Resonating with the Evergreen quote “Scientia Potentia est” – meaning ‘knowledge is power’ by Sir Francis Bacon, International education day is a recent yet significant addition to the calendar of events. The goal is to promote inclusive education, providing equal opportunities for every individual by the year 2030. The international education day is distinctive due to its inclusive nature – beyond spreading awareness, the day emphasizes subjects such as social welfare, global advancement, and prosperity.

The world celebrated International Education Day first on the 24th of January 2019. The challenges identified then remain challenges to date. These include decreased education levels and reduced retention of the financially poor in schools and other educational institutions at both elementary and secondary levels, and dissuading girl-child education. The 2020 theme for the celebration was, Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace.

The UN hosted events to highlight the significance of innovation, finance, and educators to align with the theme, Recover and revitalize education for the COVID-19 generation. In light of the event, celebrations took place in China, Egypt, Canada, and the Philippines. The pandemic is a contributing factor for change in education. From classes getting streamed on the black and white cable to conducting examinations in parks, the pandemic has revealed that education can be made accessible to all. 

The accessibility, however, comes with a catch. In India, education, although a birthright, has remained dormant to many sections of our society. A leading cause for uneducated youth is poverty. 

In India, millions of uneducated-poor parents have multiple children solely to increase the number of family earners. Thus, all these children are deprived of education and forced to work – creating a vicious poverty cycle clutching the poor. Poverty also has girl children married off at very young ages as their families can no longer afford to care for them. So the poor cannot afford to send their daughters to school and college, adding to the already horrific rates of illiteracy. Moreover, the marginalized sections of the Indian society are still slightly averse to the idea of sending their children to school. The marginalized include those with disabilities, women, and those belonging to the lower casts. Although the government has several schemes to encourage these sections to seek education, the implementation has multiple flaws, largely dampening their effects. For example, many underprivileged children found paths to good schools via the Right To Education Act 2009.

Unfortunately, the underprivileged who attended several private schools failed to handle the system – designed for fluent English speakers. These children eventually would drop out of school after the completion of primary schooling. Another contributing factor to children dropping out is bullying – by both relatively privileged peers and surprisingly including the teachers. The problem here was not the act itself but the implementation. 

Next, addressing children with disabilities, India has traveled quite the distance and yet, has a long way to go. Schools in India often reject students with the mildest levels of disabilities. These children are considered a burden in most schools and directed to schools entirely dedicated to educating severely disabled children regardless of their need for special attention. For the underprivileged children, it is either staying in a school system where they are struggling to cope with the pace of academics and social skills or entering a place with severely disabled children, which may adversely affect their development. 

In conclusion, resolving these issues is not an easy task. Some of us may feel terrible reading about these issues and may want to do something about it, and there are small everyday steps we can take: the next time you come across a child younger who 14 that is employed, call the number 1098 (in India). The next time you see an underprivileged child bullied at school, report it to higher authorities. Maybe donate few bucks to a good cause, or take some time to tutor your housemaid’s daughter for a week before her exams. All such actions factor in when it comes to controlling the alarming intermittent educational opportunities. 

When we think of education, we only think about school, grades, college, and landing a good job. Education pilots the flight to a better tomorrow. And a better tomorrow rests on several pillars, including moral values, kindness, and a sense of doing good for society. 

Credits – Purva Sreekaanth

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