Schooling as a tool to foster Global Citizenship, Empathy and Tolerance
By Joanna Nappi – On 28 June 2017, the United Nations held a High-Level Event on Sustainable Development Goal 4, Education, at the New York Headquarters. Representatives and key SDG 4 stakeholders convened to foster awareness of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to advocate a more innovative, inclusive, and equitable approach to education. The format of the High-Level Event included plenary debates, speeches from distinguished guests, and panel discussions, from which the following statistics, themes, and recommendations came forth:
SDG 4: Overview and Urgency
Currently, 1/3 of the world’s children lack basic math and literacy skills, and over 263 million children are out of school. These numbers are increasing daily, and if the proper action is not taken, half of the world’s children will be out of school by 2030. The goal of SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning. Education is the heart of development, sustainability, and peacebuilding, and access to quality education is essential for the success and maintenance of all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Research has found that children who attend primary and secondary school grow up to be healthier, more successful adults than those who did not attend primary and secondary school. In addition, education has been shown to delay childbearing/marriage, increase community involvement, and foster innovation and agency amongst individuals and their communities.
Furthermore, these economic, social, emotional, and physical benefits go on to produce protective factors for the offspring of those who received schooling. This investment in human capital is invaluable and has the power to not only lift people out of poverty, but cultivate the leaders of tomorrow.
Finances and Political Will
Funds for education have decreased globally each year for the past 6 consecutive years, and in regard to crisis situations, only 2.7% of the total humanitarian aid budget goes toward education. These funds are insufficient, especially as the number of humanitarian crises increases each year. World-wide, countries are facing large-scale deficits in the quality and quantity of educational services and institutions. These deficits cannot be rectified unless each country makes education their top priority. In order to create sufficient funding for education, panelists and distinguished speakers called for an increase in domestic and global spending, as well as investigations into corruption/waste and the forging of new, multisectoral partnerships.
Accessibility, Inclusivity, and Equity
The lack of quality education negatively impacts the entire population, but it is the marginalized and least advantaged peoples who disproportionately suffer. In order to make education more accessible, inclusive, and equitable, governments must target education to the marginalized and least advantaged populations, especially girls, refugee children, children in conflict zones, and children in rural, impoverished areas.
Specifically, girls are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than boys to be excluded from school; this discrepancy is due to multiple factors, such as gender-based-violence, cultural customs/beliefs, lack of toilets, and lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Along with girls, refugees are another subgroup of youth who experience disproportionately high rates of interrupted schooling or a lack of access to schooling. Today, 50 million children worldwide are refugees and this number is increasing daily. Progress and sustainability cannot be achieved if large subgroups of the population are continually denied access to education.
Fostering Global Citizenship & Lifelong Learning
The world is suffering from more humanitarian crises than ever before, most of which will be inherited by today’s youth. In order to solve these complex crises, it is fundamental that youth have access to an education that teaches more than just facts, formulas, and concrete literacy skills; education must also teach children how to thrive in a globalized society as engaged, empathetic, and moral individuals. It is essential for children to see themselves as global citizens and feel empowered, so that they are compelled to take ownership and take action. Children are the innovators of tomorrow, as well as those who will be rebuilding our world post-conflict; they need to learn about the SDGs and the ways in which they play a role in attaining all 17 goals.
Part of being a global citizen is a commitment to lifelong learning. 750 million people in the world are illiterate, and 1 billion new workers will enter the workforce within the next ten years.
These figures highlight the necessity of lifelong learning initiatives, in addition to primary and secondary education for youth. Without access to updated, innovative, and contextualized training, individuals will be unable to keep up with the pace of our rapidly evolving globalized economy.
In conclusion, this High Level Event on Education strongly encourages governments to make education their top priority. An increase in funds, the formation of collaborative partnerships, and an innovative, inclusive, and equitable approach to education is urgently recommended. Schooling must encompass more than facts, it must cultivate emotional intelligence, build the capacity for empathy and tolerance, and foster global citizenship. Moreover, education should be culturally and contextually relevant, remaining accessible throughout the lifespan, as our globalized society continues to transform.