Children are recognized as the future of any country. The knowledge base provided to them through education is integral to not only develop individuals but also the country as a whole. The United Nations recognized this by creating one of their Millennium Development Goals devoted to achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015. While this has been successful in many nations across the world, there are only a collection of countries that offer free primary education.
In countries considered part of the Western developed world, from Canada and the United States in North America to France and the UK in Europe to Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific, all offer free primary education and have done so, on average, for the past 100 years or slightly longer. It was these countries which drafted up the idea of free primary education for all, and continue to fund the idea through aid and programs, in the Millennium Development Goals. Considered a basic right for all its citizens, some Nordic European countries, such as Sweden, even offer free post-secondary education to its people.
The World Bank stated that while progress in achieving universal primary education has been slow, countries in the Asian region are catching up, and most offer free primary education to the best of their ability across the board, other than the Maldives. This is the same in east Asia and southeast Asia. However, they struggle to reach beyond primary education.
Sub-Saharan Africa has benefited greatly from free primary education, as it affects the rates of poverty; however, while provided access, schooling can be difficult for children. While free school may be offered, it often is not attended. Still, with the exception of Somalia, Sudan, Angola, Gabon, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, all countries in Africa offer free primary education in and of itself; however, children or families often have to pay for books and supplies themselves. The region of the middle east also offers free primary education; however, in areas that are experiencing conflict, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, classes may not always be attended.
Cuba is the prime example of free primary education in the region. It is the poorest country, but it provides some of the best primary education free to all its citizens. Latin America is leading the underdeveloped world in growth of free and compulsory education, according to Kararina Tomasevski. All countries in South America with the exception of Colombia offer free primary education; however, while this may be a legal guarantee, under-the-table corruption can sometimes hinder access for children.
- World Bank:Free Primary Education and Poverty Reduction: The Case of Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda
- UNESCO: The introduction of free primary education in sub-Saharan Africa
- UNESCO: Sub-Saharan Africa's Education Challenge
- World Bank: The Knowledge Economy and Education and Training in South Asia
- Katarina Tomasevski: Latin America
- Katy McDonnell/Digital Vision/Getty Images