A lack of access to education is one of the primary limits on human development.
International development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is most used in a holistic and multi-disciplinary context of human development–the development of greater quality of life for humans. In 2000, the United Nations signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which includes eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 or 2020. This represented the first time that a holistic strategy to meet the development needs of the world had been established, with measurable targets and defined indicators. Universal Primary Education is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, and great improvements have been achieved in the past decade, yet a great deal remains to be done. The provision of education often focuses on providing free primary level education but also covers secondary and higher education. A lack of access to education is one of the primary limits on human development and is closely related to every one of the other sectors. Almost every development project includes an aspect of education, as development by its very nature requires a change in the way people live.
There has been great progress achieved since 1999 in the achievement of the millennium development goal. UNESCO has found that the number of children enrolled in primary schools worldwide rose by more than 40 million between 1999 and 2007; the net primary enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 58% to 74% over the same period; and international aid commitments to basic education almost doubled from $2.1 billion in 2002 to $4.1 billion in 2007. However, despite all these important achievements, the world is currently not on course to achieve its target of universal primary education by 2015. Currently, there are more than 75 million children around the world of primary school age who are not in school. The majority of these children are in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and within these countries, girls are at the greatest disadvantage in receiving access to education at the primary school age. Moreover, it is estimated that there is a $16.2 billion annual external financing gap between available domestic resources and what is needed to achieve the basic education goals in low income countries. This is due to current aid levels which address only 15% of that gap, resources often not provided to those countries who need it the most, and the amounts pledged not fully honored.
Location contributes to a child’s lack of access and attendance to primary education. In certain areas of the world, it is more difficult for children to get to school. For example, in high-altitude areas of India, severe weather conditions for more than seven months of the year make school attendance erratic and force children to remain at home. Gender contributes to a child’s lack of access and attendance to education. Although it may not be as an obvious a problem today, gender equality in education has been an issue for a long time. Currently, there is a gender discrepancy in education. Enrollment is low for both boys and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, with rates of just 27% and 22%. Today, some 78% of girls drop out of school, compared with 48% of boys. Therefore, a child’s gender continues to contribute to access and attendance today.
Costs contribute to a child’s lack of access and attendance to primary education. High opportunity costs are often influential in the decision to attend school. For example, according to UNICEF, an estimated 121 million primary-school-age children are being kept out of school to work in the fields or at home. For many families in developing countries the economic benefits of no primary schooling are enough to offset the opportunity cost of attending.
Education is becoming increasingly international. The most represented case is the spread of mass schooling. Mass schooling has implanted the fundamental concepts that everyone has a right to be educated regardless of his/her cultural background and gender differences. The system has also promoted the global rules and norms of how the school should operate and what is education. In Europe, for example, the Socrates-Erasmus Program stimulates exchanges across European universities. Also, the Soros Foundation provides many opportunities for students from Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Programs, such as the International Baccalaureate, have contributed to the internationalization of education. Some scholars argue that, regardless of whether one system is considered better or worse than another, experiencing a different way of education can often be considered to be the most important, enriching element of an international learning experience.
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