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U.N. global survey: Education top priority despite wealth

Students take notes during an English language class at the Juba Nabari Primary School, in Juba on April 9, 2014.
Students take notes during an English language class at the Juba Nabari Primary School, in Juba, South Sudan on April 9, 2014.

Education is a top priority among developed and third-world nations alike, beating political freedoms and gender equality, according to a new global poll.

Of the more than 2 million people who responded to the “My World” survey, a United Nations project, two out of three identified education as their top priority. Topping the list of other priorities was better healthcare and an honest and responsive government. Bottoming the list are political freedoms, phone and Internet access, reliable energy at home, and action on climate change.

"Education has consistently been a top issue for people around the world, no matter their country, sex, age or socioeconomic status. This data backs up what the UN and experts have seen through related research and experience -- that education is a key driver for development issues," said Corinne Woods, director of the UN Millennium Campaign.

"The 'My World' survey allows all global citizens to have a voice, where we can move towards our goals collectively," she added. "It takes the momentum of many people to bring about change, including governments, civil society, parliaments and citizens working together. Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something to make a difference."

The survey is an ongoing project using crowdsourcing to better understand global development issues and trends.

The voting data are broken down by region, age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. Never before has the U.N. had this much information from citizens available in real time, gathered through mobile, online, paper ballots and face-to-face meetings. The data are being given to relevant governments and NGOs so they can take citizens' wishes into account as they do their planning.

Some of the more telling details gleaned from the survey involved gender issues. Girls under the age of 15 tended to rank gender equality higher than all women in most country groups.

“This suggests that attitudes have changed over time in most richer countries, whereas attitudes in poorer countries are shaped less by social change over time and more by changes in individuals lives,” according to a statement by the U.N.

The survey’s analytics, available at, is interactive, and users can toggle between various filters. You can compare the priorities of a group of 31-to-45-year-old men from Burkina Faso to its counterpart in Fiji, or a 16-to-30-year-old girl from Croatia to her counterpart in Hungary.

"My World" aims to survey 15 million people by 2015.