Face off: Is education the key to ending poverty?


Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Joanne Ma |

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Nicholas Ng, 17, South Island School

One thing Hong Kong is notorious for is its level of income inequality. The sad fact is that  one in five Hongkongers are living below the poverty line.

I think it is clear that education is the key to ending poverty in the city. Not only do I believe it is the most effective solution, but also the most sustainable. If a child from a poor family is able to get a good education, they can use it to get a good job in the future and break the poverty cycle in their family. If parents were also given the opportunity to get vocational training, they might be able to get a better job that can help their family’s financial situation. 

Education is made even more effective by the fact that knowledge can be shared. One family member who is fluent in English can teach other members the language, and that could help make those other members more attractive to employers when they apply for jobs. Computer skills can also be passed on. And once someone is employed, it is a win for the whole family. 

As you can see, there are many ways that education can help alleviate poverty, and it is much more effective and sustainable in the long-term than handouts or vouchers. However, education cannot be mistaken for a silver bullet. The government must improve the accessibility of education and vocational training for Hong Kong citizens, and increase the number of scholarships available to schools and universities. Those in poverty also need to be made aware of the benefits of a good education and how it can help improve their situation. 

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Charlotte Fong, 17, International Christian School

Education is one of the first things that comes to mind when discussing solutions to eradicate poverty. It sounds like a sure-fire way to fix this enduring problem – give every child the opportunity to learn and that will equip them with the means to secure a livelihood. However, the reality is much more complex.

While education might, in some cases, be able to help individuals earn a better living, it is far from the key to ending poverty. In many developing countries, children are indispensable to maintaining their family’s income. 

Many children have to work in fields or help out with the family business, so parents are reluctant to send them to school, especially when they have to travel a long distance for it. Although it can be argued that, in the long-run, investing in a child’s education will pay off eventually and will pave a path to high-paying jobs, poverty-stricken households simply cannot afford to lose a pair of working hands.

Moreover, being given an opportunity to receive schooling does not guarantee that students will receive a quality education. A poorly-funded government school in the rural suburbs will not receive as many resources or qualified teachers as private schools. It is absolutely absurd to say that students from either type of school will get the same job opportunities in the future. 

Poverty is a complex and multilayered problem and cannot be simplified as having one solution. While it would be good for the government to provide better education and vocational training for the poor, they need to analyse the problem further and find other ways to end poverty.