UNESCO, the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning and the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee organised an event calling for stepped up action to achieve relevant, equitable and inclusive quality education.
UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay said, “Education is a fundamental right and the supporting structure for the entire 2030 Agenda. It is urgent that we act together and step up efforts to invest more in education. Governments hold the primary responsibility but civil society, multilateral and international actors must join their efforts to achieve this common goal.”
Government representatives gave examples of how Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education is influencing national policy, demonstrating its relevance to all contexts. The Minister of Research and Higher Education of Norway, Ms Iselin Nybo, highlighted measures to reduce drop out in upper secondary, make lifelong learning more accessible, and integrate sustainable development across all school subjects and in university programmes.
To achieve the SDGs and build better societies, she called for the “democratization of knowledge” to ensure that the fruits of research are widely shared.
He said, “Likewise, Argentina has placed priority on ‘leaving no one behind” through affirmative actions at all levels, from investment in early childhood education and schools with lower results to innovations in teaching and more flexible pathways to the world of work, explained Oscar Ghillione, the country’s deputy Minister of Education. Having hosted the first G20 conference of education ministers in 2018, Argentina is also striving to “place education at the heart of the global debate.”
To accelerate progress, Stefano Manservisi, the European Commission’s Director-General for International Cooperation and Development stressed the need to “articulate the global and local level in more effective ways and to avoid harmful competition.” Global action can help to mobilize and sustain national commitment, while impact has to be measured at local level, making support to public policy and plans a starting point for progress.
Professor Kaz Yoshida, co-chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, urged countries to pay more attention to the nature of interlinkages with other goals in order to accelerate progress. “We need to go beyond the education sector to reinforce dialogue with other sectors and stakeholders,” he said.
This is all the more true in highly disadvantaged contexts. Maggie MacDonnell, laureate of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize for her work in indigenous villages of the Canadian Arctic, gave a sense of what it means to teach in communities that have been structurally oppressed for generations, struggling with poverty, insecurity and high levels of suicide.
Training teachers is a top priority to achieve SDG4, stated Robert Napier, President of the European Students’ Union. If leaving no one behind requires inclusive policies, he warned that “the biggest threat to education is privatization and commercialization. Market needs are driving education rather than education being based on the skills needed to promote sustainable development.” He stressed the social dimension of higher education, urging for more political focus on equity, inclusion and lifelong learning.
Moderating the event, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini wrapped up the event by stressing urgency, accountability, solidarity and political engagement to accelerate global action for education.