Eugene Cho

the power of education

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Consider this quote from Joseph Addison [an English essayist/poet – 1672-1719] regarding the power and influence of education:

“Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad an introduction. In solitude, a solace, and in society, an ornament. It hastens vice, it guides virtue; it gives, at once, grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage.”

Asides from the “reasoning savage” [think contextual], it’s a very potent quote which explains why it’s often used to support education.

For the past week, we were able to enroll our daughters [9 & 7] as guests in the local public elementary school here in Seoul, Korea. Our oldest joined the 4th grade class and our younger daughter joined the 2nd grade class. To be honest, they weren’t thrilled about our plans especially since they “already finished school and we’re on vacation” but we told them that this would be an incredible cultural experience. After the first day, they were very excited and made great friends and have been slowly improving their Korean language capacity – slowly.  That’s our daughter in the picture below in the black hair.  🙂

Anyway, it was good for me to observe and learn about the Korean school system as well and how far it has come and it’s pivotal role in the development of South Korea from its post-Korean war devastation – and frankly, the continual development that needs to take place.  I left Korea at age 6 and never had a chance to enroll in school which explains why my Korean writing and reading capacity is at a 6 year old level. They had 40 students in the classes per one teacher. Minhee shared that when she was in elementary school, there were 60 students in her class.

The education system is what made United States the most influential nation and may be the very thing that will lead to its demise.  Unequal access to education – even at the most elementary levels – and the rising costs of college education is a debilitating concern.

If you have the time and the energy, UNESCO’s Global Education Digest [190+ pages] is a great read about the trends and voids in education throughout the world. The UIS Global Education Digest monitors the flows of students moving from the primary to secondary level of education across the world. In Africa, only 62% of pupils complete primary education and are therefore ready to pursue their studies, compared to an average completion rate of 94% in North America and 88% in Asia. According to the latest figures in the Digest:

  • Africa has the lowest primary completion ratios in the world (see Figure 1). In Europe, almost all countries have ratios exceeding 90%. Out of 45 African countries, only eight reach this level: Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Tunisia.
  • In 19 African countries, the ratios are 50% or lower, meaning that at least every second child does not complete primary school.
  • Only about one in three children will complete primary education in six countries: Niger (21%), Guinea-Bissau (27%), Burkina Faso (27%), Chad (32%), Burundi (32%) and Mali (33%).
  • 69% adults of tertiary age are enrolled in tertiary education programmes in North America and Europe, but only 5% in sub-Saharan Africa and 10% in South and West Asia. [Tertiary age = post secondary].

This is why EDUCATION is so important in the battle against global poverty. Another reason is I can’t think of anything more sustainable that empowering, equipping, and enabling children through education. But obviously, you have to also ensure proper medicine, nutrition, water, family environment, etc. for that education to also have an impact.  You have to ensure that education is accessible to girls as well which is a problem in so many countries.  But consider these an example of the impact we can make together through our collective pending fight poverty organization:

The Karen ethnic people of Burma are undergoing atrocities that some find comparable to what is happening in the Darfur. Education is very important and an example not only of compassion but building sustainability for people to be lifted out of poverty.

A schoolteacher’s salary?  $40/year [with the goal of trying to pay $123/year].  Yes, you read that correctly…$40 per year. 

I still very vividly remember a conversation with a young Karen Burmese lady I met at “Village 101” by the jungles of the Karen villages near the border of Thailand .  She spoke broken English and clearly had the capacity to make a “good life” for herself by trekking [even w/o a valid ID] into Thailand.  I asked her why she chose to stay in the villages.  Her answer:

“I am a teacher.  If I leave, who will teach the children?”

From Beyond Borders:

“It is almost impossible to get a good education in Haiti. For the poorest children it is very difficult to get any education at all. Of the world’s 104 poorest countries surveyed by Oxfam International in 1998, only three countries ranked lower than Haiti for the availability of basic education. Only about half of Haiti’s children ever attend school. Most who do never graduate from primary school; and only 38 of every thousand students complete high school.

Although education is technically compulsory, public schools are few and far between and terribly overcrowded, sometimes with over a hundred students in a single class. As a result, about 80% of all students attend private schools. Poor families will go without food or other necessities to pay tuition for a child to attend a school that is also often overcrowded and where the quality of education is usually quite poor. Still, the tuition and fees these schools charge put them out of reach for poorer families.

The cost of sending a Haitian child to school?  $120/year.

Education.  It’s a wonderful thing and should be available to all – locally and globally.  Let it be so.

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

Filed under: family, health

12 Responses

  1. J. P. says:

    I’ll never forget my own education about education, meeting a man in a remote part of Western Sahara who lived in a large tent, with his young wife and five or six small children–none of whom will probably ever go to school–and the young servant (slave?) boy with haunted eyes who served another bedouin family.

    Having climbed a few educational peaks myself, I can observe that it enhances the potential for a better life, but by no means guarantees it.

  2. Darren P. says:

    Eugene,

    Great post. Many of the world’s notorious “leaders” have no interest in building infrastructure in their respective countries such as education because it keeps its people disconnected and unable to uplift themselves.

    I love the idea of helping pay for teachers so that they themselves are helping the next generation emerge out of poverty. Knowledge is power.

  3. eugenecho says:

    received this info this morning from a reader with deeper connections to bring more clarity on the situation in burma:

    “Last year, Karen teachers received a $40 subsidy for the year to help them pay for food and be able to keep teaching. The goal is to provide each teacher with the higher salary, but the funding is not yet there to accomplish that…..(The $150 was a goal that’s been quoted before….I should know better than to open my mouth without visual aids and statistics to verify info!).

    Sorry for steering you wrong. If you want to fix it on your blog, here’s the quotable/referenced data below:

    “For the 2006-2007 school year, each teacher received 1,300 Baht (approximately $40 at time of distribution) per year, but KSEAG’s goal is to provide each teacher with 4,000 Baht (approximately $123 at time of distribution) per year.”
    (taken from Partners page on education) http://www.partnersworld.org.au/education.html

    The complete report from 2007 is referenced here:
    http://www.ktwg.org/Library/KSEAG%20REPORT%20DEC%202007.pdf

  4. Teresa says:

    You tube has an 8 minute video detailing the work of the KSEAG (Karen State Education Assistance Group) referenced above. Amazing….talk about dedication!
    Thanks for the focus.

  5. Chris says:

    I just finished reading “Three cups of tea” It was a very compelling case that building schools in areas where there are none and allowing non-western, non-extreme education is the best anti-terrorism measure that the United States has to offer. We could have built as many schools and paid as many non-us teachers in Afghanistan and Pakistan as needed for the past 20 years for less than what war cost.

    I’m not inherently anti-war, but I think it would be a far better foreign policy, so long as it is done with no strings attached. The US military actually offered to fund 100+ schools, and the protagonist in the true story turned them down, because there were strings.

  6. DK says:

    Okay. I’m convinced. You are very serious about this poverty thing.

  7. […] of education Thought provoking post at beauty and depravity, taking note of education achievements in South Korea in the past 50 years or so, and then looking […]

  8. Oh my goodness!!!! The quote made mention up top from “Joseph Addison” as education as being our companion……YES!!! Somebody Get’s It!!! This is Good! God supplied us the presitgous Theologians with “Magnificant Hearts So Big”. Intelligence that only God could have provided by His Free Will….wanting us therefore, too “use our Gifts He speaks of written in Corinthians 13” I believe……How wonderful …the wonders of magnificant educators; and THEIR relief for us too…. “Ponder Some More” of God’s Wonders……and His Love: Explorations that we are to adhere too written from our sound Doctrine supplied by God-Himself!!! CALLED EDUCATION…..THIS IS SO WONDERFUL!!!!! We can count ourselves lucky….WE’VE BEEN GIVEN A BOOK!!! The Bible! xx

  9. Liam says:

    Great post, I wholeheartily agree. I know how determinative education can be, Its great the Church is beginning to take hol d of this in some way.

  10. […] have very full lives. One opportunity that we didn’t create but are very excited about is Missio Dei Learning Community. The emphasis for Missio Dei LC will be on Kingdom, Spirit and […]

  11. AdrienWC says:

    Oh wow! My husband (we are both teachers) came home from work about a week ago telling me about these facts he had found online… it sounds like I may have bumped into the same page! We were just discussing tonight why is there free public school but not free Christian school. On a road trip last week, I heard a new concept near Atlanta GA: every church could open and support its own Christian school. The speaker even had a book about it. I just got home a few days ago, but I have his contact info in my van still. Thank you for another wonderful post. I am now completing a degree in Christian School Education and I love this blog on education. Thank you!

  12. Education is life, without it there is no meaning attached to it. You always will have to know to learn, unlearn and relearn as this is what will enable you to go through your daily lives in a reasonable manner.

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One Day’s Wages

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As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory) May our hearts break for injustice and exploitation - whether abroad or in our own backyard. Spending a few days for @onedayswages in Thailand. Along with one of our board members, I'm traveling with a group of 10 others to learn, listen and visit a few NGOs including one of our partners, @thefreedomstory. Couple days ago, we spent an evening walking through Soi Cowboy. On a given night, about 10,000 people are in the ring of prostitution in Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong. Much of this is driven by the consumer demand. Approximately 70% of male tourists go to Thailand for the sex industry.

Human trafficking is complex. Anyone that says otherwise is lying or selling you something. 
To reduce it to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.

When people speak of human trafficking, they tend to be ‘attracted’ to the issue of sexual exploitation. Dare I say it, human trafficking has become trendy as a justice issue.

Clearly, it’s evil and egregious. But to reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful. Because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to not only combat sexual exploitation but engage in issues of poverty, forced labor, commercial exploitation in tourism, land rights and power abuses, organized crime networks, cultural and economic realities, etc.

Oh, it's so complex but we have to be engaged whether in Thailand or in our own backyards. May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God... More thoughts to come.

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