Covid-19 brought about an education crisis, fuelled by deep pre-existing inequalities, many of which will have been exacerbated with schools closed around the world. The evidence and stories in the Youth version of the new 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report confirm the extent of inequalities and discrimination persisting in education today. It shows how to build a system where all learners can feel they belong in school, no matter their identity, background or ability.
Starting today – International Youth Day – young people are invited to sign this letter to world leaders calling on them to prioritize access to and strengthen inclusion in quality education when schools re-open. We will circulate this letter with your signatures.
To: World leaders
From: [Your Name]
Dear world leaders, ministers, and decision-makers,
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about the biggest cataclysm to education any of us have seen. It magnified issues of inequality, insecurity, and injustice within and across societies, highlighting the importance of social services, including education. Even before schools shut in early March, some 260 million were not in school. Not because they didn’t want to, but because world leaders had not prioritized their education. We are writing to implore you to take this chance to ‘build back better’, to restore rather than replicate past mistakes.
Today, too many children and young people are denied their right to an education because their families are underprivileged, because of where they come from, the language they use, their gender or sexual orientation, or because they have disabilities. Some are entirely excluded from education; others face discrimination, stereotyping, and stigma once inside school doors. Rather than welcoming what each learner brings, education is often too rigid, pushing many of us out.
The new 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by UNESCO calls on all education actors to widen their definition of inclusive education to include all learners. The new evidence in this Report confirms the extent of exclusion in education persisting today, as many have only just realized during this pandemic. It provides us with the opportunity to shift the needle on access and inclusion, and it is up to us to make that promise a reality.
Learners should not have to adapt to the system. Instead education systems should adapt to their needs. Societies, like nature, thrive on diversity, not on monocultures.
Equal access to quality education must be a priority because educated youths across the world empower communities and fuel economies, helping people out of extreme poverty. Education is key for raising awareness on global issues we are currently experiencing, such as climate change, social and racial discrimination, and the health crisis. Moreover, it is important to equip young people with 21st century skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship given the crucial role of skilled youth in addressing current and future global challenges like COVID-19. Education plays a central role in the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals, because an inclusive and equitable quality education will bring about the social change and sustainable development we need to #SaveOurFuture.
We ask that you:
- Prioritize access and availability to quality education and put funding for it at the top of every national and local agenda because of its impact on so many important issues like extreme poverty, health, climate change, social and racial injustice;
- Widen your understanding of inclusive education to include all learners, no matter their identity, background or whether or not they have a disability;
- Address the social and emotional trauma experienced by students and young people during this time;
- Put diversity at the core of education systems, rather than seeing it as a problem;
- Help make the invisible visible with better data on the disadvantaged;
- Share the resources we know can help the marginalized and underserved – educators, support staff, and equipment – so that everyone can benefit, and support one another as you rebuild education systems that are inclusive for all.
We each have a role to play in ensuring that no child is left behind. For our part, we will hold you to account with the power of our voices if you regress on this promise. We need quality education systems and institutions that are accessible and work for everyone, whatever their identity, background, or ability, in which people feel safe and can thrive. Education for all should mean all, and not just the lucky few.
What do you say?
Click here to sign