The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the least advantaged the hardest and highlights the harsh reality of educational inequality. As we look to rebuild, we must ensure that the global literacy challenge is finally and decisively met, writes Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development.
COVID-19 has disrupted education worldwide in an unprecedented way.
Millions of students have not been able to continue learning in schools,
universities, vocational training institutions and adult learning programmes. Many
governments responded to the pressing need to provide school children with
learning possibilities via online and distance learning. Virtual lessons were
adopted, home learning materials distributed and education provided through TV
and radio or in open air spaces. These efforts were essential and undeniably
very challenging for many governments, teachers and students alike as it
demanded a reshuffling not only of delivery mechanisms but also of roles and responsibilities.
The crisis also shows us, with a frightening clarity, what consequences a
lack of basic literacy skills can have. Some 773 million youth and adults globally
lack basic levels of literacy and numeracy, two-thirds of them female. Most of
these youth and adults face multiple disadvantages. They are often unable to
acquire decent jobs, suffer from hunger and bad health, cannot make informed
choices, and are excluded from social interaction and full participation in
society. Continue reading →
Espoo, in Finland, was one of 12 cities to receive the UNESCO Learning City Award at the second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Annica Isacsson and Annika Forstén explain what makes Espoo special
In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Finnish city
of Espoo for the outstanding progress it had made
in implementing the ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ since the first International
Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Key Features describe a learning city as one that
effectively mobilizes, creates and reinforces individual empowerment and social
cohesion, and economic and cultural prosperity, in addition to sustainable
development. In fact, the United Nations has invited Espoo to become a pioneer of sustainable development by attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.
Espoo aims to ensure that all citizens can
fulfill their potential, succeed in the uncertain world of the future and
participate in the development of their local communities. Learning, creativity
and innovation are fostered from an early age. For example, in 2019, Tapiola
Sinfonietta, the city’s orchestra, invited all expectant parents in the city to
its regular concerts so that their children could experience the positive
influence of music while still in the womb. And Espoo’s systematic approach to
collaboration between artists and schools has been extended to early education
centres, giving all children the opportunity to interact with professional
artists and foster creative minds. Continue reading →
Global citizenship education should be central to efforts to encourage people to take ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals and make the next 10 years a true ‘Decade of Action’, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter
The start of the last decade of the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development provides an important moment for reflection on what
we have achieved to date and how far we have still to go in achieving the 17
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General of the United
Nations, António Guterres, took the opportunity to call for a ‘Decade of
Action’ to accelerate sustainable solutions to ‘the world’s biggest challenges,
ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the
finance gap’. He emphasized action on three levels: global, securing
greater leadership and resources for the SDGs; local, embedding
solutions in policies, budgets and regulatory frameworks; and people, in
order to generate an ‘unstoppable movement’ for transformation.
Progress has been made on many fronts since the
SDGs were launched in 2015, with governments integrating them into national
strategies, and civil society and young people, in particular, increasingly
involved in lobbying for change. The opportunities are enormous, but there remain
some substantial challenges. Among these are social and economic exclusion, poverty,
violence, radical extremism, cybercrime and fake news, pollution and climate
change. Responding to these challenges demands individuals who are tolerant and
able to live cooperatively with others, who judge critically, who are ethical
users and producers of digital information, and who are actively involved in
finding solutions to these problems, both locally and globally. This is why the
importance of global citizenship education (GCED) is increasingly recognized.
It represents a means for individuals to learn to be active in a culture of
human rights, justice, democratic values and sustainability. Continue reading →
As we mark International Youth Day, David Atchoarena reflects on the challenge of ‘transforming education’ for young people and on how we can gear their leaning not only to employment but also to sustainable development
‘Transforming education’ is the theme of International Youth Day 2019, celebrated on 15 July. The focus is on making education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, in particular young women and young people from disadvantaged groups. Taking place within the framework of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, the theme chosen for this year’s International Youth Day goes beyond the usual meaning of education to embrace a vision of learning throughout life, so that youth can fully take part in a lifelong journey for sustainable development.
there are variations between countries and between different categories of
young people, work continues to constitute an important dimension in the way in
which young people see their future. However, beyond their individual
situation, young people also increasingly express a concern for the future of
the planet. This is reflected in their attitude and participation in society,
as citizens and as workers. The meaning of work and its contribution to a
sustainable path are important considerations in the way in which youth see
employment. Hence, the debate about youth skills is not only about skills for
work and life, it is about skills for sustainability and social participation. Continue reading →
Lifelong learning has a key role to play not only in achieving SDG 4 on education but also in creating a climate in which progressive change is possible, writes Paul Stanistreet
Last week, the Comparative International
Education Society (CIES) convened in San Francisco for its annual conference,
which this year focused on ‘Education for Sustainability’.
Jeffrey Sachs, the economist, UN adviser and
sustainability advocate, gave the keynote lecture. He demanded urgent action to
address the challenges of sustainability and specifically to deliver on the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development targets for education. Without a major
change of pace or direction, he warned, the targets for Sustainable Development
Goal (SDG) 4 would not be met.
Sachs is right to urge educators to ‘raise
their voices’ and’ fight harder for resources’. However, the contribution of
education to the sustainable development agenda will not be realized simply by raising
more taxes from the very wealthy or by demanding or securing more funding for
schools, important though this is. We need to think too about the role of
education in shifting the cultural and intellectual climate to a place where political
will can be moved and meaningful change in the face of powerful, entrenched
interests is possible. Continue reading →
Lifelong learning has a major contribution to make to helping countries such as Greece rise to the development challenges they face. But, far too often, it is overlooked, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter
In Greece, my native country, high unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are combining with mass population movements of migrants and refugees to create huge development challenges for the country. Greece is also undergoing major demographic changes, with its ageing population reducing the number of young people entering the labour market and obliging those already in the workforce to work for longer and move between jobs more often.
These facts point to an urgent need for a much stronger investment in lifelong learning, and particularly in adult education. By supporting adult education and adopting lifelong learning as the key educational paradigm for inclusive and sustainable learning societies, nation states can build populations that are resilient, adaptable, creative and highly skilled. Yet, in far too many cases, lifelong learning and adult education continue to be neglected.
A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Getting skills right: Future-ready adult learning systems, shows that Greece’s adult learning system performs poorly across several dimensions of the Priorities of Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard. The PAL dashboard indicates that my country has the weakest overall performance in terms of coverage of job-related adult learning. In addition, according to Eurostat, only a few adults re-skill through adult education courses in Greece. In 2017, less than 5 per cent of 25 to 64 years olds participated in such courses. Where these courses are offered, often they are often under-resourced and ill-equipped to address the challenges faced by these students. Continue reading →
Malak Zaalouk, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, explains why lifelong learning is at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and why it should be central to the plans and policies of nation states
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 puts lifelong learning at the heart of the global education policy-making agenda by enjoining Member States to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.
This is already important recognition. However, we have yet to fully realize the potential contribution of lifelong learning either to SDG 4 or to the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This demands the development of inter-sectoral solutions to challenges such as social exclusion, poverty, climate change, mass migration and technological transformation.. Continue reading →
UIL Director David Atchoarena on the challenge of raising the profile of lifelong learning and realizing its potential contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Earlier this month I attended the Global Education Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to join with colleagues from across the world in reviewing progress towards the commitments on education made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Brussels Declaration, the outcome document of the meeting, acknowledged the ‘fundamental role’ of lifelong learning as a key driver of sustainable development and reinforced the commitment of Member States to the eradication of illiteracy through formal and non-formal education and training. Continue reading →