“Instead of being the great enabler, education is fast becoming a great divider. Some 70 percent of 10-year-olds in poor countries are unable to read a basic text. Either they are out of school, or in school but barely learning,”UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, pointed out at the beginning of the three-day Transforming Education Summit at the United Nations.
This much-anticipated Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General, took place in New York on September 16, 17 & 19, 2022, during the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA 77). Education ministers and officials from 170 countries participated in the Summit, along with youth and civil society stakeholders.
The Secretary-General further said that the education system in developed countries “often entrench rather than reduce inequality, reproducing it across generations. The rich have access to the best resources, schools and universities, leading to the best jobs, while the poor – especially girls – face huge obstacles to getting the qualifications that could change their lives.”
Mobilization, Solutions and Leaders Days
The main goal of the Summit is to create a fairer education system – using Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 as a guide – based on the five C’s of critical thinking, comprehension, computer skills, creativity and civic education. Those five C’s should replace the three R’s of the 20th century – reading, writing and arithmetic.
The event included a Leader’s Day on 19 September, preceded by a Mobilization Day and Solutions Day. The first day, Mobilization Day, was Youth-led. The Youth sector across the world has played a crucial role in the Summit process, in a consultative process in their respective countries and in organizing the Summit at the UN. This sector comprised over half a million youth consulted. At the end of Day 1, they handed the Youth Declaration to the Secretary-General and started planning the execution of it by drafting an action plan.
The second day of the Summit focused on Solutions, during which a wide range of education-related issues, recommended solutions and partnerships were discussed. In all, there were over 40 simultaneous sessions conducted along five action tracks:
- Action Track 1: Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools
- Action Track 2: Learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development
- Action Track 3: Teachers, teaching and the teaching profession
- Action Track 4: Digital learning and transformation
- Action Track 5: Financing of education
Crisis of equity, inclusion and quality
Speakers stressed that the crisis in education that we face is one of equity, inclusion and quality. The Summit highlighted education as a human right as well as a foundation for peace, tolerance, other human rights, and sustainable development. Furthermore, it also emphasized that climate education be included in the curriculum.
The universal need for basic and comprehensive education for every child worldwide was a theme echoed throughout the Summit, and the Secretary-General insisted on the proper education finance to close the education gap.
The Summit also focused on fostering the inclusion of girls, students with disabilities, and refugee children in the classroom, as they are always left behind, especially due to different crises.
Many student activists like Malala Youzafzai, Vanessa Nakate, Somaya Faruqi, Thaís Queiroz, and eminent personalities like Gordon Brown, Prof. Jeffery Sacks, and many UN staff participated.
The Claretian Team at the UN had encouraged the Claretian educators worldwide to join the Summit online. Responding to this invitation, 77 Claretian priests, brothers, sisters, lay teachers and student leaders participated in the three-day Summit. Of those, 45 percent are education administrators, of which five have over 25 years of teaching experience. These participants are in the process of preparing a statement to the Claretian Educators. At United Nations HQ in New York, Rohan Dominic, CMF participated in this Summit in person.