Growing up, most of us have probably been told that completing our education is a must, and while that much is true, the line we’ve drawn between whether it is a right, meaning it is something everyone should have, and whether it’s a privilege, meaning it can only be experienced by a blessed few, is hazy, to put it lightly.
The confusion that comes with discussing this topic largely arises from two different factors: firstly, the idea that education operates differently in different parts of the world, and secondly, the notion that world leaders discuss education as a right but treat it as if it is a privilege. For the sake of discussing the following arguments with utmost detail, I’ll try to discuss the state of education in first, second and third world countries, and how world leaders respond to the general welfare of students around the world.
Let’s get straight to the point here: I believe that education should be a right, but unfortunately, it remains a privilege that many cannot access. As a student from a third world country, I grew up on stories of children having to sacrifice their schooling for all kinds of reasons, most of which revolve around severe financial issues. I’ve heard of several people who’ve suffered from this terrible twist of fate, having to stop their education altogether to help their families make ends meet. And through that, I learned quickly of the privilege I possessed to be studying abroad in the present, or even to be studying at all.
And this isn’t solely a problem for the more economically disadvantaged countries either, even first and second world countries are suffering from the fact that their education systems favor those with deep pockets. A certain controversial issue in the United States, a first world country, shone light on this recently, the issue being that the completion of an individual’s education within the country create a monumental amount of debt which students will have to spend a lifetime paying back. According to an article by CNBC, “The country’s outstanding student loan balance is projected to swell to $2 trillion by 2022, and experts say a large portion of it is unlikely to ever be repaid; nearly a quarter of student loan borrowers are currently in a state of delinquency or default.”
What this means for whether education is a right or a privilege is that whether or not it should be a right, it is truly, in its very essence, a hefty, expensive privilege. Now, one may point out that in many countries, children are given the “right” to education by law. There has even been a law passed internationally under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 as “Article 26” that displayed education as a necessity to all. Do note, however, that though these laws may make education a right on paper, sadly, it is mostly a fruitless effort by an international power. The law may say that we all have an equal right to education but reality screams otherwise; for many, it is nothing more than a dream.
That said, although some leaders do nothing but talk nowadays, others are doing a lot in opposition to this inaction. This includes benefitting the overall welfare of society by giving opportunities via government-funded public schools, merit scholarships, and need scholarships. A good model for better, more impartial education lies in Western Europe, where they offer free college tuition for both locals and international students. Executing these programs won’t cure the whole plague that’s been killing off our children’s futures, but they certainly do help, and they set a standard that hopefully the rest of the world could follow.
However, as of now, I am compelled by the subject to say that education as a privilege does win out in the end. That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope at all, though. What I’ve discussed in this article thus far is merely the present. As I’ve mentioned latterly, many things are being done to make education impartial and accessible to people of all social standings, wherever they may be. If we continue to push in the right direction, I believe that in the future we will be able to confidently say that education should be a right and is a right for all those who are willing to learn.