Education for All: Why We Need to Update Our Approach to Keep Up With the Changing Century

Jacqueline Sowah

*Disclaimer: This post was written by the author of the post in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of United Nations Association Youth Platform (UNAYP).*

Over recent years as the world grows more socially aware and amidst the threat of a global pandemic, we have been forced to look closely at systems put in place meant to protect the most vulnerable in society and how we can better support them. One of the most prevalent issues we have faced since the mid-20th century was access to education for all individuals. Although we would all agree that every child has a right to access education regardless of social and economic status, the problem is complicated when factors such as funding and resources, geography, war, gender roles and access to teachers among a plethora of others are attributed.

 

The notion that everyone deserves an education is a relatively new one as access was heavily denied to those who weren’t male or belonged to a different social or ethnic background. During the industrial revolution, children in Britain served as cheap labour due to their small size and lack of labour laws protecting them. Despite the child factory act of 1833, which prohibited children under the age of nine from working, it wasn’t until 1972 that all young people were required to stay in full-time education until 16 and some form of employment or training till 18 in 2003. There has always been a strong correlation between how well a country provides its citizens with education and the level of economic prosperity. A key component that measures a country’s development in the HDI (Human development index) is the mean age of schooling and literacy rates. The most prosperous countries take advantage of their inquisitive young population to refine their future and secure economic and social stability. Some notable examples include South Korea, which by the mid-1960s had an unstable economy and political climate, utilised her large population by investing a large majority of research and funding into educating their young people. This culminated in a generation of innovators and modern thinkers who would be the minds behind their ever-growing economy in the 21st century. Despite two consecutive wars and having virtually no secure allies, they showed that good economic management was better than an abundance of natural resources. Other countries include Poland, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. 

The global pandemic has revealed major flaws in the education systems put in place all over the world and in the foundation of the learning provided in most western nations. In the 21st century, access to education is no longer enough without the correct recourses such as access to technology and the internet. With a large number of the population having to endure national lockdowns schools were faced with helping children have access to the correct technology for students to continue their learning. 

However, it should not take a global pandemic for us to recognise the faults in systems put in place to ensure a better future for our society. Furthermore, I believe the fight isn’t over until education is easily accessible to all the children of the world as well as adults. The UN among other organisations believes that close proximity to education is a fundamental human right regardless of age, gender, religion or political belief. In 2015, 193 countries agreed upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to achieve them by 2030 a collective effort is needed across the globe. Education should not be denied to others because of gender, belief and a lack of recourses. I believe the time for meaningful action is now. Although education has other issues such as inclusivity and more conversations concerning the mental health of young people, we can all agree that to be fighting for this basic human right in the 21st century sets us back far more than any progress we make in other fields.