Monday, December 14, 2009

Focus on Health Care Should not Eclipse Focus on Education

Focus on Health Care Should not Eclipse Focus on Education

Of course the health of a society should be a universal concern of any nation. But I am concerned that the nation is so focused on health care right now, on debating legislation and combating H1N1 that we are losing time. The education debate seems stalled. Spending time worrying about H1N1 is not going to do anything to change the situation… education and preventative courses of action will. There always will be natural and man-made disasters that grab the headlines and tug at the heart of humanity diverting our focus from the ongoing issues. We cannot let important issues slip off the desk because a pressing issue has surfaced. In times of instant communication we must be principled and reasoned in our responses, global in our reference and in the end, do what is just and right for the greater good of humankind. I am afraid that a knee jerk reaction to the news allows the most crucial issue to slip out of sight….and that issue is education. In the end game education will prove to be humanity’s saving grace. In 2002, the Clarence J. Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at Harvard University, David Bloom, eloquently outlined the importance of higher education in the time of a rapidly moving globalized society:

First, higher education is essential to promoting sustainable human
development and economic growth. It is no longer a luxury that only rich
countries can afford, but an absolute necessity for all countries, and
especially for poor countries.

Second, the pressures of globalization make it urgent that we devote
substantially more resources to the tertiary education sector, and that we
also reform it at both the level of individual institutions and the system as
a whole.

Third, good ideas are not enough – focusing on implementation is at least as
important as policy design. The harsh realities of taking an idea to the field
and bringing it to scale must be considered in the design of policy (Bloom,

Professor Bloom’s points are important and should be heeded. Higher education is imperative for the future. Yet there is another concern that needs to be addressed- the number of children who are not being educated at all. UNICEF published the following statistics, revealing that globally millions of children are not even receiving a primary education.

Numbers of primary-school-age children not in school (in millions)

Sub- Saharan Africa Boys 21.6 Girls 23.8 Total 45.4
Middle East and North Africa Boys 3.7 Girls 5.1 Total 8.8
South Asia Boys 18.7 Girls 23.6 Total 42.3
East Asia and Pacific Boys 5.2 Girls 4.9 Total 10.0
Latin America and Caribbean Boys 1.8 Girls 1.5 Total 3.3
Central and Eastern Europe,
theCommonwealth of IndependentStates
and the Baltic States Boys 1.3 Girls 1.6 Total 2.9
Industrialized Countries Boys 1.4 Girls 1.2 Total 2.6
World Boys 53.8 Girls 61.6 Total 115.4

Source: UNICEF/UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2001/2002

How can it be that we are not educating in a time when we can twitter and tweet, have streaming video teleconferences in board rooms which connect people thousands of miles away, and know the importance of education? Yes, poverty is at the heart of the issue. People need the essentials, food, clothing and shelter. Also global health needs must be addressed. But if we as a global community cannot see that education needs to be a constant focus we will truly be lost.

The number of uneducated global citizens is staggering. Yet there are solutions! The World Bank points out that combining a focus on health as well as education fosters economic well-being:

Improving Delivery of Education and Health Services – The developing
countries that have gained the most from integrating into the world economy
have shown impressive gains in primary education and infant mortality. This
suggests that many countries have made investments in education and health
services that enable the poor to benefit from growth(World Bank 2003.

All school districts and educators should embrace the challenge to educate globally! As the world gets smaller and we are confronted with not just the problems that touch our neighborhood but that touch our world I ask teachers to reach out to children who are marginalized and beyond our school boundaries. Let us take distance education, which is becoming a norm now in higher education, and let us make it a way to reach children who are presently outside of the academic circle. Collaboration is key. For the New Year let us make education a constant priority, an integral component of global initiatives in health care and anti-poverty legislation. An educated population is an empowered population that can help solve the world’s problems! Happy Holidays!


Bloom, D. E. (2002). Mastering globalization: From ideas to action on higher education reform. Globazation: What Issues are at Stake for Universites? Quebec, Canada: UniversiteLeval.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics(2001/2002).

The World Bank (2003). Globalization, growth, and poverty : building an inclusive world economy, Volume 1, Report 23519