The United Nations has declared 2030 the target date for achieving universal education. This means that everyone should be able to complete primary school, have secondary education, and have lifelong learning opportunities. Yet, according to UNESCO data, there are still about 100 million children out of school globally, and that’s more than half of all primary-age children who do not attend school.
The reasons for this are diverse but often linked to poverty, conflict, and discrimination against girls. They include lack of access to schools, teachers, and learning materials; child labor; early marriage; lack of recognition of non-formal learning pathways; lack of policies and strategies for inclusive education; gender inequality; and discrimination against marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities or migrants.
We need creative solutions, solidarity, and collective action to reach our goal of universal access to quality education by 2030.
What is the purpose of education?
It’s not about teaching children the alphabet, numbers, or how to write their names but about equipping them with the tools and skills to learn. Being able to read, able to write, able to communicate, able to understand numeracy, digital logic, and scientific experimentation are the skills children will need in the future to be able to learn, able to find out about things they are interested in. We focus so much on the activity of tracing their names on a piece of paper we forget about the bigger picture.
To do this, we must remember early childhood’s importance in developing children’s LOVE of learning. The heartwarming moments are when they sit on our laps and tap their palms on a picture book, help distribute the paper plates across the table at lunchtime or think of a creative way to build a home for a ladybug. The lifelong love of learning starts at birth, and early childhood teachers and other adults around the child have a significant role to play in helping young children learn and love learning.
If we start thinking about violence worldwide, we can quickly feel overwhelmed. The hatred, injustice, attacks on truth, and discrimination can end through proper education and systems-based solutions. Education can help prepare children to understand their role as global citizens and society builders, prosperity makers, and peace advocates. Children are ready as early as three years to emerge in an age-appropriate curriculum that addresses equality, respect, and dignity, which are the bases for preventing violence and abuse.
In high school or college, it is common for families to encourage their children to start looking for part-time jobs for their children to ‘gain work-related jobs’ or experience. But it is wrong to see education and skill-building as two different things. Why do our children seek opportunities outside of the education system to build those skills? Our education system should create opportunities for reskilling and upskilling for everyone, young and old. One way to track upskilling and reskilling is through digital platforms and non-formal education.
The ultimate goal of education is to teach children how to have a meaningful life, learn mindfulness, be present, enjoy the moment, and awaken to their fullest, most tremendous potential. Teaching children to learn to be can be achieved through joyful activities and activities that teach us to notice the joy in everyday activities.
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