Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free... Thus commences Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). [1]

Article 26 expands thus on this fundamental premise:

“1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Unfortunately, as with so many human rights, those espoused in Article 26 are simply ignored in a swathe of countries around the world as revealed by the UNICEF figures for 2000. [2]

While adult literacy (% literacy over 15 years of age) is about 98% in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Overseas Europe (the US, Canada, Israel, Australia and New Zealand), the lowest adult literacy is found in the impoverished countries of Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina. In South America adult literacy is mostly greater than 90% but the countries with the lowest figures are those subject to decades of egregiously violent US interference, namely El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua. A similar pattern is observed in Central Asia – high adult literacy of about 98% in the former Soviet republics but the lowest literacy in the high mortality countries of Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran (countries variously subject to US and Soviet military involvements). In East Asia, adult literacy was 85% in China but 98% elsewhere. However adult literacy was below 60% in all the high mortality countries of South Asia whereas in the 2 shining exceptions of the Maldives and Sri Lanka adult literacy was over 90% and correlates with “Western-style” low infant mortality and low avoidable mortality.

For the countries of South East Asia, adult literacy was over 90% in countries not subject to sustained military violence (Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand) as well as in vigorous post-war Vietnam; for all other South East Asian countries adult literacy was less than 90%, with this correlating with very high mortality. In Arab North Africa and the Middle East there was a mixed bag of results with Jordan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Qatar scoring over 90% and Iraq, Morocco and Yemen scoring under 50%. In the Pacific, Papua New Guinea had the lowest adult literacy and an appallingly high avoidable mortality; conversely, Fiji with an adult literacy of 93% has excellent health outcomes. Finally, in non-Arab Africa any benefits of the highest literacies of 77-89% in formerly British-ruled Southern Africa have been swamped by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and utterly incompetent governance; conversely, Mauritius (85%) has excellent health outcomes; but unfortunately, with the exception of Congo (Brazzaville) (81%), the rest of Africa has appalling adult literacy figures of less than 80% that is reflected in appallingly high avoidable mortality and infant mortality.

This sad summary of the world (I have just finished writing a book on the subject) can in turn be distilled into a few lines. Excess mortality in the world is fundamentally due to violence, deprivation, disease and LYING. Violence, deprivation and disease directly contribute to death as clearly seen in a swathe of countries variously subject to First World violence, wars, colonial occupation and neo-colonial control. However extraordinarily sustained Western media lying by omission has obfuscated the clear causes of a Third World Holocaust. Thus mainstream media will simply NOT report the horrendous post-1950 avoidable mortality (excess mortality) that now totals 1.3 billion for the world, 1.2 billion for the non-European world and 0.6 billion for the Muslim world – a Muslim Holocaust of immense proportions and about 100 times greater than the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (6 million victims) or the “forgotten” WW2 man-made Bengal Famine in British-ruled India (4 million Hindu and Muslim victims and a 1941-1951 Bengal demographic deficit of over 10 million). [3]

Similarly, First World lying by omission and commission obscures the simplicity and modest cost of ending the Third World Holocaust. The outstanding examples of the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Cuba and Paraguay demonstrate that peace, sensibly spent annual per capita incomes of about US$1,000 – US$2,000, good governance, high adult literacy and basic primary health care can deliver outstandingly low excess mortality and infant mortality outcomes. The annual “cost” of ensuring that all countries of the world have annual per capita incomes of at least US$1,000 is a mere US$1,400 billion, only 2.5% of the world annual wealth production of US$55,000 billion. To put this into sharp relief, the annual world market value of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs (all utterly unnecessary and harmful products) is US$1 billion, US$0.9 billion and US$0.8 billion, respectively. Of course, peace, sensible governance, high literacy, preventive and basic medicine and sensibly-directed annual aid (or debt- and commodity price-based economic relief) corresponding to only US$200 billion would permit a dramatic and permanent improvement to the current horrendous situation in which about 45,000 people die avoidably world-wide each day from deprivation and the daily under-5 infant mortality totals about 30,000. A key component of such salvation is education – which needs to be delivered with maximum access and maximum quality but at minimum cost.

Paradoxically, education is becoming increasingly expensive in the prosperous Western countries. High quality education at the secondary and tertiary levels is no longer free in most Western countries (but Scandinavia is an exception). Education has become increasingly commodified and delivered as a “market product”. Perhaps this capture of “education” by “greed” explains Western tolerance of media lying and an entrenched PC racist (politically correct racist) culture of denying any racism but “looking the other way” and ignoring the horrendous human consequences of First World impositions on non-European countries (notably Iraq and Afghanistan). It is notable that it was the “free education” Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway (together with Luxembourg and the Netherlands) that by 2003 exceeded an “aid as a percentage of GDP” figure of 0.7%. [4]

The dominant assertion in the Anglo-Celtic democracies (notably the Coalition countries of the US, the UK and Australia) that “education cannot be free” is an outrageous example of publicly-accepted lying by commission. This powerful falsehood can be readily dispelled as follows. The proposed system of Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) permits maximum access at minimal cost to high quality, accredited tertiary (university level) teaching and learning (and is also applicable to other areas such as secondary education i.e. high school education). ARL simply represents a maximum access, maximum quality and minimum cost form of “distance education” that is specifically designed to deliver the best quality teaching and learning to off-campus students as is provided to conventional on-campus students (for a detailed exposition. [5]

The argument for ARL runs as follows. Every country needs a “national scholarly complement” involving scholarly experts, research funding and research infrastructure. However it is clearly unfair to demand that young people of about 20 years should have to pay for it – it should be funded (like defence and other government agencies) by the general taxpayer. ARL essentially involves governments simply declaring that ANYBODY should be able to enrol for ANY lecture-based course given on-campus at ANY national state university, be provided (at cost price) with requisite teaching materials and be able to subsequently offer themselves (after dedicated off-campus study with possibly some electronic student-student and student-teacher interactions) for accrediting examination (again, at cost price). The system ensures that the off-campus students get the same excellent teaching and learning provided for on-campus students – but at a distance.

The reality for many subjects taken in Australian universities is that after the first few weeks of lectures and receipt of extensive teaching materials, as many as half the students skip formal lectures in order to work to pay for their onerous tuition fees i.e. these full fee-paying, on-campus students effectively transform themselves into off-campus students for reasons of economic necessity.

The teaching materials would include things such as a detailed syllabus; a detailed summary and "teaching and learning" guide (to set the student on a reasonable path to productive "deep learning"); a reading list (specifying the didactically most effective books); detailed lecture notes; and worked past examination and tutorial questions (to give the students an idea of standards and expectations).

The learning process would essentially involve the student and teaching materials (particularly the outstanding textbooks by didactically brilliant authors) but could ideally also include "add ons" (at cost) such as relatively inexpensive electronic or face-to-face student-student and student-tutor interactions (and available in excess of that obtaining in actuality on-campus at very low cost from a large pool of graduates).

The accrediting assessment processes (depending upon the demands of the student, the teachers and the subject) could range from continuous assessment by examinations and assignments (allowing for continuous correction and feedback on progress) to the extreme scenario of the terminal 3 hour examination.

This ARL system can provide an off-campus, accredited, high quality, lecture-based course IDENTICAL to that offered on-campus but at a cost of, say, about $100 per semester course - as opposed to the "full fee" on-campus cost that could range up to $10,000 per semester course. The ARL system permits ready access to ANYONE who is disadvantaged by poverty, disability, family care responsibilities, full-time employment or geographical location. This system of maximum access, maximum quality and minimum cost higher education can also be applied with “full cost recovery” for the benefit of ANYONE in the world, whether a mature age aspirant in the prosperous West or a Palestinian condemned by the West to life in a refugee camp. Taking Article 26 seriously and taking education out of the market place would be an immense step towards global salvation.

Notes:

[1]. See: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a26

[2]. For updates, see the 2006 UNICEF reports: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/index.html

[3]. See: http://globalavoidablemortality.blogspot.com

[4]. See: http://www.axisoflogic.com/cgi-bin/
exec/view.pl?archive=93&num=16132

[5]. See: http://www.whitepage.com.au/GideonPolya/