While most children and teens in Germany go to class every week, that’s not the case in the rest of the world where one in six are not in school. Over 265 million children – 22 percent of them of elementary school age – are currently not attending school. These children’s knowledge is limited and often they have not learned to read, write or do arithmetic. Because of this, they are only likely to find unskilled work that pays very little. Especially children living in poverty drop out of school because they don’t have money for tuition and teaching materials. Such children start work at an early age to support their families. Sometimes there simply are no schools nearby. But a lack of key qualifications and skills only makes it more difficult to lift themselves out of poverty.
When educational levels throughout a country’s population are low, that’s a problem not just for the individuals but for the country as a whole. Without trained, qualified experts, the country will be hard pressed to develop further and achieve sustainable economic growth under its own steam. In addition to improving the quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip people with the resources needed to devise innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems.
Even where many children attend school, more than one in two still cannot read properly or do arthmetic. This is frequently because schools and teachers lack resources. Compared to schools in Germany, where computers and technology are increasingly in use, almost half of the schools in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to drinking water, electricity, computers or the Internet. Qualified teachers who know how to impart knowledge to their students are also in short supply. In order to provide children from poor families with a quality education, we need to invest in scholarships for pupils, teacher training workshops, building school facilities as well as improving water and electricity supply in schools.
In 2019, one in ten young adults aged 18 to 24 in Germany only had a lower secondary education, which barred them from admission to university and technical college. Additionally, they had neither completed nor were engaged in vocational training or further education. Known as early leavers, these individuals face an increased risk of remaining unemployed, not earning a sufficient income and living in poverty in the future. Germany is also home to 6.2 million people who cannot read and write properly. Although many recognize and can write single words, they cannot understand or compose longer texts. One in two are not native speakers of German. Schoolgoers from immigrant backgrounds often achieve poorer results and are 50 percent more likely to drop out than classmates whose native language is German. Consequently, it is more difficult for them to successfully enter the workforce.
In the last decade, significant advances have been made in improving access to education at all levels by, for instance, increasing enrolment rates especially among women and girls. Basic reading skills have improved tremendously. Yet more effort is needed to fast-track progress toward universal education goals. So while, for example, girls and boys have achieved parity in elementary schools globally, there are few countries where this is true at all levels of education.