Next week is International Education week, and students at Carleton will be hosting a series of events to celebrate the benefits of international education and cultural exchange abroad. There will be various gatherings that highlight the advantages of both students going abroad and hosting students from a plethora of different countries. It should be informative, but more so, it should be an extremely interesting week, one that puts many facets of international education in the spotlight.
From my own personal bias, as part of the festivities it would be wonderful to see a focus on the lack of educational opportunity for most of the world. Especially in light of the Taliban’s recent shooting of 14 year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousufzai, who continued to go to school despite an oppressive environment, it would be refreshing to move away from the traditional “these are the benefits of studying abroad and getting to know other cultures” mentality and instead focus on educating ourselves about the educational oppression that most people, especially women, face in other countries.
For example, in the last thirty years Afghanistan had less than one million children ever attend school, and only 6% of its female population aged 25 and over had received any formal education. However, within the past decade, new statistics have shown that over 8.6 million children are now enrolled in school, a sign that the percentage of the female populace that graduates with a legitimate education could be increasing. Small steps, many of which are thanks to international awareness and subsequent advocacy from volunteers in non-profit organizations, have made this possible.
At a small liberal arts college in the midwest, thinking on a global scale about serious world issues like the lack of education in distant countries can sometimes seem fruitless. But it isn’t, and to become aware and also an advocate for true international education (outside of the privileged liberal arts sphere) is to take the crucial steps towards effecting global change.
Maybe someday, even in our lifetime, the percentage of educated women in places like Afghanistan will rise to over 80%. For this to happen, though, we make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on these issues, as an investment in the future of global education for all.