New Campaign: A mother's education is the single most important factor in children's life outcomes

An Cosán launches its #OneGenerationSolution campaign at its 18th annual International Women's Day Lunch on Thursday 8th March at 12pm at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, TD, Miriam O'Callaghan, Breege O'Donoghue and a number of other high-profile guests and speakers.

**All speakers and case studies of young women who are lone parents who have exited poverty through community education are available for interview at the event or via telephone today**

The event, which is one of the longest running International Women’s Day events in Ireland, will also mark the next strategic phase for An Cosán as it positions itself as a leading community education national organisation with local, regional and national reach.

The #OneGenerationSolution simply means that if you educate a young women who is a lone parent to degree level she will earn 66% more than her peers and and she and her family will exit poverty forever.

As 85% of all lone parents are women, the education of young mothers has never been more important. A mother’s education is the factor most consistently and strongly associated with children’s achievement. It has a larger effect than the father’s education on children’s educational outcomes. Maternal education is more stable than income and is more associated with children’s outcomes than family income. Over and above her employment status and her income, a mother’s level of education is the most important factor in the family.

Impacts of mother’s education level

Higher maternal education is strongly associated with the type of language input and maternal investment behaviour during the crucial early period, from birth to age three, have been identified as most conducive to children’s language development. Vocabulary growth is positively correlated with the quantity and quality of speech to which a child is exposed. Mothers with a higher level of education talk more to their children, are more likely to read to them and to actively engage them in conversations that tend to be more complex and to elicit feedback than less educated parents. Higher educated mothers are more likely to use questions and praise compared with lower-educated mothers who use more directives and commands. On average, children from families where the mother has less education have smaller vocabularies and slower vocabulary growth than children of a mother with a higher education.

Liz Waters, CEO of An Cosán said: “The #OneGenerationSolution campaign draws a renewed focus on the importance of a mother’s education on the lives of children.  Educate a mother and you educate a family. This has a knock on effect on not only her life, but her family, her children, her community and on the wider society. At An Cosán and through our Virtual Community College, we have provided community education to over 17,000 people. Now that we are a national social enterprise providing community education right across the country the demand for our services has increased dramatically and the funding has not increased in any way to meet this demand. We call on partners, funders, philanthropists and Government to prioritise a mothers education when developing public policies and funding strategies.”

Sinead didn't do well at school and at a very young age found herself on a path that included unemployment, depression and living on rent allowance or doing the odd cleaning job. Soon she became a lone parent to her daughter and things got worse. They were living in poverty, cold, hungry and not sure where their next meal would come from. Eventually Sinead heard about An Cosán's courses and encouraged by the free childcare provided alongside the courses, she enrolled. Several years later, Sinead has graduated from her first degree and is now completing a Masters in Education. She has a full time job, a new home, she's providing for her daughter, she bought a car. She says that when she was growing up there was no mention of university. Even finishing school was rare. Now that her daughter has seen her education herself, at 13 years old she is already talking about which Universities she wants to go to. Sinead says that if she had never done that first course at An Cosán she has no doubt that she and her daughter would still be freezing and hungry in that rent allowance flat.