Statement delivered by Co-Chair of the Groups of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, all protocol observed
I am honoured to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, which was established on the occasion of the first international day of education (2019). Argentina is pleased to co-chair together with Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway, this group of more than 20 countries.
Today 24 January, we gather at the United Nations to celebrate the International Day of Education and once again recommit to ensuring education for all as a cornerstone for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals while leaving no one behind.
Five years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda we remain convinced of the transformational power of equitable and inclusive quality education. Therefore, we would like to recall the irrefutable evidence that must guide our political and financial agendas:
First, despite ongoing efforts and commitments, progress is falling short on SDG 4 as current trends show that 225 million children between 6 and 17 years of age will be out of school in 2030, representing a mere 14% decrease from 2017. Currently only half of the youth complete secondary school and 6 out of 10 children and adolescents worldwide do not achieve minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. Over 750 million adults still cannot read and write.
The gap is even more pronounced at the tertiary level with 20% of the world’s richest 25 to 29 year olds are completing 4 years of higher education while less than 1% of the poorest can do so.
Yet, having access to quality and inclusive education gives people the knowledge and skills they need to access decent jobs and live more prosperous lives. It boost productivity and open doors to jobs and credit. Each additional year of schooling raises average annual GDP growth by 0.37%; while 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills – equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.
Educating children and young people also yields better health outcomes as it is associated with lower levels of child mortality, better nutrition and health. Children of mothers with secondary education or higher are twice as likely to survive beyond age 5 as those whose mothers have no education.
Educated population certainly promotes greater gender equality, empowers women and reduces child marriage that leads millions of girls every year to drop out of the education process.
Moreover, quality and inclusive education and lifelong learning is a significant contributor to sustaining peace as it brings hope, stability and opportunity when crisis and conflict disrupt young lives; it sows the seeds of peace by fostering reconciliation, mutual understanding and social cohesion and encourages constructive and inclusive political participation.
Last but not least, education must equip learners with a broad set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, enabling them to adapt and thrive in the evolving society. Schools and universities should must empower learners to counter social, cultural, environmental and economic challenges of our times, by taking informed decisions and responsibly engaging on global issues. Learning must help them to develop individual resilience and empathy, nurture the attitudes to appreciate diversity and contribute to building peaceful and sustainable societies. In this context, inclusion must remain the first yardstick for all policies related to education, especially as our societies are undergoing change at an exponential rate, led by the ongoing revolution in technology that is transforming all aspects of life, not least education. This is our collective responsibility to harness the opportunities that technology offers, and explore its potential to help lower the cost and improve the quality, inclusive education. Yet, despite these recognized benefits and important progress in expanding access to education worldwide, the world is still behind its commitments under the SDG 4. Moreover, with the estimated gap of at least US$39 billion per year between 2015 and 2030, the Group reiterates the international agreement on the need for member states to allocate at least 4% of their GDP or 15% of their expenditure on supporting quality equitable and inclusive education.
Today, let us further translate our convictions into action and pledge our support once again for inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all as access to knowledge and learning are the key drivers for prosperity, peace and environmental sustainability worldwide.
Thank you for your attention