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Adolescence and youth mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, a time when many important social, economic, biological, and demographic events set the stage for adult life. Education plays an essential role in this transition. Although youth literacy rates have increased, progress has been uneven, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern and Western Asia falling behind, and the rural-urban gap widening.

There are three main concerns regarding current systems of education. The first is the inability of many parents in developing countries to send their children to schools because of local economic and social conditions. The second concerns the paucity of educational opportunities for girls and young women, migrants, refugees, displaced persons, street children, indigenous youth minorities, young people in rural areas and young people with disabilities. The third concerns the quality of education, its relevance to employment and its usefulness in assisting young people in the transition to full adulthood, active citizenship and productive and gainful employment.

To encourage the development of educational and training systems more in line with the current and future needs of young people and their societies, it would be helpful to share experience and to investigate alternative educational arrangements such as non-formal arrangements for the provision of basic literacy, job skills training and lifelong education.

Opportunities for young people to pursue advanced or university education, engage in research or be trained for self employment should be expanded in developing countries.

"It has been said that knowledge is power. We need to strengthen education systems so that young people can benefit from cultural diversity, and not be victimized by those who exploit differences." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- to Security Council on Intercultural Dialogue for Peach and Security 2010

Given the economic problems faced by such countries and the inadequacy of international assistance in this area, it is difficult to provide appropriate training for all young people, even though they are a country’s chief economic asset. Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are called upon to assist young people from developing countries to obtain education and training at all levels in both developed and developing countries.

Young girls doing their schoolwork outside a primary school in the Doti District., Nepal.

Young girls doing their schoolwork outside a primary school in the Doti District., Nepal.

"The promotion of education is the most urgent requirement of our time. No nation can achieve prosperity unless it makes education one of its central concerns. Education brings honour, independence and freedom to a government and its people." says 16 year-old Supawat, from the Yasothon province of Thailand.

Every Sunday morning, Supawat teaches a class of 5 to 12 year-olds reading and writing, art and crafts, and music. And most important of all, he says, the children in his Sunday classes learn about the importance of an education.

Supawat believes that it is the community’s duty to provide an education to every child, especially when the family is not able to afford the expense. Every year, he helps coordinate the Yasothon Children’s Festival, where students get together and share what they have learned.

He believes that universal education is a goal worth striving for. "Every child must be educated," he says. "This is not a matter that can be neglected."

The children in his Sunday classes learn that if they want to serve others, they should have knowledge and study hard, with an eye to the future. Their knowledge should always be used for the good of mankind.

Supawat knows that some children are not fortunate enough to have access to education. He hopes that this will one day change. The real goal of education, he says, is to guide people on the path to peace and unity.