UN forum calls for global efforts in quality education

Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2020 shows the United Nations (UN) flag flying outside the UN headquarters in New York, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2020 shows the United Nations (UN) flag flying outside the UN headquarters in New York, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

Academics, experts, government officials and representatives of educational organizations on Wednesday called for efforts and actions to improve the quality of education across the world and place student needs at the heart of global sustainable development.

They made the appeal at the annual UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) from Tuesday to Thursday, and from July 11 to 15, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council.

Their call came as statistics showed that temporary school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have left about 1.6 billion children, or 91 percent of students worldwide, unable to learn. Of them, nearly 369 million relied on school meals for daily nutrition.

During the three panel discussions throughout Wednesday, Madeleine Zuniga, vice president and founding member of Peru’s Foro Educativo, a non-profit association committed to the transformation and development of the country’s education, called for more investment in high-quality teacher training.
Investment cannot simply be viewed in terms of GDP, she said.

Panelist Charles North, acting chief executive officer of the Global Partnership for Education, a partnership and funding platform focused on providing quality education to children in lower-income countries, urged leaders to show greater political will to finance education.

Education is not a privilege, nor is it an opportunity, North said, defining it as “a human right.”

Finnish Minister of Education Li Andersson expressed support for investment in green and digital transitions so all can learn, re-skill and up-skill throughout their lives.

The HLPF is the main UN platform on sustainable development, and it has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level.

In his speech, Leonardo Garnier, UN secretary-general’s special adviser for 2022 Transforming Education Summit, which is scheduled for September, said that even before the pandemic the world was “not even close” to realizing quality education.

He called for shifting away from “doing things a little faster” to aiming higher, by transforming education into a passionate path for self-discovery and development.

In order to reach such heights, schools must be safe, healthy, and stimulating places for learning, he added.

On the theme of “Building back better from the COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” this year’s forum is scheduled to review in-depth Goal 4 on quality education, Goal 5 on gender equality, Goal 14 on life below water and Goal 15 on life on land as well as Goal 17 on partnerships for the Goals. Enditem

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