Impact of poverty on child education

Poverty affects many people. But the effects of poverty are seen most in children. And, with 1.21 billion people living below the poverty line in India, the children are sure to bear the consequences of it. Not only does poverty affect a child’s development and educational outcomes, it also severely affects a child’s morality and understanding of the right and wrong, as they are denied access to the basic fundamental rights of children laid down in the Constitution of India.

Child Development

Children living below the poverty line are at an increased risk for becoming both malnourished and overweight. This can highly affect a child’s confidence. As parents have limited education, it reduces their ability to provide a responsive stimulating environment for their children. They tend to limit a child’s linguistic environment by using a language that is subjugated by commands, instead of explanations and elaboration on what is good and bad. Mostly, these commands are also backed by negative comments, which further contribute to demoralising the child.


Education begins at home. Children from families living below the poverty line are less likely to be read to, highly restricting proper growth of their skills. Moreover, parents who have not received a proper education tend to underestimate the importance of education, are hesitant to ‘waste’ money on schools. And, even those children that do attend schools have to face taunts and are often treated as outcastes as the present generation children do not accept anyone if they are not from their strata of the society.

Moral Values

Malnutrition, taunting and not getting basic necessities can be daunting enough for any child, a situation which easily becomes a turning point in their life which results in them resorting to joining the antisocial and unlawful elements of our society. In addition, a child who has been bearing the consequences of long term poverty, is bound to think that it is important to be in power and have a good status to command respect of the society.

Here are some surprising facts about poverty and its impact on children in our schools:

  • Due to low-income households, and affect cognitive development the child is disadvantaged even before birth from the prenatal stage through adulthood.
  • Children from poor households hear fewer spoken words than their better-off peers. Parents with higher education and income are more likely to engage children with questions and dialogue that invite creative responses, while parents in poverty often lack the time and energy for anything more than simple and goal-oriented commands.
  • Children growing up in poverty often fail to develop a conception of themselves as free individuals capable of making choices and acting on them to shape their lives, instead reacting to crises that are only magnified by their poor ability to plan ahead or reflect.
  • The day-to-day insecurities of life in poverty interfere with the executive function skills such as impulse control, emotional regulation, attention management, prioritization of tasks, and working memory by releasing stress hormones that direct energy away from them towards more basic survival mechanisms. Regular exposure to these stresses in childhood can inhibit with both academic and behavioural problems.
  • In today’s economy, there is more competition for unskilled work and a minimum wage that has not kept up with inflation, attaining economic independence requires more education, planning, and social skills – exactly the areas in which low-income individuals are deprived to begin with.
  • At present, low-income students are 4.5 times more likely to drop out of high school, and even those who are academically proficient are far less likely to complete college. Financial stability has become less attainable even for college graduates. The reality for many families in poverty is an intergenerational pattern where unstable and stressful early childhood environments lead to poor academic readiness and behavioural issues, concluding in higher dropout rates, crime convictions and teen pregnancies.
  • Education reform should focus on school districts in poor areas with targeted investments designed to respond the effects of poverty on educational achievement. In addition to preschool and extended school hours, their scope can be extended to include health care and nutrition support, as well as parental training and mentoring programs to improve household stability.
  • There are three ways poverty affects physical development. The first is the role of nutrition. Secondly, improper nutrition leads to poor health. Thirdly, the lack of physical activity in students who live in poverty affects their concentration.
  • Children who live in poverty-stricken families encounter many situations that can seriously affect them socially and emotionally. The parents are stressed about health care, housing, and food, they’re more likely to be grumpy and less likely to offer positive comments to their kids. The effects of negative and unstable environments manifest in children’s behaviour at school. Some students are more aggressive and talk back to teachers using inappropriate language. Other students disconnect themselves and become passive — they do not respond to questions or requests. Without stress relief, these students will struggle at school. The influence of an encouraging teacher can offset this negative impact.


Today more than ever, education remains the key to escaping poverty, while poverty remains the biggest hurdle to education. It is important to emphasise that children of poverty do not have broken brains or limited intelligence.  They have brains that have not matured, which can be quickly changed. These students have incredible potential to succeed with the right combination of education and interventions.

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