Worldwide education suffers from ‘precipitate decline’, UN president says

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the seventy-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, has said there is a “precipitate decline” in the quality and standards of worldwide education.

The UN General Assembly president made this statement at the recently concluded high-level interactive meeting for the International Day of Education.

According to him, the worldwide education sector is wrestling with mammoth challenges, which is invariably leading to a decline in the quality and standards of worldwide education.

The UN General Assembly president went further to explain that there’s a widening knowledge gap between students in technically advanced societies and those in developing countries,

He maintained that worldwide education must attempt to “bridge the yawning gap” between the modern employment needs for specialized skills, and actual learning opportunities to stand a chance in correcting the current defect.

Mr Muhammad-Bande also went further listed some of the factors affecting worldwide education, namely crisis and conflict in various zones, growing school bullying, the declining esteem of the teaching profession overall, amongst other issues.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, also present at the interactive meeting for the International Day of Education to lend his voice towards the need to improve worldwide education.

He said:

As a former teacher, I know the life-changing power of education. Universal access to quality and, now, life-long education is a right and a necessity.

Education defects according to UN General Assembly president

Natural disasters: Poses significant threats to the learning environment. Cyclones, hurricanes, and storms are among the climatic conditions that periodically wreak havoc on school buildings and facilities, making learning difficult, if not impossible.

Conflict ridden zones: According to UNICEF, in 2017, 500 attacks were staged on schools in 20 countries worldwide. In 15 of those 20, troops and rebel forces turned classrooms into military posts.

Thousands of children were recruited to fight, sometimes made to serve as suicide bombers, or forced to endure direct attacks.

According to Mr Muhammad-Bande, the learning environment in various region are usually rendered unsafe by gun-toting, machete-wielding, gangs, and unruly youths, and by sexual predators on school premises.

Mr Muhammad-Bande recommendations on worldwide education crisis

  • Ensure instruction does not decline.
  • Align school curricula and work needs for competencies and skills.
  • Promote gender equality, social mobility, intercultural understanding.
  • Safeguard that persons with disabilities are included in education.
  • Respond to learning challenges caused by conflict and weather.
  • Enhance the capacities of education systems working in tandem with Governments, education planners, and administrators.
  • Bridge the current gender, digital, and financing gaps in education.

Power of education

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who was also present at the International Day of Education celebration, noted education has the potential to shape the world.

According to her, education protects men and women from exploitation in the labor market, and empowers women and gives them opportunities to make choices.

Moreover, it can help change behavior and perceptions, thereby fighting climate change and unsustainable practices.

A quality experience in the classroom helps promote mutual respect and understanding between people, combat misperceptions, prejudice, and hate speech, and prevent violent extremism.

Mrs. Mohammed added, with 2030 looming on the horizon, the world is still lagging actualizing the UN education goal, prompting the Secretary-General to issue a global call for a Decade of Action, to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.

Invest in education

UN Director-General Audrey Azoulay also canvassed for more investment in worldwide education. “A valuable resource for humanity,” she called it.

Worldwide education

She noted it’s a global learning crisis, and confirmed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is also a significant cause for concern as it is a crisis for prosperity, for the planet, for peace, and people.

Azoulay called on everyone to take action for education because education is the best investment for the future.

Notably, UNESCO is charged with coordinating the international community’s efforts to achieve SDG 4, quality education for all.