UNESCO's action in education

UNESCO’s action in education

Our vision

Education is a basic human right and a global public good. UNESCO works to promote learning that brings about personal transformation, resilience, peace and a sustainable planet. Its unique mandate to promote lifelong education for everyone was born in the aftermath of World War II and has evolved to meet the global challenges of a digital era and a planet threatened by climate change, conflict and other crises.  

UNESCO’s Education Sector provides global and regional leadership to ensure every child and citizen has access to quality education from pre-school to higher and throughout life while keeping two priorities, Africa and Gender, sharply in focus.  

UNESCO leads the coordination and monitoring of the Global Education 2030 Agenda through Sustainable Development Goal 4 with the Education 2030 Framework for Action as a roadmap.  

Our challenges

Worldwide around 258 million children and youth are deprived of education because of social, economic and cultural factors. And an estimated 617 million children and adolescents cannot read a simple sentence or undertake a straightforward maths calculation. Three-quarters of children of primary school age who will never set foot in school are girls. Boys are more frequently disengaging from education and are at greater risk of falling behind in school. Women still account for almost two-thirds of all adults unable to read – 515 million of them lack basic reading skills. Only 2% of the poorest rural females in low-income countries complete upper secondary school. The COVID-19 pandemic that led to near universal school closures and reliance on distance learning solutions, has exacerbated educational inequalities and threatens progress across the development agenda.  

Our work

UNESCO's task is to rethink and reimagine education for a sustainable future while providing concrete guidance on how to strengthen and improve education systems worldwide by: 

Supporting countries

to develop education systems that provide quality lifelong learning opportunities for all

Empowering learners

to be creative and responsible global citizens

Leading and coordinating

the education 2030 agenda through partnerships, monitoring and research.

Our five functions

  • Laboratory of ideas: We anticipate and respond to emerging trends and needs in education, generating tailormade ideas and policy based on research  
  • Clearinghouse: We develop and strengthen education systems by creating, implementing and sharing successful policies and practices. 
  • Standard-setter: We set and develop standards, norms and guidelines in key education areas and monitor how they are implemented 
  • Catalyst and motor for international cooperation: We start and promote dialogue, exchange and partnership among education leaders and stakeholders. 
  • Capacity-builder: We provide technical advice and support to develop the institutional and human capacity of countries to achieve their education goals. 

Education transforms lives

Education transforms lives every day and in every corner of society. This video explores the power of education and UNESCO’s role in leading and coordinating the Education 2030 Agenda, which is part of a global movement to eradicate poverty through 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Education is the right of every woman, man and child. Together, we’re shaping the global citizens of tomorrow, empowered on the path of education to build a more sustainable future.

UNESCO and education: a photo history

Let us take you on a visual journey through UNESCO’s work in education since 1945. We have selected 80 photos to illustrate the scale and diversity of UNESCO’s education programme across the globe.