Society Insights

The education report: the challenges facing schools

The trend

The crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored and exacerbated the inadequacies and inequalities of our education systems, such as unequal access to technologies, digital teaching resources, and learning environments, all challenges which escalate the risk that students will drop out of school. According to UN data, 1.6 billion students were impacted by extended school closures in 2020, and at least a third of them had no chance to access remote learning. Along with their students, teachers suffered from the fallout of lockdowns too. In fact, the pre-Covid teacher shortage was aggravated further by the pandemic, which led to higher levels of stress and burnout.

The results published in the first edition of the Global Education Monitor reflect these issues. In this Ipsos survey, conducted across 29 countries, interviewees were more likely to label the education system in their country as “poor” rather than “good.” This finding can be explained in part by the fact that Covid derailed public spending on education, which was deprioritized compared to pre-pandemic levels, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This move brings with it the added risk of progressively weakening human capital development and consequently hampering economic growth.

Key takeaways

Of the survey population, again from 29 countries, 33% describe their respective education system as good, while 36% say it’s poor. Breaking down this statistic further, stark differences emerge between countries and regions of the world. (In Singapore and Ireland, more people express satisfaction, while Hungary lies at the opposite end of the spectrum.)  What’s more, parents of school age children tend to be more optimistic than people who don’t have children in school. Another finding relates to what people see as the biggest issue facing the education system: updating the school syllabus. Case in point, nearly one out of two people from Poland think that the school curriculum is outdated, while more than half of all respondents think that schools aren’t doing enough to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, or creativity among the students in their countries. As for AI in schools, attitudes are generally positive: 7 people out of 10 say that teachers should show students how to use AI, but at the same time teachers should get special training to be able to spot when AI is used in class assignments.

According to survey respondents, the most critical challenges facing the school systems in their respective countries (listed in order of importance) are: inequality in access to education (in particular in Indonesia, at 62%), overcrowding in classrooms (the Netherlands, 55%, followed by France and Sweden), lack of funding (the UK at 48%, Hungary at 42%), inadequate teacher training and infrastructure (both seen as critical in Peru, while in Italy the latter problem is particularly pressing), political or ideological bias (especially in Hungary and Poland), inadequate use of technology (Indonesia and Malaysia), high dropout rates (the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain), safety and security (the US leading at 41%, followed by France and Brazil, with 31% and 30% respectively).

When asked whether they would advise someone to become a teacher, 45% of respondents said no. This finding seems to reflect the recent crisis in the teaching vocation. In fact, according to Unesco data, 9% of primary school teachers left the profession in 2022, nearly double the number for 2015. Underpinning the waning prestige and attractiveness of the teaching as a career is undoubtedly low pay, even though this Ipsos survey found that people are evenly divided when asked whether teachers get paid enough.  Instead, there was general agreement across the board (except in Belgium) on the relative importance of a university degree in leading a successful life.

The education report: the challenges facing schools