On 29 November, gearing up for major education’s milestones in 2022, the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning met to discuss its strategic positioning to take forward the global education advocacy.
Ambassadors deliberated how to scale-up commitments on education and advance key stakeholders’ engagement in the year 2022. Chaired by H.E. Ambassador Kimihiro ISHIKANE, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN, the Ambassadorial meeting also featured the participation of UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Ms Stefania GIannini, and Dr. Fernando Reimers, Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Opening up meeting, H.E. Ambassador Ishikane voiced concerns on the global trends in education and the unprecedented shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the education systems worldwide. Highlighting the driving force of education for development, he commended the Group for being an active champion as it had raised visibility and ascertained the centrality of education for all sustainable development goals at the UN Headquarters. Referring to momentum around education, he stressed the need for the Group to reimage its role and become a stronger complementary player for mainstreaming SDG4 into the latest, most pressing global issues, such as peace, climate change and digitalization. Importantly, the 4th edition of the International Day of Education (24 January, 2022)* is expected to kick off the preparatory process of the Transforming Education Summit as well as the in-depth review of SDG4 by the High Level Political Forum: thus paving the way for increased political will to ensure every child and young person goes to school and learns.
“I am convinced that now is the time to step up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery and the transformation towards more inclusive, safe, and sustainable societies”, he said.
Bringing in UNESCO’s expertise, Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant-Director General for Education alerted on the most profound and universal disruption of education in history that happened over the past 2 years. Responding to the urgency, UNESCO supported the global mobilization through the Global Education Coalition as ‘every government deployed diverse solutions to enable learning continuity and reopen schools safely’, she said. To accelerate progress on SDG4 and strengthen commitment to education as a public good, UNESCO also led the reform of the global education cooperation mechanism, which now counts ministers and head of agencies in its High-level Steering Committee. In adapting the global response to current challenges, it was important to scale up digital knowledge and skills to address deep inequalities in education, as well as to improve quality content and tap on new pedagogical practices. Finally, Ms. Giannini recalled that, in November 2021, Member States united to adopt the Paris Declaration, a global appeal initiated by UNESCO and France to increase investment in education in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis - for the future of humanity and the planet.
“We need your political weight to defend education, to systematically stress its linkages to health, poverty reduction, gender equality, access to decent jobs and the capacity to take action to safeguard our planet”, she said.
Building on the call for global solidarity, Professor Fernando M. Reimers presented key findings of the global report “Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education”. By recognizing governments as important actors that must engage with a much wider group of stakeholders, such as teachers, students, and civil society, the report identifies key issues that all countries should center their educational systems around. In an effort to rethink education, the report calls for a human rights based approach that should lead to a transformation of the fundamental culture of education. This can include a pedagogy re-organized around the principles of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity and an interdisciplinary curricula targeted at developing a ‘new ecological intercultural stewardship’. Recommendations also suggest that the teaching should be further professionalized as a collaborative endeavour where teachers are recognized for their work as knowledge producers and key figures in educational and social transformation. Additionally, the organization of schools should be reimagined as to connect education institutions to the larger ecosystem. Professor Reimers stressed that the report should be regarded as an invitation to a ‘broad global movement to a process of deep democratic and inclusive social dialogue on the future of education.
“In establishing the Commission on the Futures of Education, UNESCO has in many ways anticipated what the UN Secretary General has rightly called the “opportunity of our time” in facing the pandemic, which is the opportunity not just to restore life as we knew it, but indeed to build back better, to reimagine the very structures, the very institutions of society, to create a world that is more inclusive and that is more sustainable
As education will be taking center stage at the UN, Ambassadors reflected and strategized on the Group’s positioning and engagement in the year 2022. The Group affirmed their priority to strengthen national and global commitments around education as some called for particular attention on response to COVID 19, protection of education and lifelong learning approach. Members also welcomed UNESCO’s report on the Futures of Education as it ‘offered a vision that would allow to better respond to emerging challenges such as economic inequality and climate change”. While the Secretary-General’s proposal for the Transforming Education Summit is under consideration, the group expressed its conviction that is should be based on clear principles of multilateralism and reiterated their readiness to proactively engage in the consultations on the Transforming Education Summit, as well as at the in-depth review of SGD4 during the HLPF next year. It was also highlighted that the Summit is an opportunity to build on and enhance the existing mechanisms on education.