2020 has been a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, forcing more than 1.6 billion learners in over190 countries out of school at the peak of the crisis.
The pandemic has brought to light already-existing challenges to education that have not been adequately addressed for far too long. It has highlighted alarming inequalities within and across countries that must be tackled urgently in order to guarantee everyone’s right to education.
From monitoring school closures and providing solutions, to setting up a unique global response platform, discover some of UNESCO’s main actions and work in education in 2020.
Monitoring school closures and providing distance learning solutions and guidance
From the onset of the pandemic, UNESCO started monitoring global school closures and supporting countries in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact, particularly for more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to facilitate the continuity of education for all through remote learning.
UNESCO has been organizing various thematic webinars, producing guidance documents and providing as wealth of resources and recommendations to help students, parents, teachers, schools and governments facilitate learning and provide social care and interaction during school closures. The International Commission on the Futures of Education also published a report on education in a post-COVID world presenting ideas for concrete actions that will advance education.
The Global Education Coalition
“Never before have we witnessed educational disruption at this scale. Partnership is the only way forward,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay as she announced the launch of the Global Education Coalition in March, a platform for collaboration and exchange to protect the right to education during this unprecedented crisis and beyond. “This Coalition is a call for coordinated and innovative action to unlock solutions that will not only support learners and teachers now, but through the recovery process and in the longer term, with a principle focus on inclusion and equity."
The Global Education Coalition brings together more than 140 members from the UN family, civil society, academia and the private sector to ensure that learning never stops. Coalition members rally around three flagships, namely connectivity, teachers and gender, as well as support specific causes including the educational recovery following the deadly explosion in Beirut.
‘Learning never stops’ testimonies: How you are coping with COVID-19 school closures?
“I miss seeing my friends and talking to them face to face and having classes together,” said 17-year-old Nanda from Indonesia. “I also miss my school routine, waking up early in the morning and worrying about the homework I didn’t do. I believe we will get through this, stay optimistic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and universities to close their doors, impacting an unprecedented number of learners worldwide. Students, teachers and parents from the UNESCO Associated Schools Network shared their stories and experiences on coping and continuing to learn during the lockdown and school closures.
UN Secretary-General warns of education catastrophe, pointing to UNESCO estimate of 24 million learners at risk of dropping out
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns that the pandemic has created the most severe disruption in the world’s education systems in history and is threatening a loss of learning that may stretch beyond one generation of students. School closures are also likely to erase decades of progress, according to a new Policy Brief, which builds on UNESCO’s data and features recommendations on ways to avert the looming catastrophe.
The Brief was launched alongside #SaveOurFuture, a multi-partner campaign led by ten entities, including UNESCO, to raise awareness of the global education emergency and urge increased investment to build better, more inclusive and resilient education systems for the future.
Global Education Meeting 2020
“Financing education is not a cost: it is our most crucial long-term investment,” announced UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay as she opened the Global Education Meeting in November. “If we do not allocate this funding now, we will face a bleaker future.”
UNESCO convened this virtual session attended by Heads of State and Government, ministers from over 70 countries and international partners. A Declaration was adopted, expressing strong commitment to protect education financing and outlining measures to be implemented over the next year to safeguard education from the devastating impact of the disruption caused by COVID19.
Keeping girls in the picture campaign
"During the school closure, someone asked for my hand in marriage." Meet 16-year-old Halima. She lives in a refugee camp in Somalia where many children have lost any hope of completing their education due to #COVID19.
Like Halima, over 11 million girls – from pre-primary to tertiary education – are at risk of not return to school. This alarming number not only threatens decades of progress made towards gender equality, but also puts girls around the world at risk of adolescent pregnancy, early and forced marriage, and violence. For many girls, school is more than just a key to a better future. It’s a lifeline.
That’s why UNESCO and members of the Global Education Coalition’s Gender Flagship launched a global campaign focusing on ‘keeping girls in the picture.’ The campaign calls for efforts to safeguard progress made on girls’ education, ensure girls’ learning continuity during school closures, and promote girls’ safe return to school once these reopen. It also sheds light on the 130 million girls who were already out of school before the pandemic, and calls on the international community to urgently work together to guarantee their right to education.
UNESCO Director-General launches the "Li Beirut" initiative, putting education, culture and heritage at the heart of reconstruction efforts
Photo: UNESCO/Fouad Choufany
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay launched an international fund raising appeal, ‘Li Beirut’ (For Beirut in Arabic), to support the rehabilitation of schools, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries and the creative economy, all of which suffered extensive damage in the deadly explosions that shook the Lebanese capital on 4 August. “UNESCO, of which Lebanon is a founding member, stands at their side to mobilize the international community and support the city’s recovery for and through culture, heritage and education,” said Ms Azoulay.
Young people around the world joined UNESCO to #TrashHack their lives
UNESCO launched the Trash Hack campaign to encourage young people to learn about sustainability through tackling waste. Each year the world generates over 2 billion tonnes of waste. Trash clogs our oceans, fills our streets and litters huge areas of the planet.
Launched on World Cleanup Day on 19 September, the Trash Hack campaign promotes simple actions young people can take to combat waste in their neighborhoods, homes or even inboxes, depending on safety precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Global Convention on Higher Education: Making academic mobility and the recognition of qualifications a reality for all
Photo: PF8 studio/Shutterstock.com
There are over 5,3 million students pursuing higher education outside their home countries today. This rapid growth in international mobility at the university level is likely to continue. A year since the adoption of the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, UNESCO launched a digital campaign to promote this Convention and is calling on Member States to ratify it and help make international academic mobility and the recognition of qualifications a reality for millions around the world.
60th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education
2020 marks 60 years since the adoption of the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the first legally binding international instrument entirely dedicated to the right to education. This key Convention highlights States' obligations to ensure free and compulsory education, promotes equality of educational opportunity and prohibits any form of discrimination. As of today, 106 countries have ratified it, and UNESCO is calling on all remaining Member States to do so as it launches a new global campaign ‘Say no to discrimination in Education’ to mark the occasion.
Top photo: M2020/Shutterstock.com