It’s September, which means students of all ages are flooding back into classrooms.
Education in and of itself is an essential element of free expression. Education gives people the power to make their own choices, speak up for what they believe in and opens important dialogues. School not only teaches students important information, but also the skills to think critically and express themselves.
Free expression in education, and educational freedom in general, looks different all over the world. The Academic Freedom Index provides an interactive map and comprehensive information about the state of global education. According to the 2023 index update, 22 countries that are home to more than 50% of the global population, have less academic freedom than they enjoyed ten years ago. The countries that have the highest academic freedom scores include Czechia, Estonia, Belgium, Italy and Germany while the countries with the lowest academic freedom scores are North Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and Belarus.
One major issue in educational free expression globally is access to education for girls. According to UNICEF, there are 129 million girls out of school worldwide. Only 49% of countries have gender equality in primary and secondary school, 42% have it in lower secondary education and a mere 24% have achieved educational gender equality in upper secondary education. In Afghanistan the situation is particularly alarming with girls being prohibited from attending educational institutions beyond primary level. While they are the only country with this ban, many others don’t provide sufficient education to women and girls.
Outside of access to education, another vital element is students' rights to express themselves in schools. This has been a highly debated issue in the United States, as seen through years of court cases and protests. Keep an eye on our social media later this month for a deeper dive into this topic.
Make sure to check out our social media and blog during September to learn more about free expression in education.