By Tamara Díaz Fouz, Director of Education, Organization of Iberoamerican States (OEI)
We are at a turning point. There has never been greater consensus on the importance of education as an individual right but also as a collective tool for the development of nations. Proof of this is the celebration of the Transforming Education Summit convened by the Secretary General of the United Nations, which took place in New York in September. The Summit placed education at the top of the world political agenda with proposals generated through policy dialogue, and from different actors, including youth, that invite us to coordinate efforts in favour of a profound transformation.
This blog presents three thoughts on what this transformation entails for Latin America.
- A worldwide reflection is taking place around education and its necessary transformation, and our region cannot be left behind.
Education is at the base of the triple transition (social, ecological, and digital) towards more sustainable models of development, production and consumption that contribute to a common good; however, it faces enormous challenges. Even before COVID-19, education in Latin America was seriously lacking in quality, equity, and inclusion as the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education in Latin America showed. The pandemic exposed these deficiencies and deepened many of the gaps and inequities in the system, showing that it was not prepared for today’s challenges. School closures and the prolonged interruption of learning is having a great impact on our children, girls, young people and their future, and at the same time puts in serious difficulties the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals related to education, especially SDG4.
In the current scenario, having overcome the initial moment of emergency, it is necessary to build a post-COVID educational strategy that frames the recovery of education within the development, transformation, and improvement of the system. It is time to call for action, to promote strategies that allow for a real transformation of our educational models. We cannot allow any child to be left out of school, we have to guarantee education as a right, as a space for social levelling and citizenship building.
- The implementation of this global educational agenda in Latin America presents an opportunity and will require the construction of a global educational pact.
This pact would be consistent with the framework of the new social contract for education that the report of the International Commission on the Futures of Education of UNESCO recognizes as necessary to repair injustices and transform the future. Now the Summit is over, we have the duty to translate political agreements into educational proposals based on consensus among the different educational actors and social agents.
When we transfer the 2030 Education Agenda and the initiatives launched at the Summit to the Latin American context, we find a particularly propitious space for adapting these conclusions and recommendations, building on existing institutional capacities and their advanced practices in the field of educational cooperation (multilateral, horizontal, etc.). What is needed now is to learn what initiatives are being carried out, share knowledge and successful experiences, and mobilize action; to urge countries to commit to the recovery of education through investment and the promotion of clear and well-defined actions.
We need to strengthen political responsibility for transforming and financing education and, at the same time, translate these political declarations into a real transformation of the system. In the field of education, the crisis can be taken advantage of to review education models, promoting lifelong learning for all, with schools in which children and young people develop skills and competencies for their personal growth and future professional insertion. We have to set up educational systems that have flexible mechanisms that can welcome in students who have been lost during the pandemic and the most vulnerable groups that are at risk of exclusion and/or abandonment.
- This is an important time for collaboration, inter-agency work and partnership building.
It is time to put into effect what is stated in the SDG17 linked to the promotion of partnerships for the achievement of the sustainable development agenda: to promote links between sectors and actors and to encourage the development of public-private agreements.
Although this type of proposal is not new and has been proposed for a long time, albeit with varying degrees of intensity, the current reality calls for us to move towards collaborative strategies for action. And, in this scenario, close cooperation is an extremely useful instrument. It is a matter of promoting a type of cooperation that is more oriented towards promoting policy dialogue, based on strengthening capacities and institutions, and which leads us to rethink practices and models, at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Making these education commitments a reality is no easy task. This agenda requires that we effectively follow up on the initiatives and agreements reached. To this end, the SDG4 High-Level Steering Committee has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure the continuity of these agreements arising from the Summit, strengthening cooperation at the global, regional, and national levels, aligning actions between partners and institutions, and providing support for their development. Specifically, this Committee, coordinated by UNESCO, with the support of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report, assumes the important task of following up on the Global Initiatives launched at the Summit by monitoring their progress building on the SDG4 benchmarking process, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and practices, involving young people and promoting, as a specialized mechanism, intersectoral and multilateral cooperation.
On Wednesday 26 October at 5:00 pm CEST, OEI, ProFuturo and GEM Report are organising a hybrid consultation meeting on learning and digital transformation in Ibero-America with education ministers and experts from the region. It will be an opportunity to gather information for the GEM Report 2023 on technology and education and to follow up on some of the issues raised in this column such as the follow-up of the global initiatives of the Transformation Education Summit and the importance of partnerships to transform our education systems. You can find more information about this event on this page and watch the event live via our YouTube channel.