Many of us believe that our children’s education is not a federal responsibility. In fact, a high quality two-year program would cost more than $30 billion per year, more than double the amount spent on federal education programs. Yet while some people argue that we should leave education to local jurisdictions, research indicates that quality programs improve school performance and long-term success. Whether we agree or disagree, we must ensure that all children receive a quality education.
For instance, countries in Africa and South Asia have the highest rates of children who do not attend school. Although boys and girls are equal in terms of their number, the gender ratio is higher among girls than in boys. In many African countries, for example, only 5 percent of children with learning disabilities attend school. However, this number could reach 70 percent if there were proper school facilities. For these children, their parents often send them out to beg instead of enrolling them in a school.
The relationships between educators and parents are critical in shaping a child’s development. Children learn best when significant adults, including parents, teachers, family members, and the community, work together to meet those needs. In addition to providing quality education for children, these relationships help both parents and educators make the right decisions about their child’s development. Without meaningful involvement between home and school, children will lack the support they need to succeed in school. For these reasons, the two sides must work together to improve communication.
Despite the high levels of government support for primary education, this policy has been largely unsuccessful in addressing the problem of poor children’s access to quality schools. Corruption is a major obstacle to quality education, as government officials often neglect schools in favor of big-ticket projects. They are easier to divert funding to, and there’s less risk of kickbacks. Meanwhile, foreign donors typically prioritize capital expenditure over recurring school expenses.
Publicly financed education is the most equitable and inclusive way to provide quality education for all children. But despite these advantages, the regressive nature of compulsory school attendance disproportionately affects poor families. Those with lower incomes bear the brunt of user payments, which are often a fixed sum for each child. The cost burden of education is greater on low-income families than on the richest, which means that users payments are a temporary fix.
Noncognitive skills are as important as the linguistic and mathematical skills learned in schools. While research on these skills is less comprehensive, its importance has increased in recent years. Noncognitive skills, such as empathy, creativity, and the ability to relate to other people, should be explicitly valued in the education system. Incentives should encourage schools to foster noncognitive skills in their students, including building strong relationships with teachers and a commitment to teaching the whole child.
Despite recent budget debates about social security and the importance of early childhood programs, studies show that investing in a child’s education pays off more than any other investment. Studies have shown that investments in early childhood programs actually save taxpayers money. The payoff is equal to or greater than tangible capital. And the rates of return on investment in education have increased dramatically since the 1970s. For this reason, early childhood programs are vital. They provide vital early learning opportunities to every child.
The goal of universal primary education is not easily reached in many countries. Several countries lack the resources to provide free and high-quality education to their children. Girls are disproportionately excluded from school, and education for mothers breaks the cycle of poverty. Educated women are more likely to get married later, have healthy babies, and send their children to school. UNICEF helped develop Nepal’s first National Education Equity Strategy, focusing on the need to direct resources to the most vulnerable groups in society.
The Supreme Court has also ruled against segregated schools, citing five cases that were brought to it by the plaintiffs. In one of these cases, the plaintiff was an African-American child, Linda Brown. Her parents were forced to send her by bus to a black school. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal and hurting the development of the children. They concluded that segregation of schools does more harm than good for the child than good, and is a barrier to full citizenship.
UNICEF is working with local governments to improve children’s education worldwide. They are helping governments implement child-friendly education programs by building local capacity and creating curriculum. Children education programs are the best when experts from all levels work together. These partnerships include school officials, community leaders, and parents. The best child-friendly educational programs are designed with children’s needs in mind, and UNICEF has a long-standing commitment to helping children realize their rights to quality education.