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Education Under Threat Requires Global Action

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We are in an era in which gene-editing techniques can alter functions and correct genetic defects to treat and prevent the spread of disease. It is revolutionizing industries such as services. Amazing progress flows from everything from robotics, quantum computing, augmented reality, and computer-assisted. New technologies have allowed the world to witness stunning vistas detailing the birth of the universe billions of years ago. In other words, instilling and nurturing a love of discovery, science and human curiosity will build a foothold for transformative knowledge.

But ours is also a time of devastating climate change, rising racialized inequality, the rise of “post-truth” societies, and the weakening of democratic citizenship practices. These failures are also rooted in education. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, our age is itself contradictory and multifaceted.

Today, educators are being asked to deal with more complex challenges than ever before, but they cannot do it alone.

First, the basics. The purpose of education is to raise healthy, prosperous and engaged children who are ready to learn, love, work and serve the public good. Education at its best advances the search and discovery of truth, democratic citizenship, social justice and virtue. In short, it makes the earth a better place to live.

John Dewey, the most influential voice of philosophy in education, anticipated two enduring ideas: education for democratic citizenship and lifelong learning. Education, he wrote, is “a process of living, not a preparation for a future life.” But it was in Massachusetts that Horace Mann best expressed the idea of ​​a free, non-denominational “common school” in the mid-1800s. Mann thought that they functioned as a font of civic knowledge that “allowed the parties to understand each other” through the work of education. That unique American idea traveled around the world.

But today, all over the world, education is being tested by three shockwaves of geological force.

1) The most diverse and transformed labor market in the history of work, one that emphasizes the skills needed to work with other people, machines and people

2) Rapidly Growing Economic and Social Inequality

3) The unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on children’s learning and well-being.

Fortunately, basic primary education is now the standard ideal all over the world. Enrollment of children in primary education is almost universal. The gender gap in student achievement has narrowed, with girls outperforming boys in some regions. (As Darwin pointed out nearly 200 years ago, educating girls is the wisest investment in human progress.)

Even before the pandemic, the task facing educators was daunting. Millions of children were out of school and millions more were illiterate. The quality was uneven.

Then the pandemic hit the education system, reversing progress and creating overwhelming challenges. The pandemic has deprived millions of people of the daily social process of attending school, providing opportunities for learning, interaction with other children, support from teachers, access to sports, nutrition, health and development appropriate It has taken away the other scaffolding it needs to grow. By 2022, well over 5 million children will mourn relatives and friends lost to the pandemic.

By early 2020, nearly 1.5 billion students were out of school due to mandatory closures in 160 countries. By the first quarter of 2021, 160 million children will have been out of school for her entire year. His one example of how the pandemic has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities is that nearly 500 million students are attending school remotely because more than 800 million could not access computers at home. was not possible.

Three challenges define the current crisis in education.

  • quality. We’ve made some progress, but too many children in low- and low-income countries lag behind their wealthier peers. The same is true for minority children in wealthy countries. New technologies create opportunities for learning, but access gaps continue to undermine the democratization potential of educational technology.
  • inclusion. We need to build stronger relationships with immigrants and their children. Immigrants and their children are the only growing sector among the child population in multiple high-income countries. Simply put, they are our future. Schools struggle to adequately educate and integrate a growing number of immigrant and refugee youth, often marginalized as racially, ethnically and linguistically characterized groups. doing. On the other hand, racism, rudeness and intolerance pose new challenges for teachers and administrators.
  • climate. Climate change is one of the most pressing threats to humanity, along with all living systems, and cannot be ignored in any discussion of education. Research shows that climate change education has inherent value and leads to measurable and desirable outcomes. Recent research has found that climate change education programs can change individual behaviors and attitudes, resulting in carbon emission reductions comparable to other large-scale mitigation strategies.

The challenges facing global education are undeniable and require solutions of scale, coordination and commitment. Lots of good news to build on. College-supported K-12 programs are creating innovative pathways for disadvantaged youth, but colleges can and should do more. New research by her Bridgit Barron at Stanford University shows how new educational technologies can be better used to provide meaningful learning opportunities for under-educated children near and far. It has been. The University of Massachusetts Boston Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring is developing new tools to help mentors better support their mentees with scientifically proven education, health and wellness apps.

Achieving universal access to quality education requires renewed investment by national and global donors. According to Jeffrey Sachs, an economist at Columbia University, achieving global access to quality education up to the secondary level would require a “significant shift of financial resources from high-income countries to low-income developing countries. It is estimated that remittances required amount to $50 billion annually, or about $0.10. [percent] Looking at the annual national incomes of high-income countries, today the top 10 richest people on the planet manage well over $1 trillion in assets. If 10 men (yes, they are all men) donated just his 5% of their non-consumable property, every child on earth could have a quality education.

Tired old claims, silver bullets and magical thinking no longer hold. Nor does it look at growing inequalities. We must start educating the whole child for the whole world.

Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco is Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is co-editor of Education: A Global Compact for Times of Crisis, published by Columbia University Press.