Speech: Education for All

For her second speech at Talk For Change, Adrienne Austin delivered a passionate and inspiring oration titled “Education for All”. As other speeches delivered at our Toastmasters group, it asks us to question what is and look to what can be. This speech was delivered several months ago.


Biblioburro to the rescue… Can you picture two donkeys walking down K street behind a man offering free books? Would you take a book or call him crazy? Well many have called him crazy, but to others he’s considered a hero. Biblioburro is the conception by primary school teacher Luis Soriano. It’s a mobile library on donkeys that offers reading education for children living in rural villages in Colombia. Two days a week, Soriano travels to select remote villages up to four hours each way. At each village, some 40-50 youngsters await their chance to get homework help and learn to read. According to CNN, Soriano’s hope is that people will understand the power of reading and that communities can improve from being exposed to books and diverse ideas. Soriano is quoted as saying about education “That’s how a community changes and the child becomes a good citizen and a useful person”.

After reading Soriano’s story, it led me to ponder the following questions 1) what is the current state of developing world education, what are the benefits of educating the world’s poor and how do you pay for this education?

Current state of developing world education

To truly understand the current state of education in the developing world, one can make comparisons to educational development in America. Today almost every American child finishes primary school (grades1-6) and almost all go on to secondary school (grades 7-12). However, in comparison many countries lag behind where America was in 1776, according to the center for Global Development, in Ethiopia 31% of children attend primary school, in the Sudan 53% and in Niger 30%.

Though the US is by far a highly developed nation, it currently spends roughly $6,800 a year per primary student on public education. In stark contrast, in Iran the figure is $156 per student per year, in India $64, in Laos $30, and in Rwanda $19 per student, per year.

A look around the world reflects that children and families cannot take access to primary schooling for granted, as most in the U.S. do. The luxury of Education are only useful to those who know its benefits.

Benefits of poor children attending school in the developing world

The benefits of education are surmountable. The reading and arithmetic children study today, leads to educated and functioning adults in a society later. With education, people in general have better health. People are able to prevent disease and use health services effectively. bAs an example, young people who have completed primary education are less than 50% as likely to contract HIV as those with little to no schooling.

As we know here in the states the more education one receives the greater their earning potential. In developing countries people with one additional year of schooling earn 10% higher wages. So what does higher wages mean? Higher wages translates to national economic growth. To achieve continuous and rapid growth is impossible without reaching an adult literacy rate of at least 40%.

Many developing countries have taken positive steps of making education a priority. For example, In postwar Korea in the 1950s, the average annual income was only $890, Korean families and the government, with help from the U.S. tripled spending on education. Investments in teachers and basic schools contributed to a more productive labor force. Today Korea boasts almost 100% primary school enrollment and an average income of $17,000 a year.

Education works, but how do we pay for it?

How to pay for the education

The U.S. and other countries allocate direct financial assistance for activities such as building schools, training teachers, and providing school supplies. On average, between 2002 and 2004 the U.S. dedicated $256 million per year to basic education in poor countries.

Aside from government spending, there are other innovative alternatives. Private sector education in poor countries has routinely outperformed the free, taxpayer-subsidised version, according to James Tooley, a Bristish academic who advises a chain of low-cost for-profit schools in India. With this model teachers are held accountable by parents who have a monetary vested interest in their children’s education.

In Summary

The current state of developing world education shows staggering dismal results, but there are opportunities for improvement in the form of Government assistance and innovative financial spending. The benefits of an education can greatly improve a person, a family, a community, and with great hope one day, a Nation.


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