Education: Access without Quality?


Among all social goods, education is probably among the ones with the most potentials and promises. We have attributed to it prosperity of nations, wealth of economies, and ability to combat poverty. Increasingly we are also celebrating its role in the advancement of individuals, flourishing of capabilities, emancipation of souls, and contribution to effective citizenry. In all our societies there are living examples of individuals—men and women—whose lives have been transformed by education and who have made it their mission in life to relentlessly insist on the right to education for all.

In developing countries, post-colonial governments have sought to eradicate illiteracy and ensure that formative years of education become compulsory and education itself—among other services—becomes a right to all. A goal is still far from being achieved as millions of school age children are still outside school. In many developing countries, dropouts are high and, as we go up the educational ladder, the number of young people who make it to higher levels of schooling and to tertiary education get thinner and thinner.

Access to schools and educational institutions is a key barrier that prevents millions of young people from achieving their full potentials in life. In our world today, this deprivation is most visible among those disadvantaged by their ethnicity, race, provincial residence, or economic means. Often these axes of inequalities intersect with gender so that more women than men suffer lack of education. Governments and civil society organizations face challenges trying to eradicate structural and cultural barriers towards ensuring that the right to education is ensured.

However, as we continue to pursue access to education for all, we should not assume that access implies quality. Access to education is indeed an unalienable right, but without good quality, access alone does not help fulfill potentials in life. What good is it to send children to schools only to leave them functionally illiterate?

Education is an avenue to social mobility. It has great potentials to open doors and break social and gender barriers. However, without opportunities that ensure equitable access and good quality educational to all, education can perpetuate social and gender stratification systems, and hence social injustice.

This article was first published in print in SCIplanetSpring 2015 Issue.

Cover Image by Freepik

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