Improving access to education has long been considered an important means of combating child labour. But how important are the different elements of ‘education quality’? And which should be addressed first in order to reduce child labour?
In fact, the evidence is limited. To help answer these questions, ICI conducted a study based on data from 258 cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The study explored the relationship between child labour and two elements of education quality: school infrastructure & services, and school management.
In both countries, the presence of school toilets, and the availability of scholarships at secondary school level were linked to slightly lower rates of child labour.
In Ghana, the availability of a school feeding programme was also an important factor. In Côte d’Ivoire, child labour rates were lower when primary schools had a canteen, when school management committees had been trained, when teacher attendance was monitored, and when class sizes were smaller.
To see the effect of all these factors together, they were combined in a quality education index.
In Côte d’Ivoire, there was a strong, statistically significant relationship between higher education quality and lower rates of child labour. The 20% of communities with the lowest score on quality education had an average child labour prevalence of 29%, whereas the 20% of communities with the highest score on the index had a child labour prevalence of 10%. The same trend was observed for Ghana, although it was less pronounced and not statistically significant.
The findings of this study provide compelling evidence that as well as ensuring access to school, we should care about the learning environment children experience once enrolled.
Beyond this study, other elements of education quality, such as teaching, learning and school safety, must be explored too. Further research is also needed to understand to what extent different education interventions can cause a reduction in child labour or its severity.