Education is a human right–but it’s getting deprioritized in an age of crises

The world is at a crucial moment. Instability has emerged around the world in recent years. Therefore, ensuring that we meet children’s basic needs such as access to food, water, shelter, security and protection is rightly on the global agenda. Because children’s needs often compete for attention and resources, we must remember that education is a tremendous force of stability for both children and society.

While literacy and numeracy skills are incredibly important, education teaches far more than ABC and 123s. Learning is an important mechanism for developing problem-solving skills, building resilience, increasing self-confidence, and improving the ability to communicate with others. These are core skills children need to face the challenges and opportunities of the world we live in. Aside from the direct benefits of education, schools are often a place of stability and peace, particularly for children affected by crises, and can provide a pathway to address basic needs such as food insecurity.

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However, the gap between what education systems could be and the reality as they are is immense. A report by the World Bank and UNESCO earlier this year found that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already existing gaps in investment in education. The World Economic Forum has predicted that at least 263 million children and young people are out of school. Even before the pandemic, the world was facing a learning crisis – 57% of children in low- and middle-income countries could not read and understand a simple text by the age of 10. Today that number is a staggering 70%.

These sobering statistics show that we are failing children. What we do is just not good enough.

The Transforming Education Summit, which ended this week, was an opportunity for education leaders and policymakers to advocate for the transformation of global learning systems.

It wasn’t another moment to talk shop, but a chance for some real action for kids.

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As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the opening of the summit, we will not end the education crisis by doing the same. The only way to truly change education is to mobilize a global movement.

Change won’t happen overnight – and the summit was just the beginning. As Rebecca Winthrop wrote in a recent article for The Brookings Institution, the education sector must be united in our approach if we are to succeed in real systems change. The LEGO Foundation calls on the global education community to work together in the face of crises to protect children’s learning by:

  • Make sure those closest to the issues can determine what the transformation looks like. It’s critical that we work to decolonize the mechanisms that historically have taken decision-making away from those who matter most.
  • Ensure that learning systems include all children. Regardless of gender, ability, location or privilege.
  • Promote strong collaboration between sectors to ensure good health, adequate nutrition and security.
  • Involving parents, families, child care, health care providers and social services in education systems to provide every child with the highest quality opportunities for joyful, meaningful, lifelong learning and responsive care.
  • We recognize our shared responsibility to invest in children and put the funding of education back on the global agenda.
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Above all, let’s pay attention to what children want and need from their learning. As the world rebuilds after a period of instability, leaders need to remember who we are rebuilding for.

The opinions expressed in comments are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of wealth.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen is CEO of the LEGO Foundation.

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