Teachers in Britain may moan about the length of time it is taking to re-build Victorian primary schools, but at least every school has running water and inside toilets. However, a recent study by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics on primary schools in 11 countries has revealed that this is still not the case everywhere.
Of the 11 countries surveyed, none could guarantee that every primary pupil went to a school with running water, although Chile came closest, with 98.5 per cent of pupils, and the Philippines, at 70.1 per cent, was the worst. Interestingly, blackboards took precedence over running water, with all the countries in the study reporting more than 95 per cent of pupils attending schools with blackboards in every classroom, except Sri Lanka. But, in every country surveyed, there were neither enough sitting nor writing places available. Even Malaysia, where 100 per cent of pupils had access to blackboards, only 95 per cent had writing or sitting places.
Only in Malaysia and Uruguay were school libraries commonplace, with more than 90 per cent of pupils having access to one compared with 53 per cent in Paraguay and the Philippines. Even staffrooms were rare in many countries with only 26 per cent of pupils in Tunisia being in a school where the staff had such a basic facility.
For those of us who take the email and the web for granted, it comes as a surprise to discover that the percentage of pupils in schools connected to the internet ranged from more than 90 per cent in Chile to 3.1 per cent in Sri Lanka: truly a global digital divide.
John Howson is a director at Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.