UNESCO advocates rapid education sector growth

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-GeneralThe new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by UNESCO, shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). It also shows that education needs a major transformation to fulfill that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.

According to the reports for the 2030 SDG deadline. Ghana is expected to reach universal primary education in 2065, universal lower secondary education in 2085, and upper secondary education next century.

The report, dubbed, “Education for people and planet,” shows the need for education systems to step up attention to environmental concerns. While in the majority of countries, education is the best indicator of climate change awareness, half of countries’ curricula worldwide do not explicitly mention climate change in their content,.

Despite being one of the regions most affected by the effects of environmental change, sub-Saharan Africa has far fewer mentions of sustainable development in its curricula in comparison with Latin America, Europe and North America.

Education systems must take care to protect minority cultures and their associated languages, which contain vital information about the functioning of ecosystems. But the Report indicates that 40 per cent of the global populations are taught in a language they don’t understand.  Sub-Saharan African houses the most countries with the highest degree of linguistic diversity.

Education systems need to ensure they are giving people vital skills and knowledge that can support the transition to greener industries, and find new solutions for environmental problems. This also requires education to continue beyond the school walls, in communities and the workplace throughout adulthood, says the report, which also flags the urgent need for education systems to impart higher skills aligned with the needs of growing economies, where job skill sets are fast changing, many being automated.

On current trends, by 2020, there would be 45 million too few workers with tertiary education relative to demand. Investing in higher education is particularly crucial for growth in sub-Saharan Africa: increasing tertiary attainment by one year on average would increase its long-term GDP level by 16 per cent.

Yet, in 2014, the report found that only eight per cent were enrolled in tertiary education in the region, far below the second-lowest regional average, that of South and West Asia (23 per cent), and the global average (34 per cent). In Ghana, seven per cent were enrolled in tertiary education in 2014.

Inequality in education, interacting with wider disparities, heightens the risk of violence and conflict.  Across 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, regions that have very low average education had a 50 per cent chance of experiencing conflict within 21 years.  In Sierra Leone, young people who had no education were nine times as likely to join rebel groups as those with at least secondary education.    The report calls on governments to start taking inequalities seriously, tracking them by collecting information directly from families.

The Report, emphasizes that, the new global development agenda calls for education ministers and other education actors to work in collaboration with other sectors for a holistic approach in addressing challenges facing the education sector.

“A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education’s role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet,” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, said in a statement on the report.




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