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Where's the Best Place in the World to Go to School?

Berlin (July 25) — A great public school for every child is far out of reach when you look at the schoolhouse from an international perspective. Some 115 million children worldwide have no access to an education, according to the Barometer of Human and Trade Union Rights, an extensive research report released by Education International in July.


The Barometer provides country statistics on early childhood education, including student/teacher ratios (in 2005, the average primary school classroom in Afghanistan had 83 pupils), the percentage of girls receiving in an education (in 2004, only 23 percent of the children completing a primary education were girls), enrollment rates, and degree of privatization. The reports include analyses of academic freedom, gender equality, students with special needs, refugee and minority children, and child labor in each country.

On the web, side-by-side country comparisons are available. In 2004, for example, only 0.21 percent of students who graduated from secondary school in the Maldives continued their education; in South Korea, the figure was 88.52 percent.

Not all the news is bleak. In 2000, Thailand spent some 31 percent of its public expenditure budget on education, the most of any nation that year.

But in its reporting, the Barometer doesn't pull punches. On Kenya, where 56 percent of the population live on less than one dollar a day, the Barometer states: "Discrimination on the basis of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed is prohibited, but the law is not enforced. Government officials are accused of tolerating and, at times, instigating ethnic violence."

"The worst day we have in terms of obstacles in America - they would wish for as their best day," noted NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roekel at EI's World Congress in July in Berlin. "The idea that educators are imprisoned in their effort to educate every student in their country is just amazing." 

NEA, a founding member of EI, continues to advance programs and collaborations with EI to improve conditions for educators and children worldwide.