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The global educational disadvantage

As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, all United Nations member states agreed on a set of goals including the improvement of education by the year 2030. One of these goals (goal 4) aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all learners across the globe. 

There are, however, widespread challenges faced by countries across the globe seeking to achieve this goal, one of which is educational disadvantage.

“Children living in poverty face many barriers to accessing an education. Some are obvious — like not having a school to go to — while others are more subtle, like the teacher at the school not having had the training needed to help children learn effectively.” Global Citizen, 10 Barriers to Education Around the World

With more and more reports emerging around the growing educational disadvantage, the need for an educational equalizer is clear. A quality education can be the cornerstone in society’s development and economic growth, as well as emotional development and wellbeing. We have the power to nurture and shape our future societies for the better, but quite often this powerful, game-changing tool remains neglected. 

“Increasing access to education can improve the overall health and longevity of a societygrow economies, and even combat climate change.” Global Citizen, 10 Barriers to Education Around the World

The lack of classrooms, untrained educators in specialized fields and learning materials, coupled with distance from home to school and the expense of education can all create significant barriers to quality education for each and every student. But we live in the age of modernization, the age where technology can cross borders, so why should education continue to be overlooked? Why should quality education continue to be a privilege that only the lucky few can experience?

The impact of global educational disadvantage

According to UNESCO, the world needs almost 69 million new teachers to reach the 2030 educational goals. Further to this, UNESCO estimates that 25 million children of primary school age will never set foot in a classroom, with a mere 14% of youth completing upper secondary education in low income countries. 

A separate study carried out by, backs up these statistics and determines that education for millions of students remains an inaccessible right. It states that more than 72 million children are not in school and predicts that 759 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to improve their living conditions and those of their children, thus creating a ripe environment for a never-ending cycle.

Unfortunately, an illiterate adult or education-deprived student is immediately placed into a long-term and sometimes life-long disadvantage in relation to succeeding in this ever-changing world, with more and more focus placed on specialized and emerging skills and jobs and educational backgrounds. further outlines an inequality evidenced in many countries that can also spiral around language barriers, ethnic origins and religion. The study estimates that many students are having to make the tough choice to abandon their education in order to get a job and support their families due to factors such as unemployment in certain regions. But perhaps if more flexibility were to be offered around education, we would be better positioned to support society’s future?

The role of virtual schools in abolishing educational disadvantage 

Taking into consideration all evidenced challenges driving educational disadvantage, perhaps we can look to one of the fastest growing and border diminishing industries; technology. Could virtual schooling very well be the future of education?

With the ability to virtually break borders across the globe, and the ability to educate any student, anywhere and at any time, the future solution to educational disadvantage could already be here.

Education really could be possible even in the farthest corners of the globe, with 24-hour access to educational and specialized support. Each and every student can create the future that they desire, with hundreds of teachers available at the click of a button in even the most niche topics and fields.

No longer will students have to make the tough decision between their education and their life commitments. With virtual schooling, students can learn at their pace and in their preferred environment. Virtual schooling can be delivered through a bricks and mortar model or quite simply as an addition to any school wishing to attract more students.

What’s more, virtual schools have the potential to positively impact a wide range of educational settings, from early years through to higher education, meaning that students can not only have access to an education, but can receive individualized support and instruction throughout their entire learning experience. Virtual schools are all about opening up a world of learning for pupils that wouldn’t otherwise have access, or would do so under difficult circumstances, and having the flexibility to meet the needs of a diverse user base ensures that students are properly prepared for the future and empowered to fulfill their potential. 

Imagine a world where every child had access to top quality education, every child around the globe had an equal right, and every child had the ability to receive acceptance at some of the world’s most elite university institutions. Imagine a world, of educational equality, where everyone, no matter their background, had the ability to not only shape, but take charge of their own life and abolish the cycle of educational inequality.

The future is here, let’s transform education together.

By: Gavin McLean

Gavin McLean

“Gavin McLean is the International Business Development Director at Edmentum International. He has nearly thirty years’ experience in business and curriculum development in international education. Based in the United Kingdom, Gavin has worked for some of the largest international publishers including Macmillan Education and National Geographic Learning, and has consulted for public and private sector companies, multinational agencies and donors in various global markets. Gavin and his team at Edmentum International are dedicated to working with international schools to implement technology that genuinely benefits teachers and students.”