e-Discussion – Access to education

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 agenda highlights the need for access to education for all. Access goes beyond the physical infrastructure, to ensuring equitable and equal access to quality education.

Topic Update

Education Policy in the Maldives: No Child Left Behind: Changing Lives & Working for Results. By the Minister of State for Education, His Excellency Dr Abdulla Nazeer

. . . despite the unique geography, due to the high value our Government places on investing in education and the fact that the Government now offers free education for all children in Maldives between the ages of 4 to 18 and has an adult literacy of 98.4%.

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eDiscussion through the Education Hub Community of Practice

Access cover

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This e-discussion delves into the issues surrounding access to education, going beyond the physical infrastructure, to ensuring equitable and equal access to quality education.

While significant access-related progress has been made across the Commonwealth and beyond, a backlog still exists in the provision of education to all sectors of society, including:


  • Approximately 17 million primary-aged children and 16.4 million youths out of school across the Commonwealth;
  • The impact of conflict and health crises on school attendance;
  • Disproportionately lower engagement of marginalised populations and peoples in the education system (e.g. rural and differently abled children, indigenous peoples); and,
  • Engagement in early childhood education, and drop-out between the transition from primary and secondary education; and,
  • Approximately 3% more boys than girls enrolled in primary schools across Commonwealth countries.

Participants emphasised the importance of access to quality education for sustainable development and individual well-being. The discussion adopted a general understanding of access to education and the capacity to participate in and receive a good quality education, whilst accounting for equity and other considerations. Whilst issues affecting access to education were discussed, participants centred on theoretical and practical solutions to improving access for all.

Key conclusions and recommendations from the discussion included:

  • Improving access to education requires a holistic, multi-sectoral and participatory approach, which engages different stakeholders and reaches all levels and means of education (e.g. exploring the use of technology and roles of online and distance learning to expand access).
  • A wide range of stakeholders have roles to play in improving access to education.
  • Population growth as a key issue to be addressed for improved access, which if unaddressed will exacerbate existing and emerging access challenges.
  • Evidence-based policy decision-making, backed by comprehensive data, and engagement with stakeholders and across sectors is necessary for effective policy development and implementation.

Useful Material

Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its targets: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

Sugata Mitra’s TED talks, accessible at https://www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra

Ksoll, C., Aker, J.C., Miller, D., Perez, K. and Smalley, S.L. July 2014. Learning without Teachers? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of a Mobile Phone-Based Adult Education Program in Los Angeles.