To invest in people, Prioritise education

Blog of Evelyne PARA, UN SI Representative at UNESCO, Paris.

“Education is a basic human right that works to raise men and women out of poverty, level inequalities, and ensure sustainable development. Yet, millions of people worldwide continue to be excluded from education for reasons that are often beyond their control; for instance, some individuals may be unable to access education because of their sex, gender orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, nationality, economic condition, or ability.

Today, 244 million children and youth are still out of school for social, economic and cultural reasons, whilst 771 million adults are still illiterate. There is a crisis in foundational learning, such as with literacy and numeracy skills among young learners – notably, there are currently 617 million children and adolescents who cannot read and do basic math. Furthermore, less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school, along with some four million children and youth refugees who are out of school entirely. Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable.

It’s time to transform education

Audrey Azoulay, Director of UNESCO, said recently: “In these exceptional times, the status quo is no longer possible. If we want to transform the future, if we want to change course, we must rethink education. It is about forging a new social contract for education, as proposed by UNESCO’s Futures of Education report, published in November 2022“.

It is for this reason, that the fifth International Day of Education was celebrated on 24 January 2023, under the theme “to invest in people, prioritise education”.

Building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit (TES), held in in September 2022 and as presented in my blog on the TES Pre-Summit, published on the Soroptimist International (SI) Website, this year’s Day of Education will call for maintaining strong political mobilisation around education, and chart the way to translating commitments and global initiatives into action. Education must be prioritised to accelerate progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities, and the climate crisis.

During this TES Summit, a youth movement published their Youth Declaration affirming that “If we are to survive and thrive in planetary peace and righteous equality, then education is our primary source of hope and resolution.”

So, now all governments and partners must be held accountable for their commitments. Going forward, we need a solidarity pact to fully translate these commitments into action and strengthen the capacities of policy makers, teachers, and educators, to make education transformative.

The aims of the International Day for Education 2023

It is only by equipping youth for the future that we can transform the future. Building on the momentum of the TES and advancing towards the Summit of the Future in 2024, this International Day for Education 2023 will press for society-wide engagement to meet our education goals and drum up awareness on the global initiatives to transform education.

Fundamental objectives have been highlighted in order to achieve this, in particular:

>>> Encourage widespread adoption of the global initiatives launched at the TES to accelerate foundational learning; get every learner climate ready through greening education; promote public digital learning; advance gender equality in and through education, and; ensure learning continuity in situations of emergency and protracted crisis.

>>> Provide youth a platform to build on the TES youth declaration, relay their demands, and showcase their own initiatives and innovations to advance the right to education.

>>> Rally influencers to push forward the global education movement, calling on world leaders to stand by their commitments and prioritise investment in education and educational transformation.

Gender equality is a global Education priority for UNESCO and for our NGO Soroptimist International 

UNESCO calls for attention to gender equality throughout the education system in relation to access, content, teaching and learning context and practices, learning outcomes, and life and work opportunities. Guided by the UNESCO Strategy for gender equality in and through education in 2019-2025, this work focuses on a system-wide transformation to benefit all learners equally in three key areas: better data to inform action, better legal and policy frameworks to advance rights and better teaching and learning practices to empower. 

Gender equality is also a global priority for all the Soroptimist members worldwide. It is why our SI President, Maureen Maguire, headed her SI President’s Appeal 2021-2023 entitled “Opening Doors to a Bright Future in all SI five federations, with the aim of delivering tangible benefits, through education, to some of the world’s most marginalised women, girls, and their communities.

See our Education projects and work in the five federations.

To know more about education and gender equality, please visit the following:


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