The need for access to education is more vital than ever before, with a generation interconnected in a way never previously imagined. And yet, the modern world is still seeing concerning numbers of children, meaning a person below the age of 18, who are not getting access to this necessary development tool.
The right to education has been recognised as a basic human right and fundamental freedom in various International Instruments and Conventions. These include, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which makes elaborate provisions regarding human right to education. Yet statistics are showing that not many children are getting access to these rights.
Data collected by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) found that in 2019, only 84% of children were completing their primary school education, with that number dropping to 71% of students completing their high school education. Whilst continents such as Europe, Northern America, and Oceania, which are highly comprised of first world countries, are demonstrating high percentage of education rates, what’s alarming is the statistics surrounding less developed parts of the world, such as the sub-Saharan region of Africa, with 63% completing their primary school education, and only 38% of students completing their high school education.
How do these statistics connect to the desire for social and economic justice in everyday life?
When people can access the necessary education, they are more likely able to understand their rights and responsibilities. Individuals are also better equipped with the knowledge and tools that are required to participate in the social and economic systems of their respective societies.
The contribution of higher education to social justice suggests that higher education distribution should be fair and based on the individual and societal benefits and values it produces once attained. There are many individual benefits to this model. These individual benefits can include social mobility, higher income compared to those of lower qualifications, and improved health.
And the social benefits are vast, and can lead to less crime, greater democratic participation, heightened climate awareness. The focus on social justice in higher education is not simply to do with economic gains, skill enhancement and development. It is also focused on critical reflexivity as well as developing inclusive, equitable and ethical practices in an inclusive, participatory, redistributive, and transformative framework; many factors that will push the agenda of societal progress through the masses.
Similarly, there is a strong link between education and training levels and a nation’s economy. Using the Sub-Saharan region of the world once again, research was conducted regarding the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the employment rates in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda. This research, conducted and published by the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study, found a negative correlation between education level and the likelihood of being jobless during the pandemic. Their studies found that “The least educated are 4 to 7 percentage points more likely to be jobless after one year into the pandemic, than those with primary or higher education.”
Acknowledging the percentage of individuals completing their primary school education, only 63% are completing their primary school education. Consequently, 37% of the population would have been disadvantaged from being employed one year into the pandemic, if the 2019 statistics were applied. This places significant pressure on the economy to support the unemployed, which in many cases, they struggle to do. This was demonstrated by Sub-Saharan Africa’s’ ability to respond to COVID-19 with fiscal measures compared to the emerging market economies as well as advanced economies.
Education further promotes participatory justice by teaching the necessary skills in order to help people engage with economic and social systems. Known as human capital, the economic value of a worker’s experience and skills is tremendous. Education can help individuals understand financial concepts, such as budgeting and investment, and can help them develop the skills they need to navigate the job market and negotiate fair wages and working conditions.
Education can also promote participatory justice by providing individuals with the tools they need to advocate for their rights and to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. This includes developing critical thinking and communication skills, as well as understanding how to access and utilise resources and support networks. In Australia, for instance, all citizens over the age of 18 are required to vote (with certain exceptions).
If citizens have not only just have the required knowledge, but the skill set to understand new propositions and developments within their country, people are more likely to have societies that reflect the desires of a larger range of educated individuals.
Moreover, education can also promote social mobility, meaning the change to one’s socio-economic situation, which can lead to greater economic and social participation for individuals and communities. According to Oliinyk, et. al, (2021) “found that the migration of workers with higher education has a significant impact on strengthening the competitiveness and economic development of countries’, which leads to a better standard of living. By providing people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the labour market, education can help break the cycle of poverty and inequality that often limits social and economic mobility.
For instance, economically, through education, individuals are likely more capable of starting and running a business, obtaining a higher-paying job, or having the financial literacy and ability to invest in assets such as stocks or property. Socially, they can better involve themselves in dialogue regarding their country’s socio-cultural and political-legal environment, increasing their ability to use their voice for change. According to an article written by Jill Suttie (2020), it suggests that social and economic justice in your country play a large role in your overall happiness. In her article, she touches on research conducted by Salvatore Di Martino and Isaac Prilleltensky, which argues that “It’s likely that countries that enjoy a good level of social justice will be less discriminatory toward migrants, asylum seekers, or other strangers”, stating the reasons for economic prosperity of countries where social justice is stronger embedded in economic development.
Access to education is critical in promoting participatory justice in the economic and social sphere of everyday life. Education provides individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate economic and social systems, advocate for their rights, and participate fully in decision-making processes.
Additionally, education can also promote social mobility, which can lead to greater economic and social participation for individuals and communities.
This article is an excerpt of the talk given at the “Mutual Prosperity – Rethinking our Economic Models” summit, organised by the UPF, the International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP) and the International Association for Peace and Economic Development. Four panellists took the floor: Alan Jensen, Dr Katherine Trebeck, Michael D. Greaney, and Hana Kolar (on behalf of professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic). The summit was moderated by Dr Jennifer Ji Huang.
Alan Jensen and Michael D Greaney focused on the principle of interdependence and economic democracy and introduced a new economic paradigm to provide universal capital ownership through changes to finance, banking, and tax laws.
Dr Katherine Trebeck focused on the necessity to rethink current economic models to better serve humanity. She spoke on ways that economies would have to approach, design and deliver in order to create serious change in this era of polycrisis, and the benefits of overall restructure.
Prof. Anis’ Hana Kolar’s presentation focused on how access to education is critical in promoting participatory justice in the economic and social sphere of everyday life. Through understanding the immense benefits that education brings on a social and economic stand front, she stated the necessity that societies ensure that children have access to this fundamental tool.