At the heart of this new agenda stands education – as a basic human right, as a transformational force for poverty eradication, as an engine for sustainability, and as a force for dialogue and peace. This is embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 4, to “ensure inclusive and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
Education is the best investment
UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report: Partnering for Prosperity is clear — we must transform not only economies but also education systems, to encourage critical and complex thinking, initiatives and new competences through lifelong learning. Educating a child is the best investment a society can make, to join the dots between poverty and prosperity, to fight exclusion, to advance dialogue and solidarity.
The stakes are high: 263 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school – and most of them are girls. Just one per cent of poor rural young women in low-income countries complete secondary school and two-thirds of the 758 million illiterate adults in the world are women. Children in conflict-affected countries are especially vulnerable, with 50 per cent of refugees having no access to secondary education. Sustainable development requires highly skilled workers with specific training – yet, by 2020, the world could have 40 million too few workers with tertiary education relative to demand.
Responding to rapid global change
The need for new skills extends to all spheres of life, and in all countries, including in the G7. Rapid global change calls for flexibility and the ability to learn throughout life. From early childhood through adulthood, education needs to nurture a range of cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural skills that enable learners to take informed decisions and assume active roles locally, nationally, regionally and even globally. Learning must reinforce an individual’s resilience, inculcate an ability to appreciate diversity and change, and build media and information literacy. This approach to education is what UNESCO calls Global Citizenship Education.
With more than six billion people having access to a connected mobile device, mobile technology is changing how we live and learn. We must support these trends to shape them for the benefit of all women and men – to reinforce education systems, to bolster knowledge dissemination, to widen information access, to advance quality and effective learning, and to ensure more effective service provision.
This is the goal of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, and co-vice-chaired by the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO. The same objective underpins all UNESCO’s work to advance mobile learning – including through our annual global flagship Mobile Learning Week, led this year with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to reinforce education in emergency and crisis situations.
Bridging the digital divide
We must do everything to ensure the digital revolution is a development revolution for everyone. This calls for targeted policies – including G7 by members – to bridge digital divides, to widen access by marginalised groups, to empower girls and women especially, and to ensure everyone has the right skills to make the most of change.
All this calls for a new focus on recruiting, supporting and training teachers across the board. UNESCO works with the G7 and other countries, including through the International Task Force on Teachers to raise education standards – through policy support on recruitment, training, motivation, social dialogue and accountability of the teaching profession. In Africa, for instance, UNESCO is working to improve the technology infrastructure and skills of teacher educators in teacher training institutions in 10 African low- and lower middle-income countries.
The 2030 Agenda is universal – no one can be left behind. This means making education a priority everywhere, nationally and globally, in developing and developed countries. It means also harnessing the full power of new technologies for the benefit of everyone.