Well into the 21rst Century, we have yet to find solutions to the inequality in global access to education. In 2018 and according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), about 263 million children, adolescents, and youth worldwide (or one in every five) were out of school – a figure that had barely changed over the past five years.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the inequality gap in education has widened because most schools in developing or underdeveloped countries had to close their doors, leaving students with no access to any kind of education for several months. These countries did not have the infrastructure and know-how to provide their students with remote and online learning classes when schools were closed. The basic human right to education became at risk and many children around the world lost their access to education.
As such, inequality in education today has taken many forms and should be addressed in its complexity. Equal access to education means more than what it meant pre-pandemic. It means access to technology and proficiency in its use, access to learning and learning support, and access to literacy and numeracy skills acquisition.
Access to education took a whole new meaning with EdTech initiatives blooming everywhere like flowers in spring. While it benefited some, it alienated those who do not have access to the technology to take part in this new shift in paradigm.
Exactly a year ago in 2021, according to Jaime Saavedra
, World Bank Global Director for Education “The world was facing a learning crisis before COVID-19. The learning poverty rate – the proportion of 10-year-olds unable to read a short, age-appropriate text – was 53% in low- and middle-income countries prior to COVID-19, compared to only 9% for high-income countries. A year into the pandemic, continued disruptions to schooling, shifts in learning modalities, and concerns for students’ well-being are ever greater, and this learning crisis is getting worse. COVID-19 related school closures are likely to increase learning poverty to as much as 63%.”
That is why UNICEF, the World Bank, and Johns Hopkins University had partnered to create a COVID-19 – Global Education Recovery Tracker. The tracker serves as a database to understand and act upon the needs of each country by providing the necessary support when possible. But more can be done by the local communities of people to support the ones lacking access to education.
What are the steps that we as citizens can take?
As citizens of the world, we need to tap into our human capital in all its glory. On a micro level, schools in different neighborhoods can take part in initiatives that will provide tools and support to the underprivileged students.
Once the students are given the necessary tools to join the EdTech ecosystem, it is the existing community’s mission to understand the value and importance of helping others thrive. Because together we can make the world a better place and ensure a better future for generations to come. Digital platforms may help us go beyond the boundaries set by the physical world and reach out to those who need our support to become better citizens of tomorrow. Digital platforms can bring peers together, no matter their backgrounds and socio-economic factors, to learn with each other and from one another.