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The Right of All to Quality Education

The Social Principles acknowledge that children are full human beings in their own right (Social Principles, ¶ 162C). Children have a right to education, and parents and governments have an obligation to provide them with the access to an adequate education. "Thus, we support the development of school systems and innovative methods of education designed to assist every child toward complete fulfillment as an individual person of worth. All children have the right to quality education" (¶ 162C).

The United Methodist Church is committed to the "achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another. We pledge ourselves to seek the meaning of the gospel in all issues that divide people and threaten the growth of world community" (¶ 165).

While remarkable progress has been made in the last ten years toward achieving education for all, the right to education remains one of the most widely and systematically violated of all human rights. In 2010, 72 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school (2010 UNESCO Report). Gender disparities are still prevalent, even though the number of girls out of schools has declined. There has been little progress in helping to eradicate adult illiteracy, a condition that plagues 759 million people, two-thirds being women. Millions of children are leaving school without having acquired basic skills.

This was also true for the Israelites as for any of the peoples of the ancient world. Walter A. Elwell points out that in the Hebrew Scripture we find "repeatedly that the success of the community and the continuity of its culture were conditioned by the knowledge of and obedience to God's revealed law (Joshua 1:6-8). Thus, to ensure their prosperity, growth, and longevity as the people of Yahweh, Israel's mandate was one of education-diligently teaching their children to love God, and to know and obey his statutes and ordinances (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). Likewise, the New Testament record links the success of the church of Jesus Christ, as a worshiping community of 'salt and light' reaching out to a dark world, to the teaching of sound doctrine"1 (see also John 13:34-35; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14; Titus 2:1). Every additional year of schooling reduces a young man's risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20 percent, creating a safer world for us all.

Clearly, the above example highlights the importance of teaching children about the faith; however, it also illustrates the importance of educating children in general. The above illustrates the need to instill in our children values that could benefit the entire human family. Thus, we can echo the international community in asserting that education is a human right. We can also affirm that education is a social and spiritual benefit from which no one should be barred or impeded.

Unfortunately, the right to education remains one of the most widely and systematically violated of all human rights. Today, 115 million children are not enrolled in school; the majority of them girls. Forty percent (40%) of children in Africa receive no education. Another 150 million children start primary school but drop out before they have completed four years of education, the vast majority before they have acquired basic literacy skills. Unless urgent action is taken, they will join the ranks of nearly one billion illiterate adults in the world.

The benefits of an education are enormous. A good education helps people gain access to better paying jobs, thus, helping reduce the number of people who live in poverty. By the same token, a good education is essential for a sustained economic growth. Education provides people with skills and empowers them to take advantage of new opportunities. Completing just five years of education can increase agricultural efficiency significantly. In addition, studies have shown that educating girls not only raises their future wages, but dramatically reduces infant and maternal mortality rates.

People across the world are demanding that the right to education for all children be upheld. Governments, local communities and community-based organizations in poor countries are striving, often in spite of the most appalling adversity, to educate their children. Recent achievements to provide primary education could be derailed by the global economic crisis, newly falling aid levels, and educational challenges. In May 2010, seven million people participated in the Global Campaign for Education's week of action and called for an end to the global crisis in education. The mission of the Campaign is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right to every girl, boy and woman and man to a free quality public education.

In 2000 many communities around the world responded to The United Nations' call to "Education for All." In addition, the United Nations' "Millennium Development Goals" document includes a goal to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Rich countries have repeatedly promised that poor countries with credible national education plans would not be allowed to fail due to a lack of resources, but this promise has yet to be translated into action. UNESCO estimates that $16 billion will be needed each year to achieve this goal. If current trends continue, 56 million primary school age children will still be out of school by 2015. Rich countries and the World Bank must increase and improve aid for basic education.

Therefore, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church calls on the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, India, and other rich nations as well as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to deliver on their promises to the world's children by providing substantial and sustained increases in aid for basic education in poor countries, and create a Global Fund for Education. The International Monetary Fund must not press governments to cut education spending as a means to "balance" their budgets, or to stimulate the economy.

In addition, we urge United Methodists in countries around the world to advocate their governments to provide such support for their children's education.

ADOPTED 2004
AMENDED AND READOPTED 2012
RESOLUTION #3162, 2008 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #100, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS

See Social Principles, ¶ 162C, D.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2012. Copyright © 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.