Access to Education Across Cultures

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Education is a pillar of our society, and the most important aspect of having a literate, intelligent population. As widely acknowledged and appreciated as the importance of education is, it is still not as accessible everywhere. In some countries, it is not common for children to go to school for eighteen years, while in other places there may be available education, but they do not have access to the proper supplies and material to teach children effectively. Some countries are both.

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This has a great effect on the success of these countries, since education has a great impact over the way the mind develops, and countries that have strong access to education see positive results in their citizens. Making the world a better place starts with creating better access to education in countries that are currently lacking it. This is a cross-cultural problem that has been and needs to continue to improve in order to have a better common understanding of our world and each other.

Education systems are important all around the world, but it is also important to recognize the differentiation of education systems in different parts of the world. In certain areas, there are cultural beliefs that make their system run differently than others around the world (Dwyer, 2001). These differences may cause the quality or meaningfulness of education to change depending on what country you are in. The curriculum also changes depending on where the student is learning. Of course, students in Russia are going to be learning a different language than students in the United States. They will also learn much more about Russian history, compared to a student in the United States who will take several classes about American history. It is important to recognize that the way education is presented across different cultures does not mean it is less meaningful or that their access is limited because they are not learning important things (Dwyer, 2001). Although there are many countries that struggle with this problem, cultural differences do not make an education invaluable. Despite what students are learning, access to education is addressed as adolescents being incapable of attaining the education that they deserve due to their country’s overall investment in the education system.

One area of the world that has been struggling to provide consistent access to education for its youth is South Asia. One of the major reasons that they have been behind other places in the world is because of the dominant imperialism that took place in countries like India, Singapore, and Malaysia (Jayaweera, 1987). Countries, like Great Britain, had such an influence over some of these countries during a time when there was a push for education, that these countries were not free to further develop education systems on their own. As time passed by, the imperialist countries expanded their education systems and made progress for accessing them. During this time, some of the countries in South Asia made little to no progress (Béteille, A, 2008). When they finally gained their freedom, they were so far behind and lacked so many resources that it was extremely difficult to catch up. This occurred in almost all countries that were imperialized, and it even continues today. Many countries that were victim to imperialism still have poor access to education and little resources to change this. Even though it has been many years since some of them gained freedom, access to education has yet to recover, and it continues to affect the overall success of these countries.

Of all the countries in South Asia, the only two that have achieved universal elementary education are South Korea and Japan (Béteille, A, 2008). It is not a coincidence that these two countries where not imperialized. This is a serious problem for the rest of these countries, since the rest of the education system is built on elementary education. Having children that are still incapable of accessing elementary education is a major setback for the country in general, and a disservice to those children. It is also not a coincidence that these countries have noticeably lower literacy rates, which is a cause of concern for everyone (Béteille, A, 2008). Despite the importance of secondary education in our world today, the most crucial level of education is for the youth, and in order to advance as a country there needs to be better access to education for these children. Japan is also the only country with a one hundred percent survival rate at the end of the first level of education (Béteille, A, 2008). They accomplished this by taking “urgent measures to increase access to education through public investment, and now they are seeing economic results” (Béteille, A, 2008). This further demonstrates the impact that increasing access to education can have on the economy, among other important things. There are other Asian countries that have survival rates as low as twenty percent, which is almost unfathomable for children so young (Béteille, A, 2008). These countries are failing to keep children in school because it is not as easily accessible as it should be and there is a lack of meaningfulness as far as their education is concerned.

Another major roadblock for access to education in these countries is the presence of education in urban settings versus rural. In order to improve education access, there needs to be a transformation to improve the quality of life in rural areas (Hussain, 2016). Developing these rural areas starts with developing the education system. The lack of technology in these areas is having a serious impact on attaining education, since technology is such a focal point of our world today (Hussain, 2016). Without necessary technology, children are incapable of accessing beneficial education. In India, enrollment rates are as low as 9% and as high as 80%, and a lot of the discrepancy lies in cities and rural areas (Béteille, A, 2008). In this area of the world, urban schools continuously outshine schools in the country (Chatha, 2016). While a lot of this difference has to do with levels of wealth, and there are many struggling urban schools as well, there needs to be a greater sense of togetherness within these countries as far as their education system is concerned. With urban areas also comes more opportunities. It was found that the ability to have access to so many different forms of education in urban settings, whether it be private schools, public schools, or trade schools, makes the popularity of education increase (Bradford, 1990). Many children growing up in rural areas do not even know these possibilities exist, since their accessibility is so low. People’s attitudes toward school are affected by the people they are surrounded by, and this attitude tends to be more positive in urban areas (Bradford, 1990). Although there are many roadblocks to creating change quickly in this area, if they can make steps toward providing better education in less privileged or less populated areas, it will provide much better access to education for all children, in turn leading to many positive results for these countries.

There also needs to be serious change in the gender gap, not only in these countries, but in many other countries around the world (Jayaweera, 1987). Access to education is significantly more difficult for females than males (Jayaweera, 1987). For many young women in South Asia, “these barriers are further compounded by societal expectations of early marriage, burdensome housework, familial concerns about adolescent girls’ safety and virginity, and concurrently low expectations of economic returns to women’s education” (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). These societal expectations are a serious concern for those who are trying to create more educated societies. Even if some of these struggling countries in South Asia can provide education for young women, the people do not believe that it is beneficial or worthwhile. These societal expectations even lead to psychological problems for these young girls, in turn harming everyone (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). Access to education for females cannot improve in these countries with significant gaps if societal norms go against the movement to create change.

Even wildly successful countries, such as Great Britain, still see problems in this area. In one study on education and geography, it was found that there are noticeable differences in the presence of females and males in schools in London (Bradford, 1990). While there are more girls in school here than many other places around the world, there are still many more boys who are given the opportunity to go to school. India has developed many national programs that work towards achieving different goals that will improve their country (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). One of the main goals of these programs was to “eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education” (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). India has made large strides by buying into the movement for more universal access to education for everyone, and because of this they are beginning to see results. Not only did primary school rates in 2010 rise 89% for males and 87% for females, but they are getting closer and closer to gender parity at the lower level each year (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). Female participation at the secondary level is also increasing, and their gender parity index is improving (Kelly, Newnham, 2014). While India has made advancements to better an education system that struggled to provide access for everyone, there are many other countries who were in the same place as India and have yet to make noticeable progress in this area. While the gender gap is improving, it is not gone, and in order to provide more access to education universally, this needs to change.

Another area of the world that struggles to provide satisfactory access to education is the Middle East, as well as some countries in North Africa. While education is considered the most important path to social mobility in these countries, researchers have found an alarming amount of inequality for attainment of education (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). The belief that universal free education will create change is not truly being accomplished, since family background and wealth are still important factors for gaining access to education for children in the Middle East and North Africa (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). The gap for access to education for the most privileged children and least is especially large in Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen, and they have some of the highest rates in the world for inequality in education (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). Since children who are brought up in a wealthier family tend to have more resources, they tend to do undoubtedly better in school. The schools that are full of children like this also have much higher success rates (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). There is even a direct relationship between the number of years spent in school and family income levels (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). The governments in these countries are not very focused on the lack of success in schools that are not full of privileged children, and they are doing little to close this barrier of inequality for education attainment.

There are also many issues within schools in these countries. Although there may be access to education, there is a great amount of differentiation between the students who actually are provided access to well-educated teachers and those who do not actually receive a beneficial education experience. The most opportunity unequal countries in the world are Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). This is measured by inequality within the actual schools (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). There is no benefit to providing better access to education if it is not actually true once a child gets the opportunity to go to school. True universal access to education is when all students have the same opportunities. In countries like these, little is being done to manage what is actually happening behind school doors. This leads to serious retention problems, since students who are not being given a fair experience are choosing to drop out (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019).

Thus, the average years of schooling in this area is a mere 7.1 years (Assaad, Salehi-Isfahani, 2019). This translates to the average child in the Middle East or North Africa finishing their education after third grade. Lack of fair access to education is the cause of children dropping out so young, leading to an uneducated society. Once a student drops out, their chances of having access to school again are very low. The accessibility of quality education needs to improve so that the rate of children dropping out decreases, and countries who are making a serious commitment to this are seeing long-term results. Pakistan, a country right in the middle of these issues, has made a commitment to improving the quality of education, since they have acknowledged that they do not provide easily accessible education (Chatha, Saeed, Zahid, 2016). However, they have talked about the many problems that are a part of this, such as infrastructure, but they have done little about it (Chatha, Saeed, Zahid, 2016). Despite talks of changing their education system, they have acknowledged that there has been little progress, and outside of publicly acknowledging it, they have not made meaningful changes.

Although access to education across Europe is better than many other areas of the world, there are still countries struggling to achieve attainment equality. The European Union has put an emphasis on “facilitating the access of all to education and training” (Otero, 2007). It has been a strategic objective for all European education systems since 2010, when the Union made it a serious focal point (Otero, 2007). However, since not all countries have the same resources and economic capabilities, it is proving to be more difficult than expected in certain countries, such as Lisbon (Otero, 2007). Although they are trying to keep up with surrounding countries, it is becoming clear that, at the rate they have been moving, they will be incapable of accomplishing their goals set about making education more accessible (Otero, 2007). One of the reasons that they have found for the difficulty of improving their education system is a lack of belief in the return of education (Otero, 2007). If people are not seeing beneficial results from education, they will not see the importance of it, and this will lead to students dropping out because they believe their time is better spent elsewhere. It has also been noted how meaningful money is to educational beliefs. Although education better’s society and improves the overall well-being of a country, people see it as a means of making more money. Without valid proof of education leading to economic success, there is a lack of respect for its importance (Otero, 2007). This is one of the reasons that countries like Lisbon are struggling to improve. People are not buying in to improving access to education because they believe that they can be just as successful without it. Access to education cannot improve when there are still people who are resistant to it.

The human capital theory has been a major impactor for access to education. This theory infers demand for education from the rate of return to educational investments (Otero, 2007). Essentially, it analyzes how effective the results of education truly are based on how much is invested. This is important because it not only outlines the success of students who go through an education system, but also the meaningfulness of workers in the education system. This theory was analyzed in Europe, and unsurprisingly, they found that those coming from wealthier backgrounds had the best results (Otero, 2007). Higher socio-economic classes not only had more information and resources to invest in education, but greater cognitive resources to use this greater information (Otero, 2007).

Although this theory outlines a major gap between upper and lower classes that needs to be addressed in order to improve overall access to education, it more importantly demonstrates how success is created. The theory proves that when you invest more in education and those who are a part of the system believe in it, there will be all-around better results (Otero, 2007). If countries struggling to provide access to education for lower economic classes can find a way to get a better investment in education, the access gap will begin to close. While the main reason that this investment has not been made yet is due to economic reasons, putting more money into education systems that are struggling to provide access will lead to a greater sense of investment from students as well, and this will benefit society greatly. Proving how great economic results are for those who follow all the way through their education system will create societal change, and the respect of education’s importance will increase. Although it is easier said than done, this theory proves that there are definitely ways to improve access to education, if we can grow enough to provide the necessary resources for people around the world who do not have access to them.

Despite access to education being a major problem across cultures, there is a serious emphasis on closing the gap and creating change. The Millennium Development Goals, created in 2015, acknowledge the need for greater access to education, especially as far as gender is concerned.? One of the eight development goals is to create gender parity in primary and secondary education. Achieving this goal will be a major milestone, not just for the education system, but for limiting inequality between males and females around the world. Continuing to set goals like this and putting in serious effort towards achieving them will do incredible things for making education more accessible and creating more equality in the world. Putting in work to close the gap for urban and rural societies will also be an important step that will increase access to education for all people around the world.

The importance of education is only continuing to grow as societies around the world are becoming more intelligent. A lack of access to education for many people around the world is a serious cross-cultural problem that is in need of change. While some of these people simply do not have access to any form of education, others lack a meaningful, quality education that they deserve. Schools that have educators who lack appropriate knowledge cannot effectively educate youth, and this is a reason that some areas around the world struggle with children dropping out at a young age. Societal norms also play a role in a gender cap for access to education, since girls are much less likely to receive education in certain countries. School is extremely important to having a well-educated society and advancing together, and although this is acknowledged worldwide, there are still struggles for providing education universally. However, the effort being put in to create change is the first step, and there are many people out there who are putting that effort in.


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Access to Education Across Cultures. (2020, Aug 20). Retrieved from