Information Access Overview

Knowledge is power, and access to important information is the basis of how we gain knowledge. Not only is access to information considered a fundamental human right, the ready availability of affordable formal access, such as through education in school, is crucial to promoting social equality, peace and productivity. Public information resources, such as open-access websites and libraries, also support innovation and socio-economic development.

Access To Education

Basic education, especially for children, advances the development of communities and assists in breaking the cycle of poverty. However, an estimated 101 million children are not in school worldwide. The opportunity to gain an education often affected by one’s location, gender, disability, and political or economic status; for example, two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are women. To be fully literate in today’s complex society, a person must be able to read, write, do math and use a computer.  The denial of the basic human right to education has far-reaching consequences.The biggest threat to universal education is a lack of funding.

Alternative Education

Alternative education describes a variety of learning methods designed to accommodate differences in learning and lifestyle. Students whose needs are not met effectively in traditional school settings may thrive in an alternative arrangement. Homeschooling is a legal option for parents in many countries, allowing them a greater role in their children’s education while still striving for similar educational standards. Unschooling, on the other hand, doesn’t use a fixed curriculum, and centers on the practice of letting children learn through life experience. Online and distance learning provide students greater flexibility, while apprenticeship or mentorship opportunities allowing students to work closely with someone more experienced. Finally, supplemental leadership or service learning programs serve to teach entrepreneurship and community involvement.

Arts In Education

Involvement with the arts is associated with heightened cognitive ability, critical thinking, math and verbal skills. Some research suggests that arts education also supports creative and innovative thinking and higher levels of academic achievement in general. Internationally, the use of arts in education has been used to preserve traditional and ethnic cultures and to foster appreciation of global diversity. Nevertheless, the arts are more likely to be minimized, especially through lower funding, because the subject is not considered key to learning in today’s world.

Digital Resources

Although only 32.7% of the global population has access to the Internet, 75% of the world has access to mobile phones.  This is why people around the world are demanding equal access across governments. Since technology is a significant medium for news, information and ideas, some countries have regulated access, particularly to control destabilizing information that might adversely affect the current government. Digital tools and technology are critically important because they can open up many opportunities for people who know how to use them. With access also comes the need for literacy. Digital literacy describes the ability to use and access social technology wisely. As technology is increasingly integrated with daily life, digital literacy holds a key to career success.

Literacy

The word literacy describes a complex set of abilities used to understand and communicate through language and symbols. Most commonly, literacy refers to the ability to read and write, critical skills for learning and everyday life. However, many forms of literacy exist. Similar to language literacy, numeracy is the ability to comprehend and use the language of mathematics. Media literacy, meanwhile, describes the ability to analyze and evaluate a variety of information sources for accuracy and motive. Digital literacy, increasingly important in the information age, allows a person to use online and mobile communication systems. Additionally, our current global economic crisis has brought attention to the importance of financial literacy. Although it’s rarely taught in school, knowledge and understanding of financial matters is the only way individuals can manage their own resources with autonomy and efficiency.

Media Messaging

Mainstream media outlets often intend (or at least claim) to offer objective, unbiased information. Although media communication can educate consumers, the news and entertainment industries can also produce distorted and exaggerated content to grab attention and appeal to viewers.  The high cost of advertising in today’s fragmented media world means that industries spend millions or even billions on ads to win consumer dollars, thereby influencing this trend towards distortion. In fact, 58% of global online consumers trust “owned media,” such as messages on a company website. This depiction of reality can affect popular understanding of a variety of important topics such as gender roles and politics. On the other side of this challenge, consumers of the media tend to pay the most attention to news and entertainment sources that confirm their own ideas and beliefs, rather than broadening their perspective.

Quality of Education

How well students are taught, and how much they learn, can have a crucial impact on how likely they are to stay in school and enjoy economic success with a good job. Although opinions about quality in education are by no means unified, it’s agreed that poverty is the biggest obstacle to quality of education. Many children around the world lack the basic essentials that fuel learning, especially adequate food, transportation to and from school, basic school supplies, books, healthcare and internet access. Beyond the availability of these learning resources, support from parents, role models and others in the classroom are vital to the quality of education.  The UN has acknowledged that reaching its goal of universal primary education by 2015 is unlikely, despite the global acknowledgement that school readiness is a key element of economic growth.

STEM Education

Proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – also known as STEM education – contributes to social welfare and economic prosperity. Knowledge of science and math is crucial to technological innovation, which we can credit for many improvements in public health, transportation, environmental protection, and other essential aspects of society. In the developed world, STEM education and careers retain too few students and workers to meet full potential. In developing nations, the expense of scientific equipment limits STEM education, despite clear need for medical care and technology. Deepening the problem, a relative lack of STEM career opportunity in poor regions leads the skilled to migrate out of their home communities, a pattern commonly known as brain drain. In both settings, untapped potential for widening STEM proficiency lies among women and minorities, who are underrepresented in these fields.

Truancy

Truancy is any intentional and unauthorized -- or illegal -- absence from school. Truancy may result from a fear of bullying, boredom, frustration with classes, or problems at home. Just as regular school attendance leads to better academic achievement, inconsistent school attendance increases the risk of failure in education.  Not only is there a link between skipping school and poor literacy and numeracy skills, but truancy also increases the risk of delinquency and criminal behavior.  While public officials have tried a variety of methods to increase school attendance, truancy is a persistent problem.