31.05.2017 -

Transforming Education - G7 Research Group

In 2015, the world charted a new course for the next 15 years, in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. These agreements are the most ambitious, universal and comprehensive the world has ever defined, at a time when global challenges – from poverty and deepening inequalities and violent extremism –- appear daunting.

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 for all”.

Taking this forward calls for change at every level. UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report on Partnering for Prosperity is clear -- we must not only transform economies but also education systems, to encourage critical and  complex thinking, initiative and new competences through lifelong learning. In a globalized world, developed and developing countries alike stand to gain from higher standards of skills and knowledge. Educating a child is the best investment a society can make today, to connect 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 – most of them are girls. Just 1% of poor rural young women in low-income countries complete secondary school and two thirds of the 758 million of illiterate adults in the world are women. Children in conflict-affected countries are especially vulnerable, with 50 percent of refugees having no access to secondary education. Sustainable development requires high-skilled workers with specific training -- yet, by 2020, the world could have 40 million too few workers with tertiary education relative to demand.

The need for new skills extends to all spheres of life, and in all countries, including 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 behavioral 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.

We must harness all new sources of dynamism, to extend the reach of education and enhance its quality -- this is the importance of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). With over 6 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, chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, and co-vice-chaired by ITU 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 UNHCR, to reinforce education in emergency and crisis situations.

We must do everything to ensure the digital revolution is a development revolution for everyone. This calls for targeted policies -- including in G7 counties -- to bridge digital divides, to widen access by marginalised groups, to empower girls and women especially, and 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 G7 and other countries, including through the International Task Force on Teachers to raise education standards -- through policy support on recruitment, training, motivation and 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 must 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 all. ICTs must no longer bolted onto education as an afterthought-- they must be built in from the top.

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