Equity and Inclusion in Tertiary Education

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Recently, I stumbled upon a dataset on tertiary (post-secondary) education globally published by World Bank on the website ‘Our world in data’ and some of the insights were shocking. The gap in tertiary education is enormous from developed to developing to underdeveloped nations. Quality tertiary education for everyone is the key driver of a nation’s prosperity and social wellbeing. It can provide a knowledgeable, skilled, employable, and productive workforce while encouraging R&D/ innovation which is important for sustainable growth and creating a more equitable society.

Tertiary education is the career deciding step for most students. It’s the third level of education; the first two are primary and secondary. Typically, tertiary education starts after twelve years of school education and refers to all formal post-secondary education, including public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools encompassing certificates, diplomas, or academic degrees. Post that some students aspire for further education, like a master’s degree, a Ph.D., etc. but the majority aim to obtain a job and get gainfully employed at the end of tertiary education. Therefore, not only for the individuals, the quality and adoption of tertiary education determine the growth of a nation.

There are multiple ways to look into the World Bank dataset. First, let me share the gross total enrollment in tertiary education as a percentage of the total population in the figure below. At first glance, we notice a pronounced gap between developed nations, i.e. US, UK, EU, and the developing and underdeveloped nations, like India, SE Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and most of Africa. For most of us, this is not surprising but a confirmation of what we already know.


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