Access to education, or a lack of access to education, is a key indicator of poverty in many countries. Many cannot afford to send their children to school, need them to work at home, or have no school near them. As a result, it becomes difficult to beat the cycle of poverty. Global access to higher education is especially important, as it is necessary for access to increased salaries.
Enrollment in higher education doubled between 2000 and 2018. This means that, though many aren’t actually graduating from college or trade school, they are gaining skill sets that will allow them to break the cycle. However, it is important to note that there still exists a large gap in access between the rich and poor, and many of the poorest countries have extremely limited access to higher education.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia have the lowest access to higher education. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are also the two poorest regions in the world, accounting for five of every six people in poverty around the world. These two facts are closely linked, as access to higher education is closely linked to poverty. Increasing access to higher education in those regions would help reduce the levels of poverty there as well.
Access to higher education is lower among the world’s refugees. In 2023, while rates of primary and secondary school education are 68% and 34%, higher education only has an enrollment of 5% among refugees. Because the world’s refugees have such low access to education compared to the global average, it can be difficult for refugees to escape poverty in the countries they move to.
Women have higher enrollment rates than men. Around the world, women have rates of enrollment in higher education 5% higher than men. While men only increased 17% over the last 20 years, women’s enrollment has increased 22%. However, there are many fields, specifically in the sciences and engineering, where women are still behind men. Increasing access in those fields will allow more women to contribute to other important parts of the world’s economy.
Global Learning Poverty
Global learning poverty increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to school closings, many students learned remotely or not at all throughout the pandemic. Poorer countries have been hit the hardest, and learning poverty jumped from 57% to 70% in those countries. While this has reversed many years of work to increase education access and literacy rates, as the world returns to normal, that rate will begin to drop again.
– John Rooney