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In recent decades, substantial progress has been made in student enrollment in primary schools around the globe. Even in some of the most poverty-stricken regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment has risen from 54 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2011.

However, despite the dramatic increase in the number of children who are in school, just being in a classroom does not translate into students receiving a proper education — one in which they are able to keep up with global standards or are even acquiring the skills they need to be successful.

Challenges like malnourishment, lack of educational resources and teachers who are ill-equipped or ill-prepared to teach, all lead to situations where although students are in school, they are not actually learning.

As a consequence, there has been a rise in private education for the poor, addressing the needs of children in even the world’s most impoverished countries.

For example, in Pakistan, where more than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, many parents are spending 10 cents a day to send their children to the private schools where they know their child will get a better education.

In India, 28 percent of children attend private schools and, maybe even more revealing, four out of five public school teachers send their kids to private schools.

Private schools are filling a gap in providing an education that ensures students are not just sitting in a classroom idly, but that they are acquiring skills and knowledge. Yet, private schools are not able to truly address the educational needs of a nation and often are only available for those who can afford the cost and who are in the right location.

Despite the fact that literacy has dramatically improved around the world, the rise in private education demonstrates an on-going need to make sure public education is providing students with skills they need to be successful. If all students in low-income countries were able to read at a basic level, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty (equivalent to a 12 percent cut in world poverty).

Access to free primary education is enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and therefore is intended to be provided by a country’s government.

Providing strong primary educational opportunities is an investment into the future of a country.

Each additional year of schooling for children can lift the average annual gross domestic product of a country by .37 percent. Education provides skills that open opportunities to jobs and helps boost productivity and economic output.

The rise in private education is a great motivator for governments to make sure that the education they do provide is not only meeting global standards allowing their students to compete and grow the economy, but also that it will provide them with the skills they need to be successful individuals in their local communities.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Foreign Policy 1, UNESCO, Cato Institute, The Borgen Project, Global Partnership for Education
Photo: Education News