January 24 is the International Day of Education and this year, the theme is "Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace." In an open letter, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay said, "Because, now more than ever, we need to mobilize. UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Education, is issuing a call for action - action for education. High-level political authorities and citizens, States and associations, teachers and parents of students: everyone, in their own way, has a role to play in making the right to education a reality for all. It is our responsibility to future generations."
The following are facts and figures from the United Nations:
- Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91% but 57 million primary age children remain out of school
- More than half of children who have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa
- An estimated 50% of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas
- 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills
According to the United Nations, lack of quality education is due to "lack of adequately trained teachers, poor conditions of schools and equity issues related to opportunities provided to rural children." In an effort to address these problems, the United Nations has laid out 10 "targets." The hope is that, through the implementation of these targets, the United Nations and its partners will be able to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" by the year 2030. These targets include:
- ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant learning outcomes
- ensuring that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
- ensuring that all women and men have equal access to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
- eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
The United Nations has planned multiple events for the International Day of Education. One event, hosted in partnership with the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France and will feature speakers from around the world including H.E. Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou, Minister and Special Advisor to the President of Niger, Flavio Bassi, Vice-President of Ashoka Latin America, Chandrika Bahadur, President of Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and Elyas Felfoul, Director for Policy Development and Partnerships at WISE. It will also feature the launch of the UNESCO Education Progress Tool and Learning Planet, an on- and off-line learning community with its own digital platform. The event will be livestreamed, beginning at 2:00 p.m. Paris time at http://webcast.unesco.org/live/room-04/en.
Another event, entitled, "Aligning Inclusive Quality Education Policies with Sustainable Development Goals," will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York and will feature two interactive panels comprised of high level officials from member states, various agencies and organizations, teachers' unions, youth, and representatives of the private sector. It will also feature the launch of the Beyond the Basics Global Network on Inclusive Quality Education and Lifelong Learning (BTB). According to the United Nations, BTB is an initiative that will "connect stakeholders including educators, experts in education, philanthropists, policy makers, students and youth" for the purpose of exchanging best practices and creating dialogue around the issue of education. To learn about events in other cities, or to get ideas for your own event, visit http://uil.unesco.org/lifelong-learning/learning-cities/unesco-learning-cities-around-world-celebrate-international-day.