Monday, August 12 marks International Youth Day. This year’s theme, “Transforming education”, highlights the inequality of education around the world and efforts by young people, governments, and youth-focused organisations to attain inclusive and equitable learning for all. It’s also an important opportunity to acknowledge how crucial education is in achieving sustainable development and social wellbeing, as well as reducing entrenched generational disadvantage.
Who’s affected by educational inequalities?
Half of all children aged between 6 and 14 lack basic reading and maths skills. Only 10% of people in low income countries are likely to complete secondary education. In addition to this, 40% of people around the world are not taught in a language they speak or fully understand, and 75% of school-aged refugees are out of class entirely.
These figures are most likely to affect Indigenous youth, people with disabilities, women, and young people escaping vulnerable situations. The reality is that modern schools still struggle to address the unique challenges of these groups while embracing their specific realities and requirements.
Why does education matter?
Education is correlated with numerous measures of wellbeing and success, including social participation, income, health outcomes, and statistics around crime and conflict.
Around the world, people with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to be gainfully employed and less reliant on government subsidies. They’re also less likely to engage in risky behaviours, including illegal activities, smoking, binge drinking and violence.
In Australia, full-time employment rates sit at only 18% for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders with an educational attainment below year 10. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this figure increases to 51% for Indigenous people who have completed Year 12 or a skilled vocational qualification and 63% for those who have attained a bachelor’s degree.
Why it’s important to celebrate International Days like Youth Day
This year’s International Youth Day allows us to mark the efforts of organisations and youth-led groups to make education available around the world.
According to the United Nations for Youth:
Making education more relevant, equitable and inclusive is crucial to achieving sustainable development. Education is a ‘development multiplier’ in that it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or building peaceful societies.
In Australia, this might take the form of educational scholarships for Indigenous people or young women facing disadvantage, or it might be specialist services and support for schools to improve the wellbeing of students from refugee backgrounds.