Broadening access to education across the globe
“The number of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds embarking on full-time undergraduate courses has increased 52% since 2006”
Across the world, over 159 million children have no access to pre-primary education, and 57 million remain out of school at primary school age. A staggering 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, with more than 60% of these being female. Though global efforts are being made to redress these problems, UK HE has a vital part to play in advancing worldwide education, writes Sean de Lacey, head of sales at Diversity Travel.
The growth of online education and university expansion through branch campuses have helped to broaden learning possibilities for some, particularly in developing countries, whose access to traditional education routes may be restricted or in some cases shut off entirely.
“As popular as their uptake may be, the completion rates for MOOCs remain stubbornly low”
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider Coursera, which works with some of the world’s leading universities and prides itself on offering top-quality education to anyone, has in excess of 24 million users worldwide. A huge 45% of these users are from developing countries.
For many however, these advancements are not enough to help overcome fundamental issues in accessing education. They have arrived too late for those already struggling with illiteracy caused by years with no schooling. As popular as their uptake may be, the completion rates for MOOCs remain stubbornly low, raising questions as to whether they are truly helping to plug gaps in access to learning. Clearly, obstacles remain in helping these potential students actually complete their education.
There are various initiatives in place to tackle these challenges, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4. This incorporates 10 targets for expanding access to education across the globe by 2030, including providing equal access for both men and women to tertiary education and ensuring all youth achieve literacy and numeracy.
“There is still a long way to go in ensuring that children and adults alike are able to benefit from quality education”
This is no doubt an ambitious challenge, but is one that, with proper support, should be accessible and achievable. At Diversity Travel, we firmly believe that the UK’s institutions and academics have a responsibility to contribute to achieving this goal. The UK has one of the most robust and high-quality higher education sectors in the world, and there has never been such a pressing need for the sector to take the lead in offering on-the-ground support to academic institutions across the globe, working to share knowledge and help create educational opportunities on par with our own.
The UK has itself already made huge strides in recent years in helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds enter higher education. The number of 18-year-olds from such backgrounds embarking on full-time undergraduate courses has increased 52% since 2006, and reached record levels in 2016. We should now be looking to replicate this success around the world.
“International travel has always been a staple of academic life”
Our own strengths in higher education have helped the UK attract the best of the best in terms of academic talent, with non-UK nationals accounting for nearly two thirds of all growth in academic staff since 2006-7. This presents the UK with a unique opportunity to assist with the training of teachers and in the development of education institutions through from primary to tertiary globally, armed with local knowledge and the means to overcome cultural barriers, to drive real change and progress for those who need it most.
There is still a long way to go in ensuring that children and adults alike are able to benefit from quality education, and developing the skills they need to thrive and progress successfully into the world of work. But encouraging UK academics to make their mark on the face of global higher education, taking their skills to the root of the problem and working to bring about change, will be a crucial first step in working to overcome these pervasive barriers.
International travel has always been a staple of academic life, but we believe travelling with purpose should now be at the forefront of universities’ agendas. Working together with travel partners to put together a purposeful and targeted travel plan is hopefully something we will see more of in 2018, as we collaborate to help solve this pervasive and life-altering global challenge.