Education to take center stage at the United Nations in 2022

On 29 November, gearing up for major education’s milestones in 2022, the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning met to discuss its strategic positioning to take forward the global education advocacy.
Ambassadors deliberated how to scale-up commitments on education and advance key stakeholders’ engagement in the year 2022. Chaired by H.E. Ambassador Kimihiro ISHIKANE, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN, the Ambassadorial meeting also featured the participation of UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Ms Stefania GIannini, and Dr. Fernando Reimers, Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Opening up meeting, H.E. Ambassador Ishikane voiced concerns on the global trends in education and the unprecedented shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the education systems worldwide. Highlighting the driving force of education for development, he commended the Group for being an active champion as it had raised visibility and ascertained the centrality of education for all sustainable development goals at the UN Headquarters. Referring to momentum around education, he stressed the need for the Group to reimage its role and become a stronger complementary player for mainstreaming SDG4 into the latest, most pressing global issues, such as peace, climate change and digitalization. Importantly, the 4th edition of the International Day of Education (24 January, 2022)* is expected to kick off the preparatory process of the Transforming Education Summit as well as the in-depth review of SDG4 by the High Level Political Forum: thus paving the way for increased political will to ensure every child and young person goes to school and learns.

Bringing in UNESCO’s expertise, Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant-Director General for Education alerted on the most profound and universal disruption of education in history that happened over the past 2 years. Responding to the urgency, UNESCO supported the global mobilization through the Global Education Coalition as ‘every government deployed diverse solutions to enable learning continuity and reopen schools safely’, she said. To accelerate progress on SDG4 and strengthen commitment to education as a public good, UNESCO also led the reform of the global education cooperation mechanism, which now counts ministers and head of agencies in its High-level Steering Committee. In adapting the global response to current challenges, it was important to scale up digital knowledge and skills to address deep inequalities in education, as well as to  improve quality content and tap on new pedagogical practices. Finally, Ms. Giannini recalled that, in November 2021, Member States united to adopt the Paris Declaration, a global appeal initiated by UNESCO and France to increase investment in education in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis - for the future of humanity and the planet.

Building on the call for global solidarity, Professor Fernando M. Reimers presented key findings of the global report “Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education”. By recognizing governments as important actors that must engage with a much wider group of stakeholders, such as teachers, students, and civil society, the report identifies key issues that all countries should center their educational systems around. In an effort to rethink education, the report calls for a human rights based approach that should lead to a transformation of the fundamental culture of education. This can include a pedagogy re-organized around the principles of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity and an interdisciplinary curricula targeted at developing a ‘new ecological intercultural stewardship’. Recommendations also suggest that the teaching should be further professionalized as a collaborative endeavour where teachers are recognized for their work as knowledge producers and key figures in educational and social transformation. Additionally, the organization of schools should be reimagined as to connect education institutions to the larger ecosystem. Professor Reimers stressed that the report should be regarded as an invitation to a ‘broad global movement to a process of deep democratic and inclusive social dialogue on the future of education.

As education will be taking center stage at the UN, Ambassadors reflected and strategized on the Group’s positioning and engagement in the year 2022. The Group affirmed their priority to strengthen national and global commitments around education as some called for particular attention on response to COVID 19, protection of education and lifelong learning approach. Members also welcomed UNESCO’s report on the Futures of Education as it ‘offered a vision that would allow to better respond to emerging challenges such as economic inequality and climate change”.

In November 2021, UNESCO released a new global report on the Futures of Education entitled Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education. Two years in the making, the Report was prepared by an International Commission with the aim of catalysing a global debate and movement to forge a new social contract for education. Over a million people have taken part in the global consultation process that informed this long-awaited flagship publication which calls for a major transformation in education to repair past injustices and enhance our capacity to act together for a more sustainable and just future.

*The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development. It provides a global stage to affirm that education is the world’s greatest renewable resource, a fundamental human right, a public good and a catalyst for achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is also a platform to promote new ideas and actions that can unlock the transformative power of education for all individuals and societies.