top of page

Have We Actually Moved Towards Education Equality?

Updated: Aug 1, 2023


Nowadays, a greater focus on education is placed in society. Families are sending more and more children into higher education, while others are finding better primary and secondary schooling. A greater debate has started in attempts to locate new methods of ensuring equal opportunities for all to access the means of learning. Doughnut Economics, a new field of economics created by Kate Raworth, was introduced, spotlighting environmental and human factors of economic growth, rather than purely monetary. Together with that, the United Nations proposed the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), aimed at identifying key aims of development. Both the Doughnut Economics and the SDGs named inclusive and high-quality education as one of the main factors.


This essay aims to summarise the history behind education becoming such an important factor, as well as to connect Doughnut Economics with SDGs, and discover the trends observed in different countries around the globe. Furthermore, several metrics are used to describe ongoing actions made by governments to see which measures have been effective or proven themselves controversial. Ultimately, we will answer the question of whether access to education has become more equal.


Education has a great direct impact on economic growth both in a monetary sense and otherwise. Learning attains better skills in the labour force, making it more valuable and more efficient. As seen in the diagram sketched below, an increase in efficiency leads to an increase in an economy’s aggregate supply, thus extending along the aggregate demand curve and rising the real GDP, or the gross domestic product. Additionally, a greater degree of independence is given to workers. Better financial decisions, rising career growth, workers’ international competitiveness and higher quality of products with innovative designs. All of the above amounts to better economic growth across all aspects – in terms of money, as well as naturally.




To begin with, the development of SDGs must be understood. At the dawn of the new millennium, the United Nations proposed their initial goals to be observed until the year 2015. The above goals were titled the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), encasing 8 aims, shown below (2). As 2015 approached, a realisation came that moving forward goals must change. A new set of aims has been identified, which were named SDGs, to be monitored until 2030, when they will be revised again. After the introduction, the number of aims expanded to 17, most notably including responsible consumption and production and expanding the goal of achieving universal primary education to include all types of education – primary, secondary, higher and many others. All in all, the catalogue of aims is now expanded, containing more detailed descriptions, as well as being more exhaustive. The SDGs are shown in the image below (2).


(1) – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


(2) – Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)


The theory of Doughnut Economics also highlights the importance of education in development. To society, education provides efficiency-driven economic growth as an increase in the Aggregate Supply of goods and services, as resources are used with less waste and externalities. In addition, scientifical progress has proven itself to drive societies forward. The intellectuals of ancient China, medieval Europe and the Middle East had inventions that propelled their civilizations into the future, through unseen levels of growth. Most recently, countries in East Asia such as Japan experienced advances in technology, leading to boosts in exports of products to the rest of the world. Moreover, education provides better analytical abilities in the population, which is of incredible importance in the modern world, where decision-making is crucial. To illustrate this, presidential elections require a large degree of choice, as selecting one person over another shapes the political progression of the nation into the decades forward.


Overall, both the Doughnut theory and SDGs contain education as an important sector, crucial for development. The doughnut diagram labels it as a shortfall, as, for example, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to education for their citizens. This example is explored in further detail later in this essay.


When it comes to ongoing trends in educational development worldwide, several smaller targets and metrics were proposed. This essay focuses on quality, access and equality of opportunity when it comes to education, hence the list of targets explored is shortened. Equal access to affordable technical, vocational and higher education, increasing the supply of qualified teachers as well as building and upgrading safe schools. Each of the goals is measured with different metrics. Access to affordable education is measured with participation in formal and non-formal education, building and upgrading of safe schools is quantified in the proportion of schools with access to electricity and the supply of qualified teachers is represented by the percentage of teachers in pre-primary education that are qualified.


To begin with, access to affordable education has varied. To illustrate this, Argentina has seen an overall rising trend in the participation rate, though, with some fluctuations. Other countries have shown a contrasting image. In Bulgaria, the trend has been downward with a decrease in every year represented. A possible reason for Bulgaria’s education struggles is an increasing level of poverty. With lesser income levels, fewer and fewer families are able to afford education for their children, decreasing the participation rate in education. On the other hand, Argentina’s rise in participation rates may be explained by a general perception of higher education being essential for the welfare and attaining a decent job. Such a perception acts as a social incentive for reputation, pushing more people to attain schooling.




When it comes to building and upgrading safe schools, the worldwide trends have been positive. Between 2011 and 2020, all given types of education had a rise in the share of schools with access to electricity. Higher access to electricity means better security and learning conditions for students. However, there are countries not in compliance with the trends. Benin, a country in Africa, has seen an overall decrease in the statistic from around 40% to around 32%, hitting a minimum of 20%. In this case, the situation could be explained by Benin’s general position at the start of its economic development journey. With 60% of households not having access to electricity, Benin is only at the start of growth, which can be seen by a steady upward trend in the graph from the years 2016 to 2020.





Last, but by no means least, supply of qualified teachers. In this case, again, several countries’ trends are in no agreement with one another. Generally, the trends have been positive, though the Bahamas come up as an example of the opposite. Although the trend is relatively slow, the decrease has been immense. From an initial reported value of 100, the percentage dropped by 19% - a value that raises concerns. Worldwide, however, the developments are different. The percentage of teachers in lower secondary education with qualifications has remained relatively stationary in the world. It must be noted, however, that the number of years with available, trustworthy data is insufficient to draw any conclusions.





All in all, the reality is mixed. On one hand, countries are generally flourishing in education participation rates and the share of schools with access to electricity. On the other, the worldwide percentage of teachers with qualifications is dropping. Looking at the image as a whole, the educational sector of the world economy seems to be better off, as most countries seem to have developing educational institutions with higher-than-ever participation. Issues of school safety, however, must not be understated, as school shootings are becoming a more and more persistent issue. Since 1999, there have been a reported 386 incidents of gun violence in schools in the United States of America. Although the issue is sparked by relaxed gun-handling laws in the states, school safety must remain at the top of the agenda.


In other nations, several policies proved themselves highly effective. Recently, several countries worldwide aimed at relaxing secondary education in attempts to increase students’ well-being, both physical and mental. Finland recently reduced the number of formal examinations, while also reducing class sizes for students. The above changes let to students at a young age being less exposed to anxious competition, a crucial amendment to their mental welfare. In other parts of the world, students are now starting classes later in the day. The issue of a lack of sleep came to light, leading multiple schools across the United Kingdom and Canada to start later. Such changes made tremendous changes to student satisfaction, and Finland now has one of the highest university participation rates in Europe.


Other amendments to the education systems have proven themselves beyond controversial. Increased use of technology in classrooms detaches students from conventional methods that proved themselves many times. Of course, technology grants students access to infinite amounts of resources, enables efficiency and gives more real-world experience, but it also causes students to become detached from the classroom flow of learning. Distraction and passivism is detrimental to learning, especially for the youngest pupils. This new development, as well as many others attempting to integrate innovative learning, often cause only further unforeseen issues. The above change is especially negative for students striving to undertake professions in fields directly attached to tradition. Musical education, fine arts and crafts, all require the use of often ancient techniques. The necessity for traditional learning in those fields is obvious, and technology would cause more harm than good.


Contrary to that, some fields have benefited from innovative technology. Computer science, for example, is solely based on technology and drives economic growth. Internet technologies, Artificial Intelligence and entertainment have progressed, boosting global GDP and living standards. On the other hand, the aforementioned musical industry developed to accommodate technology. Hip-hop and rap genres have been solely based on computer-generated, and it can only be concluded that it is a matter of time before musical education implies learning using a computer.


To conclude, the education sector in the entire world has seen contrasting changes. Some countries have improved their enrolment rates in education, others did the opposite, some attained more qualified teachers, some had a mirror change, lastly some countries made their schools safer, while others have an ever-increasing amount of danger. When looking at education in Doughnut Economics and SDGs alike, no sure answer can be given as to whether there has been an overall improvement or not. It must be said that worldwide trends in most covered statistics have been positive, hence the results of the focal point being placed on education have largely been superior. We are closer than ever before to equal education access, and the development journey is underway in many countries, so the results are likely to only get better.


Reference list

Consultant, E.L., København, P.M. and E-mail, D. +45 6034 0907 (n.d.). Lighting up Benin’s future by bringing electricity where it has never been before. [online] Niras. Available at: https://www.niras.com/news/lighting-up-benin-s-future-the-ocef-brings-electricity-where-it-has-never-been-before/ [Accessed 26 Jul. 2023].

Oxford Royale Academy. (2014). 6 Innovative Ways Different Countries and Schools Have Dealt With Common Student Problems. [online] Available at: https://www.oxford-royale.com/articles/international-solutions-student-problems/.

ReviseSociology. (2017). The Millennium Development Goals – How Much Progress was Made? [online] Available at: https://revisesociology.com/2017/02/07/millennium-development-goals-progress/.

Team, O.W. in D. and Roser, M. (2023). Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Our World in Data. [online] Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/sdgs/quality-education.

United Nations (2021). Home | Department of Economic and Social Affairs. [online] sdgs.un.org. Available at: https://sdgs.un.org.

www.oecd-ilibrary.org. (n.d.). Home. [online] Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/81d18411-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/81d18411-en.

www.oecd-ilibrary.org. (n.d.). Home. [online] Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/1a439ac4-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/1a439ac4-en.

24 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment


Absolutely sensational!



Like
bottom of page