Greetings, Starfish readers! We are launching a new blog series on global education. Also keep an eye out for posts from our volunteers and tutors, Starfish event highlights, and more every Thursday! We look forward to your comments.
Many people, myself included, were excited to hear President Obama speak about the possibility of free and universal community college in his State of the Union speech this week. This new initiative raises hope. Not only for those who would directly benefit from it, but for also everyone who recognizes education as a powerful, positive force.
Investing in education is, of course, an investment in the future. At Starfish, we know education has the power to change lives; it gives young people more opportunities and the ability to build up their communities. And it is encouraging to think that the President's newly introduced policy may be part of a trend towards a greater global focus on education.
To nurture this trend, however, there is still much to be done. A recent report released by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics indicated that 58 million children and 63 million adolescents worldwide were out of school. In other words: 1 of 11 children are not in the classroom; 1 in 5 adolescents are not.
The global community intended 2015 to be a benchmark year for universal primary education and yet progress has been slow. Barriers to education include: poverty, child labor, gender discrimination, national and regional conflicts, geographic location, language challenges, malnutrition, natural disasters, teacher shortages, and disability.
A disproportionate number of girls, children with disabilities, and children living in rural areas leave school early or miss out on their educations entirely. UNESCO reports that the solution isn't a matter of simply building more schools, but maintaining education in times of upheaval, combatting the above deterrents, and further determining why students aren't in the classroom.
The situation isn't hopeless, but rather complex. Still, change is possible. Last year, for example, in Ecuador, public school enrollment increased by 16%. The national literacy rate increased to 93%. The state spent a net $1.3 billion on education and made a plan to raise their secondary education graduation rate to 80% in the next several years. It will take hard work to put that plan into action, as it will take hard work to get students worldwide into their classrooms, but it's worth it.