Education has the power to help alleviate poverty.
Nelson Mandela once said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Education is a powerful tool in the long run because it can help an individual succeed. An individual is more likely to find a job if their literacy and numeracy skills are adequate. Not only that, but if more people have adequate workplace and life skills, they are more likely to contribute to their community and the economic prosperity of their country.
Children and young adults need a quality education to function as global citizens.
However, according to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018 (Learning to Realize Education’s Promise), there is a global learning crisis, whereby learning gaps are visible in countries’ education systems and learning standards are not being achieved. Although there are a larger number of children attending schools now than ever before, this does not necessarily mean they are learning. Students may lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, cognitive skills, and the non-cognitive ‘soft’ skills (e.g. motivation, temperament, work ethic, perseverance, determination, diligence, amongst others).
Breaking down the walls of inequality requires children to be educated from birth.
But sometimes this is not possible as parents are not educated themselves and do not see the benefits of education. They might also be experiencing financial barriers, which in some cases are compounded by location, gender and disability barriers. It causes a never-ending cycle, one in which children are trapped.
Although the Report does outline some suggestions on improving learning in schools, the report does not address access to education, funding and finance in the education system, and also states that teachers are unmotivated and not skilled enough, and that more testing and assessment is required for improvement in student learning. The No Child Left Behind Initiative is an example of a policy that put testing at its centre; it did not improve student performance.
Learning is a joint responsibility.
The Report stresses cooperation and accountability from all key players: learners, teachers, school management, and government. No one person is solely to blame.
UNESCO’S GEM Report offers some ways to solve the learning crisis:
- Create policies that fill teacher gaps: policies that address the high turnover rate in the teaching profession, and the lack of sills teachers in STEM (science, technology, English, mathematics) areas.
- Attract highly qualified and knowledgeable candidates to the teaching profession: For example, in Finland, the minimum level to become a teacher is a Masters degree.
- Relocate teachers to places where they are needed the most: teachers should have the option and incentive to move to regional, rural and remote areas where disadvantage is more common in schools compared to metropolitan areas.
- Use a competitive career and pay structure to retain the best teachers: this means valuing the work of teachers and recognising and rewarding their efforts.
- Have an innovative curriculum: create inclusive and flexible curriculums designed to meet the learning needs of all children in the 21st century, matched to their abilities and levels. An interdisciplinary curriculum is important for children to develop transferable skills that can be used later on in life.
Another point we’d like to make is funding. Without governments funding schools with such things as computers, materials, and textbooks, children will find it difficult to be motivated and compete with their peers in richer schools because they won’t have the resources to support their learning.
An overhaul of the education system is needed, and fast.
It’s up to us to put the pressure on governments around the globe to ensure all children have a high quality, equitable and efficient education system and thereby can learn and be equipped for a 21st century world.