July 2022

By Gabriel Sánchez Zinny

Excellent News! The world has begun to talk about education. More than 140 education ministers from around the world met a few days ago in Paris, at a meeting convened by the United Nations. Prior to this pre-summit on the Transformation of Education, the 7th International Conference on Adult Education was held in Morocco under the theme "Adult learning and education for sustainable development: a transformative agenda”. These meetings place educational policy on the international agenda, and undoubtedly mark the urgency of addressing the worldwide educational crisis.

Inequality in access to technology, the pandemic, global warming, and armed conflicts, among others, are challenges that the world education system is not prepared to face.“222 million children around the world have had their education interrupted by conflict, displacement, and climatic factors”, announced António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. Alarming figures, of course, and it is for these children and young people that this initiative must be accelerated.

Now, we must encourage these meetings, but it is also imperative that we put into action those agendas and challenges that are so vigorously debated and supported at these meetings.

It is worth noting that diplomacy allows for articulating policies, discussing, debating, and agreeing on possible paths to take, which is always a positive development. In an interconnected world, and after a pandemic that left a deeper globalization, coordination is essential - even more so when it comes to policies related to narrowing the educational gap and improving knowledge and learning.

It is clear that, to carry out these changes, political leadership is key. This was highlighted by Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, who said that education needs commitments and bold investments in each country, in each city, and in each classroom.

During the meeting, it was highlighted that “Government spending on education is not keeping up with the growing learning crisis. It is estimated that 40% of low- and lower-middle income countries reduced their spending on education with the start of the pandemic in 2020, with an average decrease in real spending of 13.5%. Furthermore, in 2020, 43 bilateral donors reduced their aid to education, while households in the poorest countries are assuming 39% of the total cost of education, compared to only 16% in high-income countries." Given this situation, it is important that the private sector join the debate - and is involved in a possible solution. The private sector is an important actor that can add a lot to educational systems: either from innovation, from articulation, or as a link between the education sector and employment.

I hope that these types of meetings multiply, but I also hope that the policies that are being worked on there will be achieved, with investments and actions that can be measured over time and that will allow us to change course if necessary.. For now, a second phase of this meeting will be held on September 19 in New York.

As Guterres noted, "any country that is not actively undertaking an overhaul of its education systems today risks being left behind tomorrow." The future depends on us, and the time is now. Let's do it.