Opinion: Equality in education: breaking the glass ceiling

Amy Lawlor

Image Credit: Greg Balfour

Education, a basic human right that some would risk their lives for, yet others take for granted.

The process of learning promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. Yet millions of children and adults remain deprived of educational opportunities, many as a result of poverty and violence.

In developing countries, adolescent girls are more likely to drop out of primary school than boys, particularly in rural areas.

The Full Participation Project ‘No Ceilings’, which is a combination of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the ‘No Ceilings’ initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, found that only 15 per cent of girls in Pakistan, and six per cent of girls in Afghanistan from low income families completed primary school.

Imagine presenting the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” to a young girl in Ireland today. What would their answer be? A princess, a fairy or maybe even a unicorn.

Now imagine asking that same question to someone who has never been asked that before simply because of their gender, what would their answer be?

Speaking out on record for the first-time last week about women’s rights since the inauguration and the Women’s March in Washington, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, “We need strong women to step up and speak out. We need you to dare greatly and lead boldly.”

Clinton’s statement is especially telling as she chose to address attendees of the 2017 MAKERS conference, since the event is set up as a time when leaders come together to “elevate the conversation and raise challenges and solutions through action-oriented sessions,” according to the conference website.

It is unacceptable that in an age where there are worldwide legal cannabis stores and soon to be legalised injecting centres on Irish soil that education, a fundamental human right is not legal around certain parts of the world.

“Unfortunately, for the most part in Europe, education is viewed as a monotonous task where your parents wake you up early on weekdays and drag you to school. There is no value behind the art form that teaches children to read and write,” said Tim Meyer a former professor of philosophy and methodology at King’s College London.

From his own experience as a lecturer Tim recalled that nearly all of his students welcomed the absence of teachers, and subsequent cancellation of classes.

“I wish that students in countries like Ireland and England would appreciate their opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. Some take it for granted because they know no different; whereas a lot of children around the world, especially girls fear for their lives trekking to school day after day unsure of whether activist groups will cause them harm,” he said.

In March 2015, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama launched the ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative which recognises that adolescent girls face multiple challenges in pursuing an education.

It employs a holistic approach to change the perception of the value of girls at the individual, community and institutional levels; foster an enabling environment for adolescent girls’ education and engage and equip girls to make life decisions and important contributions to society.

Although history is an important subject to teach the future makers of today, current affairs and the work of charities such as ‘Let Girls Learn’ is imperative to incorporate into our education system to keep children of a suitable age informed and appreciative of their environment.


Amy Lawlor