Education is something that most people in the developed world seriously take for granted. For many students, going to school and doing homework is considered a chore, instead of a luxury. However, access to quality education is a fundamental issue in the world today, and one that deserves a significant amount of international attention to resolve. If you want to make a sizable impact on one of the most under-valued, but highly necessary, fields in the world today, you should volunteer abroad in education!
Why Volunteer Abroad in Education
Most people view volunteering abroad in education as synonymous with teaching English abroad. Not to diminish this type of international work, but there is much more to volunteering abroad in education than just teaching English. In many parts of the world, language barriers are not the primary issue of concern, but rather, an overall lack of resources and educational opportunities as a whole. There is no sense in teaching someone a second language if they have yet to learn how to read or write in their native language.
In countries where literacy rates are minimal and schools are scarce, education volunteers can become essential to progress and development across society. They will not just help people obtain a better education, they will create long lasting ripple effects. Increased access to education will ultimately change the entire community that you volunteer in, possibly for generations to come.
Where can you volunteer abroad in education? Anywhere your heart desires! The unfortunate reality of our world is that there is always someone who cannot obtain a proper education somewhere, so the sky's the limit in terms of placement locations. However, some of the most popular regions for education volunteering abroad include:
Central America. The primary driver in education volunteering in Central America is nature. There are many countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where schools are built simply, and not sustainably, and therefore not built to withstand natural disasters, such as tropical storms and earthquakes. Volunteers can assist local communities by providing educational resources in multiple forms, from building schools to teaching at local schools to providing disaster risk reduction training or raising environmental awareness.
The Middle East. Many countries in the Middle East face a very different set of roadblocks when it comes to access to education: gender inequality and religious conflict. Since there is an overall gender gap in many Middle Eastern countries, there tends to be little to no prioritization of education for girls. Additionally, the continuous religious and political conflicts, especially in countries like Israel or Jordan, create more barriers for those attempting to obtain even a basic education. Volunteers who choose to work in education in the Middle East may focus on conflict resolution, human rights, and overall awareness raising efforts throughout the region.
Africa. Generally speaking, most countries in Africa see a whole range of problems when it comes to access to education. From gender inequality to a lack of healthcare resources and schools, volunteers can help in nearly any type of placement they can think of in most African countries. Some of the most popular places to volunteer in education in Africa include Morocco and Ghana, but the options are close to limitless.
Education Volunteering Abroad
The great thing about volunteering abroad in education is that the options are endless, so volunteers can often get creative and make their placement as unique as they want it to be. There is always something that can be done to improve access to education in almost any country and most education volunteer programs require only basic qualifications to participate, which means literally anyone can become an education volunteer abroad.
The first step to improving access to education abroad is providing the actual environment needed for learning to occur and then supplying the resources needed to educate. Children cannot attend school if there is no building and they cannot learn to write if they have nothing to write on. If you are interested in improving the educational infrastructure of a developing nation, there are tons of volunteer programs that allow volunteers to help build schools in underprivileged communities.
After an actual school is available to attend, students need to be able to physically get to school, which brings about two additional areas of concern: transportation and health. There are many areas around the world that have the schools and resources needed, but only to limited portions of the population due to the geographical layout of towns and cities or the unequal distribution of schools throughout the country. Additionally, in some cases students are capable of getting to school, but face health issues that prevent them from attending; these health concerns can range from access to feminine hygiene products to malnutrition. Assisting with the development of community health education programs or promoting the development of new modes of transportation are just two ways to volunteer abroad in education that can make a difference in the lives of children facing transportation or health issues that impede them from attending school.
Once students are healthy enough to go to school and have the infrastructure and resources in place needed to learn, there are still many facets of education that prove to be challenging in some communities and schools. Most individuals interested in education volunteering abroad jump head first into opportunities to teach English abroad, but there are also many opportunities (and a need for volunteers) to teach other subjects, including those outside the normal subjects taught in schools. For example, there are plenty of education volunteer programs focused on increasing knowledge related to health, nutrition, and technology. Sometimes taking your education volunteering beyond the classroom and into the community can be even more impactful than becoming a stereotypical ESL teacher abroad.
Benefits & Challenges
There are an unlimited number of benefits that stem from access to education in all its forms, as knowledge can propel all kinds of personal and community development.
Advancements. Innovation can’t happen without an awareness that something can be improved upon and access to the necessary educational tools to develop a solution. In order for the world to continue growing and society to improve overtime, everyone must have opportunities to bring their unique innovations to the table.
Peace. At the end of the day, people are just people. No matter our skin color, religion, or language, all people deserve to have the best life possible. The main driver of inequalities and persecution is simple ignorance. With better access to education, there is the potential for less conflict and ultimately a decrease in preventable social issues. After all, knowledge is power!
There are literally an infinite amount of ways to get involved and improve access to education around the world, so you should never feel like your only option is to teach English abroad. All you need to volunteer abroad in education is a passion for improving the lives of others and a willingness to expand your horizons, so don’t waste a single second; check out all the ways you can promote education through volunteering abroad!