UNGA Dialogue Calls for Action to Tackle Education Crisis
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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A high-level dialogue on education and the SDGs recognized challenges facing education and achievement of SDG 4.

UNGA President Muhammad-Bande recognized forward-looking education policies in some countries that are working towards SDG 4 targets.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General called for transforming the way the world thinks of education.

The global learning crisis is also a crisis for prosperity, the planet, peace and people, participants heard at a high-level dialogue on the 2020 International Day of Education. The UN event to mark the Day focused on linkages between inclusive quality education, lifelong learning and SDG implementation, with speakers calling for multilateral action to ensure everyone has access to quality education.

The UN General Assembly’s high-level dialogue convened at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 24 January 2020, on the theme, ‘Aligning Inclusive Quality Education Policies with SDGs.’ The meeting recognized numerous challenges facing education and achievement of SDG 4 (quality education), including 258 million children and young people out of school, and 60% of children and adolescents unable to reach minimum proficiency levels in literacy and mathematics. Participants observed that refugees, migrants and people with disabilities face additional challenges in accessing education. Participants also expressed concern about education quality, observing that education and training are not preparing students for the future world of work.

UNESCO has called on all governments to integrate education for climate action in national education policy and planning.

UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande outlined education challenges in his address, including a decline in education quality and standards, a widening knowledge gap between students in technically advanced countries and students in developing countries, and a crisis of learning in conflict zones. He called for today’s education to “bridge the yawning gap” between learning opportunities and modern employment needs for specialized skills, noting that school curricula need to anticipate and respond to workplace needs. Despite these challenges, Muhammad-Bande highlighted forward-looking education policies in some countries that are contributing to achieving SDG 4 targets. He urged Member States and other partners to consider establishing education networks to exchange information and ideas.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said, “education has the power to shape the world.” She recognized the power of education to empower women and give them opportunities to make choices. She said quality education can help change perceptions and behavior, including on unsustainable practices and climate change, and can promote mutual understanding and respect, helping to combat misperceptions, prejudice and violent extremism. She stressed that education is critical to achieve the SDGs, and called for stepping up efforts and building partnerships to ensure quality education becomes a reality. She called for transforming the way the world thinks of education, including to ensure education tackles hate speech and facilitates an inclusive digital transformation. Mohammed said education should also include ecological issues, noting that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on all governments to integrate education for climate action in national education policy and planning. 

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay warned that there is a global learning crisis, which she said is also a crisis for prosperity, the planet, peace and people. She emphasized “education is the best investment for the future” and highlighted UNESCO’s role in making education “an instrument of inclusion and…of empowerment.” Azoulay called on everyone to take action for education.

UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Mona Juul highlighted the role of education in escaping poverty and transforming communities. She said education paves the way towards productive, sustainable and resilient societies in which everyone can reach their full potential. [UN News Story] [UN Deputy-Secretary General Statement] [Event Webpage] [UNESCO Webpage on the Day] [UNGA President Message for the Day

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