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After 40 years, the world's women are far more educated

A new study shows that women have doubled their years in the classroom, to an average of 7.1 the world over. That has profound economic and societal benefits, and has contributed to a big drop in child mortality.

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Over the past 40 years, women around the world have moved ahead in formal education, doubling their average number of years in the classroom.

That’s a profound development, with positive effects in personal and public well-being.

The education progress is reported in an unusually large-scale study of 175 countries that looked at the connection between women’s schooling and reduced child mortality.

The new study, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, found that between 1970 and 2009, mortality of children under age 5 fell by half, to 7.8 million deaths per year.

Half of the drop is because women of a reproductive age are better educated. That helps mothers make better choices about personal hygiene, nutrition, and parenting. The study appears in the Sept. 18 issue of The Lancet.

What the research shows about education itself is also encouraging. Both women and men are getting more schooling. Four decades ago, women had an average 3.5 years in school. Now they have 7.1 years (men have 8.3 years) – a sign that it’s time to concentrate on secondary schooling.

Every region of the world has shown improvement, especially in the developing world. Some countries in the Middle East have made more recent progress. In Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, women have gained an average of three years in the classroom since 1990.


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