences (hunger, easily preventable diseases, etc.). The core intrinsic value here is minimizing suffering.
-1lucy.ea82yThanks saulius. Another way of thinking about oxygen is that is fundamentally important for our life. Likewise I see basic education as necessary to participate in daily life in this global world. Caring about global development is one thing, but EA community gives it headline space in one of its 3 main causes/focus areas (Global health and development, X-risk, Animal welfare). I believe education should be added for its intrinsic value. If we care about Global development for its consequences, I feel that it is getting too much headline space.Education allows individuals to avoid preventable diseases, hunger (via better participation in the industrial economy). Therefore "Global Health, Education and Development" makes sense and dropping it seems to be a mistake. Also Human Development Index [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index] consists of three parts "life expectancy, education, and per capita income" if the most widely used index for thinking about human welfare uses education as one of its three components, why does EA retain two of them and drop education without a solid explanation?
1michaelchen2yIt seems to me that you don't value education intrinsically so much as valuing it as a tool to increase ability to contribute economically, ability to contribute intelligently to public discourse, and ability satisfy basic needs like food and health. Twelve years of public schooling like what is currently taught might not be the best way of improving those things.
-2lucy.ea82yEducation has intrinsic value. It changes outlook towards life, how people participate in everyday society, what hopes and dreams they have. What choices they make in their lives. Illiterate women in agricultural societies gain autonomy via education. It allows them to (partially) resist patriarchy, to choose to have small families, any yes to participate in public discourse, and industrial economy. Women's suffragette movement picked steam after women became literate/educated [https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cross-country-literacy-rates?time=1870..2003&country=USA] Civil rights movement happened after African American's became literate/educated [https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp] All the independence leaders of colonial countries were literate/educated. Every single society that became rich, first became literate / educated. And countries that did not educate themselves stayed agricultural/poor. Argentina is a good example of this, a hundred years ago it was on par with UK in terms of money, but was behind in terms of education. It consistently did not prioritize education and can now be compared to china instead of UK.
2Larks2yIf education is good because it promotes autonomy, that is an instrumental value, not an intrinsic one. It would be intrinsically valuable if people said "I care about education even though it doesn't promote autonomy or health or anything else valuable." You might like to read this SEP article [https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/value-intrinsic-extrinsic/] about the difference.
0lucy.ea82yEducation has instrumental value, it more importantly has intrinsic value. From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article All of which in various forms are based on the foundation of basic education. I have consciousness of the world and universe because of my education, without which I would have less consciousness. For me education is valuable “in itself”, “for its own sake”, “as such”, “in its own right.” I notice that I used the language of intrinsic value, the question uses "for its own sake" before I was aware of the SEP article. Also "development" has no intrinsic value, why is it headlining EA efforts? I would prefer EA to emphasize "Global Education and Health" over "Global Health and Development"
2michaelchen2yIndeed, development does not have intrinsic value. EAs who support global health and development do so generally because they believe it is effective for reducing suffering (and possibly increasing autonomy, etc.) What kinds of education do you think are most valuable? Is precalculus equally valuable as ethics philosophy? Or is it whatever that particular person feels most interested in? Is the astonishingly high rate at which students forget the material after the course ends something that should be ameliorated with spaced repetition, or is it better to spend the time learning new material? Should mindfulness and sports education be considered education and thus intrinsically valuable? Are there things that aren’t generally taught that should be?
2lucy.ea82yI fully support Global Health as a cause priority, health has intrinsic value. Education also reduces suffering (and is valuable for its own sake, has intrinsic value), why is it excluded in EA? Education in agricultural societies is in terrible shape, even that education is valuable for kids who would otherwise have no education. I have no expertise on what should be in that curriculum. My take is simpler: give kids 12 years basic education, whatever is the norm in those societies (and also take relevant global input). Yes that includes playing sports at school. There is no straight line from money to well being. See my downvoted example below comparing South Africa and Philippines. Another example is life expectancy in USA vs other industrial countries [https://ourworldindata.org/the-link-between-life-expectancy-and-health-spending-us-focus] . Or maternal mortality rate is USA vs other industrialized countries.
-1lucy.ea82yHere is an example where straight relationship between money and health does not hold Country--->PhilippinesSouth AfricaGross National Income per capita (ppp)$ 4,002 $9,812Life expectancy (years)72.352Mean years of schooling8.78.2Figure 2. Perspicuous contrasts: The Philippines does more with less (Data from the 2010 UNDP Human Development Report) Source Sen’s Capability Approach [https://www.iep.utm.edu/sen-cap/]