“A picture of a rice cake cannot satisfy one's hunger” is a Buddhist truism commonly said in South Korea. The phrase refers to how the image of something is not as good an experience as the actual thing.

Access to education is a basic human right that has the potential to transform individuals and communities by increasing opportunities in poverty reduction, boosting economic growth, and promoting transparency and good governance. This focus is supported in Goal Two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to achieve universal primary education by 2030. Although positive strides have been made in the right direction towards this goal (e.g. primary education enrolment rates have increased across the globe overall), there is more work to be done.

Today there are 58 million children who are denied their right to education and remain out of school. Millions more who study in poor conditions without access to water, proper toilets, books, etc. Donor resources for funding primary education continue to decrease and political will in some countries remain stagnant, even in those with the highest number of children out of school.

The Republic of Korea is a champion in prioritizing national education which is evidenced by their high levels of GDP allocation to education (at 8%) and increasing levels of higher education attainment among young adults.

On September 24th, 2014 South Korea made their first financial commitment of US$ 5 million to the Global Partnership for Education, thereby securing their membership in the only global partnership that coordinates action to improve education in the poorest countries. During the official announcement, President Park Geun-hye said, “Offering educational help in conflict zones or vulnerable countries is a must if children are to have hopes and dreams.”

In May 2015, South Korea will continue to hold the spotlight on education by hosting the World Education Forum (WEF2015), the largest meeting place for education and development leaders, as well as other stakeholders from around the world. Some of the objectives of the World Education Forum are to agree on how education will play a role in the next 15 years and what strategies will enable us to implement the education agenda.

If you believe education should not be limited to a “picture of a rice cake”, but become a reality for all children across the world, join Global Citizen in keeping the momentum going. We’re calling on the Korean Foreign Ministry of Affairs to continue Korea's support for education by increasing their commitment through the Global Partnership for Education.

Take action by tweeting the Korean Foreign Ministry of Affairs.


Defeat Poverty

South Korea steps up and supports global education

By Francis Bencik