Over 85 education ministers and leaders of the international education community endorsed a reform to improve global cooperation in education to better respond to the grave and lingering learning disruption caused by COVID-19 and to put education at the center of political agendas.
The ministerial segment of the Global Education Meeting, organized by UNESCO on the sidelines of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum, sent a powerful message about the joint commitment of countries, of multilateral, bilateral and regional organizations, of civil society, the teaching profession, and students and youth themselves, to embark on a new path towards acceleration of the 2030 Agenda.
At the beginning of the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay recalled the need for more effective international collaboration in the area of education: “we need a Global Coordination Mechanism that is more agile, more efficient and more focused on shared priorities’’.
Ministers commended UNESCO’s leadership in leading consultations to improve the global education cooperation mechanism over the past eight months. The proposal to reset the existing mechanism aims to create a better policy environment to drive recovery and accelerate countries’ progress towards SDG4.
The Director-General called for improved action in three education priority areas: collecting and sharing more and better data; investing more and investing better in education; and streamlining and strengthening international cooperation.
To improve coordination in the area of data, UNESCO announced the establishment of a Global Education Observatory that will provide Member States and the international community with a gateway to education-related data and up-to-date information on education policy practices and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting saw the launch of the UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank-OECD Survey on national education responses to COVID-19 covering 142 countries. The Survey finds that around one in three countries where schools are or have been closed is not yet implementing remedial programmes post-COVID-19 school closures.
During the meeting, education ministers shared their innovative responses in transforming their education systems amid the crisis, as well as the immense challenges that still remain. Many ministers emphasized the importance of skills to adapt to an increasingly digital and globalized environment, build resilience to future shocks and to steer the transition towards green societies.
“There is urgent need to develop human resources that will be the driving force for social transformation,” said Koichi Hagiuda, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and co-chair of the current SDG-Education Steering Committee. The Minister emphasized the importance of education for sustainable development and its role in helping individuals and societies respond to future shocks.
“We know that by working more coherently together, our collective efforts will be more effective in accompanying countries to accelerate towards SDG4 in the Decade of Action,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.
As part of the reformed Global Education Cooperation Mechanism, a High-level Steering Committee will be established at the Global Education Meeting, that will be chaired by France and scheduled for November 2021, on the fringe of UNESCO’s General Conference and the Paris Peace Forum, as announced by the French Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who said that education required massive investments and a universal vision.
Chaired by the UNESCO Director-General and a Head of Government, the High-level Steering Committee will provide strategic guidance, review progress, and make recommendations on priorities, monitor and advocate for adequate financing, and encourage harmonization and coordination of partner activities.
“The commitments you make here will only have meaning if they are acted on – by putting education once again at the top of the political agenda,” said Ms Azoulay.