Education transformation needed for ‘inclusive, just and peaceful world’ – UN chief


“I consider myself a lifelong student… Where would I be without education? Where would any of us be?” he asked the people gathered in the iconic General Assembly Hall.

As education changes lives, economies and societies, “we must transform education”.

Downward spiral

Rather than being the big enabler, the UN chief pointed out that: education is fast becoming “a big divider””, notes that about 70 percent of 10-year-olds in poor countries cannot read and “barely learn”.

With access to the best resources, schools and universities, the rich get the best jobs, while the poor — especially girls — displaced people and students with disabilities face enormous obstacles in obtaining the qualifications that could change their lives, he continued.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has “dealed a hammer blow to progress on SDG4,” the Sustainable Development Goal that focuses on equal quality education.

“But the education crisis started long before that – and goes much deeper,” added Mr Guterres, citing the report from the International Commission on the Future of Education, which clearly stated, “Education systems are failing”.

Insufficient grade

Relying on outdated and cramped curricula, under-skilled and underpaid teachers, and rote learning, he claimed that “education fails students and associations”.

At the same time, the digital divide penalizes poor students as the funding gap for education “yawns bigger than ever”.

“Now is the time to transform education systems,” the UN chief underlined.

21st century vision

With a new education vision for the 21st century taking shape, he marked that quality learning should support the development of the individual learner throughout their life.

“It should help people learn to learn, with a focus on problem solving and collaboration… lay the foundation for learning, from reading, writing and arithmetic to scientific, digital, social and emotional skills… develop students’ ability to adapt to the rapidly changing world of work…[and] accessible to everyone from the earliest stages and throughout their lives”.

At a time of rampant misinformation, climate denial and attacks on human rights, Mr Guterres stressed the need for education systems that “distinguish facts from conspiracy, instill respect for science and celebrate humanity in all its diversity”.

From vision to reality

© UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

Children sit in a circle with their teacher at the Early Child Development Center in the village of Garin Badjini, in southeastern Nigeria.

To make the vision a reality, he highlighted five areas of engagement, starting with protecting the right to quality education for everyone, everywhere – especially girls and people in crisis areas.

He stressed that schools should be open to all, without discrimination, and appealed to the Taliban in Afghanistan to “immediately lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education.”

As “the lifeblood of education systems”, Mr Guterres then called for a new focus on teachers’ roles and skills to facilitate and promote learning instead of just passing on answers.

Third, he advocated that schools “become safe, healthy spaces, without room for violence, stigma or intimidation”.

To achieve the fourth goal, which is that the digital revolution benefits all learners, he encouraged governments to work with private sector partners to boost digital learning content.

Financial solidarity

“None of this will be possible without a surge in education funding and global solidarity,” the UN chief said, announcing his latest priority.

He urged countries to protect education budgets and channel spending on education towards learning resources.

Education financing must be the number one priority for governments. It is the single most important investment a country can make in its people and its future,” said the secretary-general. “Expenditure and policy advice should be aligned to deliver quality education for all”.

‘Global movement’

Finally, he stated that the Transforming Education Summit will achieve its global goals only by mobilizing “a global movement”.

“Let’s move forward together so that everyone can learn, thrive and dream throughout their lives. Let’s ensure that today’s students and generations to come have access to the education they need to create a more sustainable, inclusive, just and peaceful world for all.”

War, disease, economic development

Catherine Russell, head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to the effect of war on children’s education and called on governments to “scale up support to help every child learn, wherever they are”.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, highlighted the devastating impact of HIV on adolescent girls and young women in Africa and informed participants that in sub-Saharan Africa last year, 4,000 girls were infected every week.

“This is a crisis!” she said. “Because if a girl is infected at that young age, there is no cure for HIV, that marks the rest of their lives, their chances.”

She told the top to which 12 African countries have now committed Education Plusa bold initiative to prevent HIV infection through free universal, quality secondary education for all girls and boys in Africa, enhanced by comprehensive empowerment programmes.

Audrey Azoulay, leader of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recalled that “there can be no economic development and no peace without education”, and underlined that Afghan girls should be able to go back to school. “It’s their right,” she insisted. View her delivery address here.

Other fixtures

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Other prominent speakers included UN peacekeeper Malala Yousafzai, who called on world leaders to make schools safe for girls and protect every child’s right to learn. education”.

Somaya Faruqi, former captain of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, acknowledged that every girl has the right to learn, claiming that “while our cousins ​​and brothers are in class, I and many other girls are forced to put our dreams on hold. to make. Every girl belongs in school”.

UNICEF’s recently announced Goodwill Ambassador, Vanessa Nakate, stressed that all children should have access to education as “their future depends on it”. View her address here.

Another highlight was a rousing musical performance by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo, who encouraged everyone to raise their voices to transform education.

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130 countries promise a restart of education

Later in the afternoon it was announced that more than 130 countries attending the summit pledged to restart their education systems and accelerating action to end the learning crisis

The pledges came after 115 national consultations that brought together leaders, educators, students, civil society and other partners to gather collective recommendations on the most pressing questions.

Almost half of the countries prioritized measures to tackle learning loss, while a third of countries are committed to supporting the psychosocial well-being of both students and teachersTwo in three countries also referred to measures to offset the direct and indirect costs of education for economically vulnerable communities, and 75% of the countries underlined the importance of gender-sensitive education policies in their commitments.

These statements underlined the role of education in achieving all SDGs and links to climate crises, conflict and poverty. Actions focused on the recovery from COVID-19 and getting the SDGs back on track, while emphasizing the need for innovations in education to prepare today’s learners for a rapidly changing world.

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