Achieving education for all

Looking back to the early 20th century, it is clear great strides have been made in global access to basic education, as well as in worldwide literacy rates. There remain, however, significant barriers in both the developed and developing world to accessing a quality education.

Since the early 20th century literacy rates have jumped in the vast majority of states.  Beginning with 1900 and ending with the present day, global literacy rates have risen drastically, with some states, such as South Korea more than tripling the rate of their literate population. Rates of literacy among women have also increased, although there are still countries where it remains difficult for women to access proper educational opportunities.

Examining the progress made in public education, there have also been great strides made in educating the world’s population. In both categories relating to years of formal education as well as the number of children enrolled in primary school, rates have increased dramatically since the early 1900’s with nearly 90% of primary school-aged children enrolled in school across the globe as of 2013, with the number of students able to attend post-secondary level institutions also increasing.


Community supported school in Ethiopia | Photograph © UNICEF Ethiopia\ 2013\ Ose


Rates of educational attainment at university level have also significantly increased. In 1992, 14% of people globally had some form of post-secondary education, but that number grew to 32% by 2012, and is expected to grow as high as 50% by 2025, a sign that many young people are now able to achieve a level of education that was once unobtainable.

Examining the current state of global education, it is clear much progress has been made in enabling greater access in both the developed and developing world. However, there remains a great deal that needs to be done in order to allow for further educational attainment.  While these challenges are diverse and differ greatly, they share the ability to hold back underprivileged groups, and halt social mobility.

In the developing world, the limited funding for local public schools leaves many students without access to school supplies, qualified teachers, or assistance for the disabled, basic resources that are vital to a successful educational system at the primary school level. This has kept literacy rates low in some countries, particularly African nations, and makes the transition to post-secondary education impossible for many.


NUS demonstration against tuition costs | Photograph © semisara via Flickr


In the developed world, access to a quality childhood education is the norm with the vast amount of countries providing basic levels of education to their youth. A greater problem exists when examining institutions of higher education.  In many developed countries, particularly the US and Britain rising tuition rates for university students remain a significant roadblock to higher levels of education.  This hurdle is going to be difficult to overcome, and could continue to be a large barrier to social mobility for underprivileged students.

While the difficulties facing students in developing and developed states appear very different, both share the commonality of economic cost as a barrier to learning. During International Education Week, it is important that we acknowledge both the great strides we have made in encouraging educational progress, as well as recognising the gaps in global access that remain, with the aim of determining  how we can provide the opportunity for a quality education to all.

Find out more about International Education Week #GlobalEdChat

Thumbnail image | © Sandra Calligaro

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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