An Initiative of the Secretary-General

Statement from the Secretary-General

Education is a major driving force for human development. It opens doors to the job market, combats inequality, improves maternal health, reduces child mortality, fosters solidarity, and promotes environmental stewardship. Education empowers people with the knowledge, skills and values they need to build a better world.  

Growing up in the Republic of Korea as it recovered from war, I had few school supplies and studied in the open air. People today often ask about my country’s transformation from poverty to prosperity. Without hesitation, I answer that education was the key.  

In almost all my visits to areas ravaged by war and disaster, the plea of survivors is the same: “Education first.” Education helps to re-establish normalcy for traumatized children and sets the stage for lasting stability. We must answer this legitimate request. We cannot afford to waste the talents of a generation. We must provide safe learning environments, text books, support for parents, transportation to school and training for teachers.

Despite the urgent need for investments in education and their clear returns, progress on this front has stalled in recent years. The cost of leaving millions of children and young people on the margins of society is far greater than the funds required to jump-start efforts to reach international goals for education, which had shown considerable promise.  

Education is a priority for people around the world, and it is my priority, too. My new Education First initiative aims to give a “big push” to the global movement for education -- by 2015 and beyond.

The Initiative focuses on three priorities:    

First, putting every child in school. The global community pledged to achieve universal primary education by 2015. We need to make all the necessary investments to ensure that every child has equal access to schooling.

Second, improving the quality of learning. Access to education is critical. But it is not enough. We must make sure that people acquire relevant skills to participate successfully in today’s knowledge-based society.

Third, fostering global citizenship. Education is much more than an entry to the job market. It has the power to shape a sustainable future and better world. Education policies should promote peace, mutual respect and environmental care.

I call on world leaders and all involved with education to join this initiative and fulfil the promise to make quality education available to all children, young people and adults. Together, we can empower individuals to transform our world.

- United Nations Secterary-General Ban Ki-moon, September 2012

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