Last week, I attended a global education discussion in Washington DC where experts made a pitch for greater investment in the sector. They called on governments and other stakeholders to direct more resources into education systems to promote quality while enhancing access.
The Centre for Universal Education at Brookings and the Global Campaign for Education-US hosted a post-election discussion to debate on the most pressing challenges in global education and what the United States of America can do to address them.
The Senior Fellow and the Director of the Centre for Universal Education at Brookings Rebecca Winthrop said there is a global learning crisis as millions of children are schooling without learning.
She talked of the need to come up with targeted interventions that reach children who are not in school and those from marginalised and crisis zones. Dr Winthrop added that there is need to gather evidence continually to track the status of education globally.
Other global education experts noted that none of the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved without quality education. For instance, the Chief Executive Officer-Global Partnership for Education, Ms Alice Albright, called for dialogue between the education and health experts as quality education translates to healthier communities.
The discussion was necessitated by the stark findings contained in a recent report published by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. The report says if everything remains business as usual, by 2030, half of the world’s youth will not have the basic high school skills to succeed in the world of work. Moreover, out of the 800 million youths, most will be living in developing countries where it is estimated that one in 10 young people will not have the basic skills needed to succeed in life.
The report further shows that over two billion jobs –almost half the global total- are at risk of automation in the coming decades. Moreover, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by the year 2020, education and demographic trends in Asian South and Sub-Saharan African countries will leave massive skills gap with an estimate of 58 million people with low skills who will look for work but will not find employment.
The only way to manage these enormous challenges is to have a strong education system that equips the youth with a wide range of skills. In addition to academic excellence, competencies such as problem solving, creativity, adaptability and resilience are of essence. And these competencies can only be achieved at an early age, thus the need for quality early childhood education. The time to invest in quality education is now and can’t wait. It is both a moral thing to do and a smart use of resources; especially by countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is an investment that guarantees returns.
Quality education that equips the youth and children with basic competencies and the skills needed in the job market will eradicate extreme poverty, enhance security and stability and foster cohesive societies across the globe.
The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring report says if all children and young people in low-income countries left school with literacy, numeracy and citizenship skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Emphasis should be put on educating girls as studies have shown children born to educated mothers are half as likely to be malnourished and exhibit characteristics of school readiness. It is my hope that the Government of Kenya, in particular, will heed this call to invest in quality education so as to secure the future of our young people.