One of the most important aspects of human rights issues is the right to education. Education is key to reducing poverty, political, social and economic inequality, and to sustaining economic growth. It serves as the foundation for every democratic society. Yet, education is still one of the rights that half of the world’s population can barely have access to. Emphasizing on my particular interest in education issues, this essay will examine problems and challenges underlying in Education for All (EFA) and reasons why policymakers should make it a priority.
Despite international efforts to promote Education for All, results seem not to be so satisfying. According to EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/4, it is clear that EFA goals will not be completed by 2015, due largely to the disadvantaged groups that have been marginalized in most parts of the world. Even though statistics shows that from 1999 to 2011, the number of out-of-school children has declined dramatically by 50 million from 107 million to 57 million, 57 million of them were still out of school. By 2015, only 68 out of 122 nations are estimated to realize universal primary enrolment. Moreover, the level of adult literacy remains low. Statistically, even with a gradual decrease from 24% to 16% between 1990 and 2011, illiterate adult population is still high, 774 million are still unable to read and write.
The problem is not relevant to only statistical results of EFA, but also the fact that all the attempts to achieve Education for All have a strong emphasis on the universal primary enrolment rate, rather than on the completion rate and the learning outcome. Gross enrollment ratios are usually 10 to 60 percent higher than primary completion rates.
The underlying challenge of Education for All is first due to inaccessibility and unaffordability of public and private education. For instance, a high number of destitute children in Africa cannot attend early childhood education in 2011. Second, the challenge of primary completion is due to socioeconomic status of children’s families. Owing to insufficient financial support, children drop out to earn income or take care of sick family members.
Policymakers have to pay attention to education policies, which is the firmest foundation for finding solutions to other problems. Primary education is the key to helping people achieve other rights and to resolving other persistent issues. With education, people have the ability to advocate for their own benefits and communities, voice their concerns to nation leaders, exercise their rights, deal with environmental issues, and so on, contributing largely to process of democratization and solutions to human rights and other issues. Literacy is the best indicator of poverty and income generation. Individuals equipped with skills and education tend to overcome other issues, such as health, involvement in crime activities and so on. Like Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Thus, I call for attention of all policymakers to make education the first policy priority.