International Education Day: Pressing need for new approach and massive investments to meet educational challenges

On International Day of Education, 24 January, experts from around the world, young people and members of the education community gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in the presence of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, and Minister and Special Adviser to the President of Niger Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou.

“Education is the keystone of the Sustainable Development Goals we have set for 2030. If we fail on education, the entire construct of development will fail,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

According to UNESCO figures, 258 million children are still out of school and many of those attending school learn poorly as two-thirds of the 411 million children who are deficient in reading and mathematics attend educational establishments.

“To face the challenges of tomorrow, not only do we need massive investment, but an overhaul of educational systems is necessary,” said the Director-General.

Education must be rethought to prepare the coming generation to grapple better with major issues such as the digital revolution and the environmental emergency.

Last September, UNESCO launched a major initiative on the Futures of Education, which will be led an independent Commission of Experts chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Republic of Ethiopia. The Commission will hold its first meeting on 28 and 29 January at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris. Its members are personalities from the world of politics, academia, education, the arts, science and economics, who over the next 18 months will produce a report that will be published in November 2021.

The Commission will take into account contributions from members of the public, who are invited to engage in an unprecedented major global conversation via a dedicated online platform. As Ms Azoulay declared: “Rethinking tomorrow’s education must be done collectively,” urged Ms Azoulay.

UNESCO has also launched a new measurement tool, Education Progress, to monitor progress and challenges country by country. Available to the public, partners and decision-makers, to check on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which concerns education.

Both the ministers of Niger and France stressed the crucial role of education: “In Niger, digital technology is opening up 15,000 villages by providing access to knowledge,” said Mr Guimba-Saïdou.

“One of our greatest challenges is to accompany and train teachers for the 21st century. Because education is the foundation of our societies, the teacher has a central place in it,” according to Mr Blanquer.

International Day of Education was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2018. Its theme this year was “learning for people, the planet, prosperity and peace.”

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