In the realm of education, January means different things for different people. According to the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA), January is that time of year when financial institutions begin bombarding parents with calls to save for their children’s future education costs.
These estimated fees are often thousands of dollars more than what parents are reasonably expected to pay, often representing the “upper ranges” of independent schooling. Some education providers suggest that it can cost up to $1 million dollars to put an individual child through non-government schooling. However, the ISCA feel that these estimates are misleading, arguing that their “data shows that in 2014 the median Australian metropolitan Independent school fee was $5,887 per annum”, a more ‘reasonable’ estimate as to what parents should expect to pay per year for their children’s education.
Regardless of whether you’re willing to pay the $5,887, or the million dollar, and regardless of your perspectives on public or private education, there is surely one thing that we can all agree on. Education is important. Why? Because it is a proven vehicle to combating poverty and inequality. In fact, it is often argued that education is one of the most important investments that a country can make for its children and for its future. In relation to the 17 Global Goals, education is crucial to the success of each and every one of them. The Global Goals, otherwise known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), came into being in 2015. Together, the goals make a “17-point plan to end poverty, halt climate change and fight injustice and inequality”. Signed by 193 governments, including our own, the Global Goals are part of the 15-year ‘2030 Agenda’ that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals. Although non-binding, there has been encouraging enthusiasm by different sectors in society – enthusiasm that has been described as ‘unprecedented’ in some regards. This enthusiasm is welcomed as the Global Goals are only words in a document at the end of the day, and cannot achieve themselves. Global Goal 4 (Quality Education) will most certainly need support, as education will play an important role in achieving the 17 goals. Global Goal 4 is all about ‘ensur[ing] inclusive and equitable quality education and promot[ing] lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Its importance to other Global Goals can be highlighted through the following example. In relation to Global Goal 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing), effective education will mean that more people are aware of preventable health risks, as well as ways to improve their health and wellbeing. In other words, better-educated people will be less vulnerable to health risks. Therefore education can help achieve good health and wellbeing.
Aside from the importance of education in achieving the 17 Global Goals, we cannot argue that everyone should have access to quality education and the freedom to be able to pursue lifelong learning opportunities if they so choose. However, not everyone in the world enjoys this fundamental right of education, often because they are born into situations beyond their control. Situations such as being born into fragile and conflict-affected areas, or in families or countries that do not have the capacity to support a young person through education, impede that person’s right to education.
If you are able to read this, then you are fortunate to not be one of the 774 million adults in the world who are illiterate. This fact may mean that you won’t find yourself living in poverty, or if you do, you may have the ability to lift yourself out of poverty. With each year of schooling, you may find that your income increases. Your children may not experience malnutrition or be at risk to adverse health effects. You may have the capacity to adapt to new technologies and contribute to local or global innovation and infrastructure. In fact, your education may allow you to help create sustainable cities and communities, and be an advocate for not only the human species, but also for other fragile ecosystems. You may find yourself being a promoter of peace and justice, or simply participating in the democratic process by exercising your civil rights. Whilst enjoying some or all of these possibilities, you could also work in creating partnerships to achieve our global goals.
Truly, let’s talk about education, because everyone deserves the possibility of living a life of empowerment. After all, universal education won’t achieve itself. And neither will the Global Goals.