Why hasn’t education got a seat at the table for urban policy discussions?

pic-1For too long, education has been missing from urban policy and planning discussions. As the New Urban Agenda is finalized, those going to the Habitat III Conference should take heed of the benefits that including education, training and lifelong learning into city governance can bring, which are highlighted in the PLACE chapter in the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report.

Inequalities, unemployment, discrimination, violence, crime and economic stagnation are challenges faced by many cities the world over. These challenges are on the rise as urbanisation quickens, with migration from rural areas, the arrival of refugees, and overall population growth. Vast slums spreading through urban areas, back to back with high risers, and marked by a lack of access to basic services including education, are no longer shocking; they have become the norm. In education’s case for instance, the lack of equal access to quality schools with quality teachers in cities is not uncommon. Many children in slums, including those in Lagos, Nairobi, and in Mumbai, India, are more likely to be found in private schools, than in public ones, for the simple reason that there are no public schools in the vicinity.

As the clock ticks by in our new era of the Sustainable Development Agenda, the benefit of multi-sectoral approaches to tackling these issues should be recognized, with education as a partner. This is the theme of an event we are holding with colleagues working in Science and Culture at UNESCO this week at Habitat III, along with Mayors who are members of UNESCO’s coalition of International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities. We will be highlighting evidence that shows how education-led participatory approaches, recognizing the needs of the disadvantaged, improve urban planning and decision-making.

One clear example, for instance, is shown in the work by the Shack/Slum Dwellers International network, which has helped community members document inequalities and demand services from local government. In partnership with the Association of African Planning Schools, it has engaged in efforts to increase the relevance of urban planning, especially in relation to informal settlements.

Informed city leaders can productively use education and lifelong learning to transform cities, including to reduce crime. In Medellín, Colombia, where we launched the 2016 GEM Report in September, the mayor helped transform the city from one of the world’s most violent to one of its most innovative through an education-led social change strategy. As cities grow increasingly important, improving local autonomy and emphasizing education strategies are key to making them sustainable and inclusive.

Bringing education to the table can also help tackle entrenched discrimination. Teacher training can tackle stereotypes in the classroom; inclusion and tolerance can be a key value instilled through collaborative and open pedagogy, and supporting curricula frameworks. In Berlin, for example, education and employment opportunities were offfered in a combined package via neighbourhood management projects to create a ‘socially integrative city’

place-infographic-1When you look at cities where cycling has become one of the most common means of transport, too, education was clearly a key partner in getting to that stage. Denmark and Germany, for example, both ensured that safe cycling was taught to children in classrooms in order to encourage the transition to more environmental means of transport.

Realizing this potential requires better multidisciplinary training enabling urban planners to work effectively across disciplines and sectors to promote more sustainable living environments. Cross-sectoral working is not easy- if it were, it would likely be happening a lot more than it is already. But in most countries, urban planning schools and programmes are limited. India has about 1 planner for every 100,000 urban residents, for example, compared to 1 for every 5,000 in Canada and the United States.

“I’m delighted that the GEM Report report is organised around the Ps of planet, prosperity peace and partnership,” said David Nabarro, at an event during the United Nations General Assembly this September in New York. “And I congratulate the producers for introducing two new Ps – place and projection, because they enrich the way we can conceptualise what the SDGs can represent.”

pic-2Our Report shows that education should be built into urban policies in the following key ways in order to foster sustainable, inclusive and prosperous cities and other human settlements. Help us share them, by tweeting @Habitat3 #Habitat3:

  • Ensure urban areas distribute public resources equitably, including amenities and good quality teachers, so as to promote social inclusion and reduce inequality resulting from education disparity.
  • Take steps to halt segregation stemming from increased opportunities to choose between public and private schools.
  • Work to reduce school-based violence, including gender violence, and discriminatory attitudes among teachers.
  • Develop local autonomy and localized system-wide education planning, especially in populous African and Asian cities, considering education as a local as well as national issue.
  • Better incorporate education into local, national and global agendas focused on improving cities and other human settlements.
  • Educate and engage with those who are disenfranchised, include them in planning, and collaborate with civil society actors who work with them.
  • Fund schools and training programmes for slum dwellers and other disadvantaged groups who live in absolute poverty, so that assistance for them is not limited to basic services such as housing and water and sanitation.
  • Fund urban planning education to increase the numbers of planners, and promote integration of education as well as multidisciplinary approaches.
  • Improve urban planning curricula to include cross sector engagement, community engagement, learning by doing and the development of locally relevant solutions.
  • Involve communities in any processes to consolidate and improve schools in rural and other areas affected by population declines due to migration.
  • Monitor and address any unintended consequences of the growth of knowledge economies, such as gentrification and middle class flight, with strong economic and housing policies to limit social segregation and societal discontent.
This entry was posted in Economic growth, Environment, Poverty, sdgs, Sustainable development, Uncategorized, Urbanization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why hasn’t education got a seat at the table for urban policy discussions?

  1. Dr Darol Cavanagh (education professor retired) says:

    great question well answered!


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