Can young people’s ideas help fix a failing global education system?

NEW YORK CITY: Today, 222 million young people living in regions affected by wars and disasters – in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America – do not have access to uninterrupted education or quality.

According to an analysis by Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, 78.2 million of these children are out of school and 119.6 million are not reaching minimum proficiency levels in reading and math despite their school attendance.

Against this bleak backdrop, a “Youth Declaration on Transforming Education” was presented to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, on 16 September – the first day of the Transforming Education Summit, dubbed “Day of mobilization”.

The document outlines 25 principles, goals and requirements for creating and ensuring a fully accessible and inclusive education system.

The declaration is the result of extensive consultation processes involving nearly 500,000 young people from more than 170 countries and territories. They have contributed to more than 20 in-person and online surveys and social media campaigns.

“We affirm the need for an intersectional, cross-sectoral and cross-cutting approach based on the principles of human rights, sustainable development, gender equality, climate justice, inclusion, equity , equality and solidarity in all actions aimed at transforming education and its systems at global, regional, national, local and local levels,” the statement reads.

Addressing the signatories of the document, Leonardo Garnier, special adviser to the Transforming Education Summit, said: “You are telling us authorities, experts, adults, I should tell baby boomers, to stop being condescending, to stop being wiser than you, to stop pretending we have all the answers when the truth is we haven’t even asked the right questions.

Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh, Saudi Minister of Education, attended the second day of the summit and spoke in a session titled “Effective Educational Ecosystems: Solutions for Open Digital Contents”. (Provided)

“For all of this, I truly commend you and thank you for keeping hope alive.”

Guterres’ description of the challenge was framed in even more specific terms. “The problem is that the education systems we have around the world are not fit for purpose,” he said.

“We need education as a factor to prepare us for the future and not for the past, to learn to learn and to prepare societies which are societies based on cooperation and solidarity, instead of societies based on blind competitiveness between people.”

He added, “This summit is an important opportunity to introduce a clear vision of this transformative nature of what we need to do in education and your statement is a very important tool to move us in the right direction.”

The first day of the summit, which began just before the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, brought together ministers of education from many countries, including Canada, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Portugal and Chili.

Other speakers included youth leaders and delegates, as well as heads of education-focused NGOs. Among the youth delegates was Saudi Arabia’s Amani Alkhiami, who spoke about the ongoing transformation in the Kingdom under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

“In Saudi Arabia, young people make up about two-thirds of the country’s population. These young people are digital natives, moving fast and are more empowered and empowered than ever,” she said.

“In Saudi Arabia, as part of the ambitious Vision 2030, we are growing, transforming and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, rapidly while collaborating with countries around the world on issues such as development and sustainability, safety and education for lifelong learning.

“This transformation is not momentary, but ongoing, which means we need nimble and innovative solutions designed to meet the needs of every generation.”

Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh, Saudi Minister of Education, attended the second day of the summit, dubbed “Day of Solutions”, and spoke at a high-level session titled “Effective Educational Ecosystems : Solutions for Open Digital Content”.

He stressed the importance of open electronic resources to help students, teachers and parents.


• 260 million children out of school.

• 400m aged 11 who can read and write no longer learn.

• 840 million young people without qualifications.

“Advanced technologies provide efficient, equitable and comprehensive access to open electronic resources and platforms for learners with different backgrounds, interests and needs at any time and from anywhere in the world,” he said. he declares. Outlets can be “satellite channels, digital platforms and SMS”, he added.

In the latest Human Development Index, a report released by the United Nations Development Programme, Saudi Arabia ranked 35th out of 191 countries for 2022. The Kingdom also ranked 10th among G20 countries and made the most progress between 2019 and 2021.

The ministerial sessions aimed to provide a forum for global partners to mobilize support for the launch or expansion of initiatives related to the themes of the summit – in particular focusing on the currency crisis affecting education.

“But (to put it loud and clear, we need more and better funding,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Under-Secretary-General and Chair of the Sustainable Development Group, in her speech for the second day.

“We cannot do this with fresh air, it must be fed, and the feed must come from our national resources, from the support we need in solidarity with the international community.”

Supporting Mohammed’s view, António Guterres said the critical issue of finding innovative financing for education needs to be addressed.

UN chief António Guterres receives a message calling for the extension of the right to free education for all children from an Afghan rights defender
Barak Pashtana and Avaaz Campaign Manager SR Morrison. (Provided)

“Education is the cornerstone of peaceful, prosperous and stable societies,” he said. “Reducing investment virtually guarantees more serious crises later.”

UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, who spoke alongside Guterres and Mohammed at the summit’s joint press conference, announced the biggest ever investment in global education .

The fund, which is managed by the International Finance Facility for Education, is expected to grow from an initial $2 billion to $5 billion and then to $10 billion over time.

“We believe this can transform the prospects of millions of children,” said Brown, a former British prime minister, adding that refugees and children growing up in countries in crisis would be the main beneficiaries of the fund.

According to Guterres, the facility is not a new fund, but a mechanism to increase the resources available to multilateral banks to provide low-cost financing for education.

“It will complement and work alongside existing tools, like the Global Partnership for Education, which provide grants and other forms of assistance,” he said.

On Monday, the third day of the summit, dubbed “Leaders’ Day”, heads of state and government from around the world were to present a national declaration of commitment to transform education.

They were also expected to participate in roundtables and discussions on the learning crisis, financing education, digital transformation of education and sustainable living.