Education in Third World Countries

Instructor: Mandy Gerhard

Mandy has taught a variety of age groups, from early childhood through adult learners. Mandy has a master’s degree in education.

The state of education in Third World Countries has been a focus of international forums for many years. In this lesson, we will explore the education system, or lack thereof, in these countries in greater detail.

A Picture of Two Worlds


As you are driving to work you get stuck behind a school bus. The bus stops multiple times to pick-up children who are on their way to school. You see children moving around on the bus, both boys and girls are laughing, talking, and possibly even waving at you. At this point you are now running slightly late and can feel your blood pressure rising with each minute that you are waiting behind this bus. Now picture yourself in a third world country. Now, there is no bus to be stuck behind. The closest school may be over an hour away from the village you are staying in. The girls in the village are not allowed to attend school due to various reasons. The few boys from the village, whose parents don't need them to work on the family farm, set out early in the morning to start their walk to school. This is the reality for a large number of children of primary school age in third world countries.

The Push for Educational Development

Third world countries commonly referred to as developing countries, have had a commitment to improving education access for all for many years. Since the early 1960s, researchers began to show that the education of a country's population has significant impacts on the overall welfare of society and how it will compete globally. As a result of this research, many governments of developing countries expressed their want to create and implement Universal Primary Education (UPE) initiatives. These countries included Africa, Asia, and Latin America. A recommitment was again made in the 1990s to provide basic education for all at the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA) held in Jomtien, Thailand. A push for the conference came after a staggering statistic showed that 105 million children in 1985 did not attend school. These children were between the ages of six and eleven years old, and the majority of them were girls. During the WCEFA specific goals were developed as well as a framework to monitor progress. In 2000, the World Education Forum was held to review the state of education and progress towards the goals. Even after this commitment and focus to providing education for all, the number of children not in school had grown to roughly 125 million.

The Mystery of Missing School

Why are there so many children missing school in developing countries? It would appear that with the focus and push for increasing basic education that these numbers would decrease. Unfortunately, just providing a space and a teacher is not enough for our ever-changing world. The increase of children remaining out of school between 1999 and 2000 was a reflection of the following major factors: the development of new countries (the result of the break-up of major geographic areas including the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia), significant population growth, human conflict, natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, the increase of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the economic crisis, and the development in technology creating a divide. Current obstacles for children remaining out of school also differ from country to country, making it difficult to implement global strategies.

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