Encouraging the world’s corporations to throw their weight behind efforts to provide quality education for all is one of main aims of the 2014 Global Education and Skills Forum, which opened in Dubai on Sunday 16 March.
The Forum, held from March 15 – 17, is jointly hosted by the Government of the United Arab Emirates, UNESCO, and GEMS Education, in support of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative. It brings together over 1000 people, including leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies, along with representatives from over 30 governments, civil society and academia.
During the opening plenary session this morning, UNESCO Director-General urged the participants to “put education first”. In setting the post 2015 development agenda, she added, “we must invest in quality education, invest in girls education, invest in teachers, invest in lifelong learning. This would be the best way to support governments and all stakeholders, to bring education to all.”
This theme was echoed by former United States President Bill Clinton, who delivered the keynote address to the conference.
“There is so much to be done that no one can do it on their own,” President Clinton said. “One of the things that I hope will come out of this conference….is that there will be a greater level of cooperation between the education sector, with businesses and private organizations,” he added, reminding the audience that each dollar invested in education “gives back 53 dollars from the first day of a person’s working life.”
President Clinton who is also the honorary chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, co-organizer of the Forum, also emphasized the importance of girls’ education, one of UNESCO’s top priorities.
On Monday afternoon the Director-General will host a plenary session on UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. Launched in May 2011, the Partnership is aimed at keeping girls in school and scaling up literacy and skills programmes, as an example of what can be achieved through collective action.
“The 2014 Global Education & Skills Forum gives us a unique opportunity to come up with new ideas for partnerships to support marginalized girls and women,” said Ms Bokova. “With UNESCO’s Gender Summary telling us that over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence, the need for innovative partnerships is critical.”