If current global trends continue, 50 million children will still be out of school in 2025, and 50 years from now education for all will still be a distant dream. Contrary to accepted wisdom, the world is not on a smooth, irreversible upward path to universal education, and, for millions, equality of opportunity will remain a hollow promise, its absence a growing source of unrest.
I have never thought that for the poor to do well, the wealthy should do badly. I don’t subscribe to the politics of envy. If there is one idea that inspires our modern world, it is that every child should have the opportunity to rise as far as their talents can take them. But if there is one reality that exposes our failure to deliver, it is that where you come from still matters much more than where you are going.
In fact, 80 percent of global income inequalities can be explained by who your parents are and where you live. Yet instead of tackling the disadvantages that come from birth and background, we continue to invest just $400 in the primary and secondary schooling of the typical African child, while we spend upwards of $100,000 – 250 times more – on her Western counterpart. And it is this gulf between our grand ideals and children’s experiences that makes the cause of educational opportunity, in the words of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the civil rights issue of our generation.
Of course it is essential to expose and blame extremists for inciting the young, and it is vital to support those moderate leaders attempting to assuage the growing anger of the crowds. But if countries do not address fundamental inequalities in opportunity, then unrest will grow – not because young people are anti-American but because they have lost hope.