Education is an area where economic gains from meeting basic needs are most distinct. Investment in primary education in developing countries has very high rates of return, both for society and for the individual.29 These monetary returns do not take directly into account mutually reinforcing non-monetary returns especially pronounced with respect to the education of women, such as reduced child mortality, altered fertility patterns and better human development in general. Differences in educational attainment are extremely important in explaining differences in income. Donors and nations suffering serious basic needs deprivation could make the provision of quality education a cornerstone of their basic needs strategy.
An intergovernmental conference a decade ago promised basic education for all children by 2000. But 400 million children worldwide still lack even basic literacy and numeracy skills. Another conference in Dakar in spring 2000 will pledge to put all children in school by 2015. With a nation like Nepal spending just US$ 12 per child per year on education, rich countries must give more through aid and debt relief to make these pledges a reality.