Written by: Amrit Shakya, Lives for Literacy Intern
According to the findings of the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 95% of illiterate people of the world are from developing countries, most of whom (about 70%) are women (Verner, 2005). Along with the financial crisis exacerbated by the covid-19, the education crisis is still a major obstacle for many developing countries.
Even in a country like Nepal, which lies in the middle of the spectrum of socio-economic development, there is a huge gap between market demand and the production of skilled manpower. Additionally, the competent people who do acquire advanced skills are fleeing their country in search of better opportunities for themselves. The absence of even the most basic education facilities for millions of people is quite tragic in this day and age.
As numerous studies have repeatedly shown, there is a positive correlation between literacy and income. In developing countries, due to low literacy levels, the ability of people to meet their basic needs and earn a sizeable income becomes highly improbable. In a wider context, the global demand for skilled workers, creative geniuses, innovative craftsmen, and visionary leaders remains unfulfilled. Considering the inability of governments to improve educational systems by themselves, every global citizen should be aware of the reasons behind the educational struggle of people in developing countries and work jointly to improve their condition.
Let’s take a look at the most pressing issues faced by these developing countries in the development of advanced education systems with Nepal as an example.
Funding and resources
Undoubtedly, every government in the world aspires to equip every citizen with advanced knowledge and skills valuable for both the individuals and the country. But the major obstacle for developing countries is always the limited funding and resources available to them. Especially, the countries which have recently suffered challenges like natural disasters, colonization, civil wars, wars with other nations, epidemics, and pandemics, have delicate financial and political ground to hold. For instance, Nepal has recently become a democratic republic country in 2008 and the political instability faced by the country has severely restricted its progress in several sectors including education. Though the literacy rate has drastically improved in the past few decades, the educational resources in most parts of the country, if available, are still mediocre at best.
Without international support, these countries cannot expedite their educational reformation process. According to a case study by World Bank, “Income is negatively associated with literacy until a threshold of about $2200 a year, after which the effect becomes positive” (Verner, 2005). This suggests that without achieving economic prosperity/stability to a certain extent, the investment of these countries in education does not pay off. This is the reason why many countries do not allocate a sizeable amount of budget for the education sector. Ultimately, this results in either the complete non-existence of educational resources or insufficient resources of the worst quality. Although the foreign aid and contributions of international and non-governmental organizations have helped improve the condition of these resources, they are not sufficient and are not a viable solution in the long term.
Quality of teachers, learning materials, and research
In a developing country, the workforces who were deprived of proper training and quality education themselves obviously cannot be effective teachers without external support. Additionally, the education system based solely on competition of students to achieve the highest grades rather than collaborative learning will not use effective curriculums in schools. According to a study of Nepal Education Sector Analysis “over 50% of Nepali students reach grade 8” without acquiring the expected standard skills in English, math, and science (NIRT, 2017).
Comprehensive data on the schooling status of the general population of various developing countries are still non-existent. Taking Nepal again, there are countless regions where neither proper educational institutions have been established nor proper research has been done to analyze the statistics. There is no extensive research or reliable data about the disproportionate educational opportunities for children with disabilities (CWDs), marginalized communities, and about the effectiveness of the education system in satisfying the qualitative demand of the job market. And the few studies that have been conducted depict problems like language barriers, financial insufficiencies, technological hindrances, and various forms of discrimination from early childhood.
Individual and Societal barriers
The financial conditions of the families are limiting thousands of brilliant children from getting advanced education. Many children face language barriers; the curriculum taught to them isn’t in their mother tongue. This can be a problem particularly in the multi-lingual developing countries like Nepal where children from hundreds of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds have to learn additional languages the curriculum is based on – primarily English or Nepali. About “35% of schools do not use the medium of instruction most students understand” (NIRT, 2017).
The problem of difficult landscapes and lack of transportation facilities are also relevant in this issue. Due to difficult physical topography, students of remote parts of hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal, have to walk miles to reach their schools. As for higher studies, students from every corner of the country have no other choice than to leave their hometown and live in a completely different environment while bearing expensive costs.
Wars, natural disasters, famines, and various other socio-political impediments are also huge barriers to education. This is demonstrated by several African countries which have low literacy rates and poor quality of education because of these issues. Without addressing these issues beforehand, the level of education cannot be improved in these developing countries.
Discrimination and Inequity
It’s a catastrophe to realize that people are still deprived of basic education facilities just because of their gender, race, disability, ethnicity, and other identities and backgrounds. There are still places where giving basic education to girls is either considered taboo or too expensive to undertake. The girls from minority groups are the most likely to abandon their educational journey because the majority of them are either compelled to handle household works or are forced to early marriage.
In Nepal, minority groups like Dalit and Madhesi groups are unable to attend schools due to extreme poverty. In some parts, people struggle to eat healthy satisfactory meals twice a day. Here, families either don’t bother getting children in schools or are forced to involve children in work for mere survival.
Children with disabilities are probably the most unfortunate members in terms of the opportunities to get an appropriate education. Not only do they have to face discrimination and personal disabilities, but they are also often excluded from education, especially in developing countries, where either proper systems of education for them have not been developed or people do not bother to provide them the opportunity to become productive members of society through their creative expressions.
Without the involvement of every member-groups of our society in the education sector, we cannot utilize our greatest assets and potentials for the ultimate betterment of mankind.
Multi-dimensional problems are present in the education sector in developing countries ranging from the complete absence of schools to complex socio-economic factors that limit the bright minds of tomorrow. Recognizing these issues is the first step towards creating helpful solutions. If we believe education is a basic human right, these issues lingering in most developing countries need to be addressed by the global community. By providing opportunities to these disadvantaged groups of people, we might discover many unexplored potentials, hidden geniuses, and effective problem-solvers of the future.
NIRT. (2017). Nepal Education Sector Analysis. National Institute of Research and Training (NIRT) and American Institute of Research (AIR).
Verner, D. (2005). What factors influence world literacy? Is Africa different? World Bank Policy Research.
About the Author
Amrit is an avid intellectual and an astute analyst. He believes that individual changes are indispensable for global changes. He is passionate about creation and learning. His main interests are computer science, mathematics, philosophy, literature, psychology, business and sociology. He aspires to explore the world, experience everything life has to offer, and positively impact the world.