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Quality of Education More Important Than Access

Finding meaningful target goals for educators to hit is an ongoing struggle in K-12 when the argument is hot over what and how students should be learning. While debate rages in the United States over Common Core Standards and standardized testing, which presently effect millions, many in developing countries are still grasping at the straws of the mere concept of being educated. 

A cornerstone of the United Nations’ core Millennium Development Goals, education was meant to spread globally into modern times over the past two decades. A recent piece in The New York Times highlights that while successful in creating an access to education in areas like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the United Nations didn’t set a play into motion for ensuring that it was one of good quality. 

“We’ve made substantial progress around the globe in sending people to school,” said Eric Hanushek, an expert on the economics of education at Stanford University. “But a large number of people who have gone to school haven’t learned anything.”

Now, the United Nations aims to fix the problem. This September, the organization is planning to push out their Sustainable Development Goals for global education in order to replace the lower standards of the past 25 years. The benefit beyond a more educated population is the stronger economies that follow in the respective areas.

“The challenge on quality is an outcome of success,” said Chandrika Bahadur, director for Education Initiatives at the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a group advising the world body on the new development strategies. “Systems were overburdened by the influx of children coming in, and very quickly it became a problem to ensure that they were learning well.”

The difficulty with the United Nations draft of Sustainable Development Goals is that it is vague in terms of actual education goals, and only offers eliminating illiteracy as a true end result. 

At this point, most developing countries don’t even meet the bar when it comes to access. They’re not even close. Take Uganda, where one out of five elementary school teachers hit their minimum standards in pedagogy, math and language. In unannounced audits of public Ugandan schools 56 percent of teachers weren’t in their classrooms during teachers hours, and 27 percent were absent altogether. 

Other countries far more developed and economically stable have their issues too. The recently published Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “Universal Basic Skills” report measured PISA standardized tests taken by 15-year-olds in 75 countries. It showed that countries like Mexico will struggle participating productively in future economies. Despite school enrollment coming in at 70 percent, 54 percent of Mexican students don’t reach “the most basic level of proficiency,” on the test. 

The real test, however, still remains to be seen, as the the most difficult aspect of accomplishing universal education proficiently is finding common ground in the questions within standardized tests, as PISAs were made with wealthier countries in mind. Also, with standardized tests under frequent fire in the United States, appropriately administering the tests and analyzing the data within context will be a delicate procedure at best on an international stage. 

For more, get the full story here

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