Justin van Fleet explains why 2022 must be the year the world finally demonstrates its collective faith and financial commitment to education. He is president of Theirworld and executive director of the Global Business Coalition for Education. Their world turns 20 in 2022.
A new year, but the same old fears. The latest variant of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc around the world. Unequal access to vaccines highlights significant and growing inequalities in wealth and basic services.
Global political tensions are high, as are threats to democracy and its institutions. The climate crisis continues unabated, with wildfires, floods and extreme weather conditions continuing to affect daily life.
Yet, amidst all this turmoil, I continue to hold a deep conviction that gives me hope not just for 2022, but for the rest of the decade and beyond: that the passion of young people is an unstoppable force. to create a better world and that investing in this generation of young people is the key to unlocking this better future.
In communities and countries around the world, progress is being made, but this year we need to move much faster. 2022 must be the year education truly takes off as a global issue capable of unlocking the solutions to our challenges and attracting the attention – and investment – it deserves.
Here are some of the things I can see happening – which indeed need to happen – this year if we are truly going to set up the next generation for success.
Early childhood education – a new global priority
Five years ago, asking for two free years of pre-school education seemed like a dream. But more and more countries are realizing the universal importance of investing in early childhood education and development for better health, wealth and skills development.
Even in the United States, where the Biden administration’s “Build Back Better” plans are in jeopardy, Democrats and Republicans see the potential to pass a bipartisan early childhood education bill.
I anticipate that early childhood will be a pillar of the UN Secretary-General’s major education summit later this year – and an area for closer collaboration between government, international organizations and business.
Build a health education infrastructure
As Covid continues to test the strength of health and education systems, it is now universally clear that education, health and the economy are more linked than ever. Schools cannot reopen safely without vaccine equity, while there can be no return to a growing economy if schools are not operational.
Seek other innovative partnerships between health and education systems to create more cohesive health and education ecosystems for communities, ranging from vaccines and school feeding to nutrition and mental health services.
Innovative financing for education – finally?
Any leader who wishes to invest in building strong education systems should not be held back by a lack of funding.
Compared to global health successes such as GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, or the multi-billion dollar funds fighting climate change, education has always been unable to realize innovative ways to create resources for strong public education systems globally.
Even some of the early ideas for innovation conceived by the Education Commission have been embraced by climate change groups to support the very governments that could benefit from innovation in education funding.
As more and more countries face a growing crisis of high-risk unsecured debt, sustainable sources of secured investment in education could prove even more attractive and necessary if the aim is to increase investments in the sector.
The International Finance Facility for Education is the only concept put forward to mobilize more resources for education from the international community on top of existing funds and to increase commitments from governments themselves.
With several donors already in line to support the fund, I see this as another great opportunity for the UN Secretary General’s Education Summit in September.
The power of local solutions and the adoption of new definitions of scale
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen teachers and students at the forefront of innovation, finding ways to deliver education and support each other.
At Theirworld, we recognized what was happening on the ground and launched our new Innovation Awards to find promising community ideas and help them grow.
This year, I would like to see more confidence in local organizations to increase their efforts to improve education, alongside a better understanding that scale is not just about reaching more beneficiaries, but about developing an idea to build deeper and more holistic solutions for young people in communities.
One example is the recently launched competition by the Global Business Coalition for Education in the United States for skills-friendly cities, which asks community organizations, city officials and business leaders to generate ideas to make their city more fosters skills for young people and aims to create a community of innovative practice across the country.
Change driven by young people
This cohort of young people is the most resilient we have ever seen. She endured the pandemic to keep learning, sometimes in the face of immense personal and family challenges.
We must reward this resilience by demonstrating our faith in young people. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more of them involved in politics, leading nonprofits, start-ups, and boards of directors.
This year at Theirworld, we will be doubling down on our Global Youth Ambassador program, which has just successfully brought 1,000 new activists into the network in less than a year.
They will find the research, campaigning and networking opportunities needed to take their place at the forefront of change in education and their communities.
Finding Strength Through Inclusion
The first quarter of 2022 will focus on inclusion, with the World Disability Summit in Norway in February and the Paralympic Winter Games in China in March.
The GBC-Education Disability Task Force will play its part by releasing a major report on how employers can help young people with disabilities get a quality education and make the transition to a supportive and supportive work environment. welcoming.
It will also propose actions to ensure that the talent and creativity of young people with disabilities are proactively engaged by the business community.
Putting ESG at the service of education
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics drive decision-making for boards, consumers and investors. Although the focus has been on environmental and governance practices and risks, the ‘S’ element has yet to be fully exploited, especially for education.
GBC-Education will tackle this issue head-on with concrete opportunities for companies to advance business and educational goals while improving ESG ratings. It will be a growing space and contains a major opportunity for education.
Investment in education
For too long, governments thought they could meet big challenges without investing in education. But it has become even clearer that this is impossible if a population does not know how to read, write or possess the basic skills for effective participation in society and the labor market.
Education is key to solving all critical issues – systemic inequalities, climate change, racism, trust in democracy and institutions, and the pandemic we have been living with for two years. Prioritizing education will help us identify common bonds, develop lasting solutions and build a better future.