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Initial Thoughts About Access to Education

By Julia M. Robleto Flores

In a quote, Gandhi says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” From that point of view, I believe that from any perspective, whether it be historical, theoretical, theological, social or psychological, education can be perceived as a central axis of human development. It is the foundation of our values, philosophies, beliefs, and conditions; a process that prepares us for the challenges of life and for interacting with individuals who hold different perspectives. It is clear that education links people to a society; to a social and human environment. Education together with family form the main pillars in the life of all human beings.

During my life, I have had the opportunity to study in three different countries: Nicaragua (my home country), Canada, and the United States. In Canada, I needed to learn French to finish my high school studies. Now, in the United States, I need to finish studying English in order to work in my field: environmental engineering. These experiences in three different countries have allowed me to learn about the educational system in each country.

In Nicaragua, subjects such as Spanish, math, history, world geography, environmental sciences, physics, and chemistry offered at the elementary and junior high level have a much more rigorous curriculum than in developed countries such as United States and Canada. However, in developed countries, the educational system is much more participatory, creative, and focuses on the development of skills and multiple intelligences.

In developing countries, students have less access to education due to the high level of poverty. Nicaragua has the highest percentage of children out-of-school and the lowest rates of elementary and junior high completion in Latin America. For example, only 50% of children who attend elementary school graduate from sixth grade. Nicaragua needs to address several challenges to ensure that poverty levels do not affect access to education.

In Nicaragua, we have private and public universities; however, not all Nicaraguans have the financial resources to go to college. Tuition in public universities is free and private universities are not as expensive as private universities in the United States. It is worth noting that in Nicaragua, the quality of education in public universities, for the most part, is actually better than that of private universities. The factors that influence a Nicaraguan’s ability to attend college include the distance of the university from their home town and the ability to purchase school supplies, pay for housing, etc. More often than not, students stop attending school to contribute economically to their family. The problem of education in developing countries at all levels is linked to a lack of access to financial resources; an issue that needs to be addressed from a holistic approach.

To sum up, just as with the educational system in any country, there will always be opportunities for improvement. It is important to work on these challenges, because education is the fundamental tool for the progress of a country.

Click here to watch an interview with Julia Robleto Flores!

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