The UN Transform Education Summit (TES) takes place on the 16, 17 and 19 of September in New York. The Summit, being convened by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, is aimed at mobilising action, ambition, solidarity and solutions with a view to transforming education between now, 2030 and beyond. Member States, many of whom will be represented by their Heads of State, will be announcing new ambitions and commitments at the Summit. It takes place at a key moment when the number of crisis-impacted school-aged children who need educational support has reached an estimated 222 million
Of this number 78.2 million are out of school, and close to 120 million are in school, but not achieving minimum proficiency in maths or reading. The conference, therefore, has to address both the denial of the right to education and also the lack of quality provision for many more. A huge number of those who are out of school are living in areas with protracted crises such as Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. The war in Ukraine is pushing even more children out of school, with recent estimates indicating the conflict has impacted 5.7 million school-aged children. This crisis needs an immediate response in terms of policy and financing that the conference must address if any real transformation is to take place.
However, the Summit has to also face the issues of content and quality, if education is to be adequate to prepare people to meet the challenges that we currently face. These include:
· armed conflicts
· human rights violations,
· persistent poverty,
· mass migrations,
· climate change
The preparatory text of the Summit states:
“Transforming education means empowering learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be resilient, adaptable and prepared for the uncertain future while contributing to human and planetary well-being and sustainable development”
When it comes to transforming education, with this understanding, it is absolutely crucial that the voices of young people are heard and that their priorities are central to the outcomes. At the pre-summit meeting in Paris in June young people were very vocal about being excluded from developing a vision for the future of education and the fact that much current provision does not adequately prepare them for the contemporary challenges they face. They articulated their agenda on areas such as advancing gender equality and dismantling systems of oppression and discrimination. In practice, this means more support for holistic learning, that is much more than literacy and numeracy, to include socio-emotional learning, climate change education, comprehensive sexuality education, civic education and peacebuilding. It also means investing in gender transformative education that goes beyond acknowledging and responding to gender disparities within the education system and the learning experience of the student. Young people have articulated in the run up to the Summit that Transforming Education requires a power shift and real investment along with their meaningful and inclusive participation in decision making and accountability processes. Education must be radically inclusive and prioritise the knowledge, skills and competencies that matter the most to young people as they fight for a more sustainable, equal and just world.
The feeling that we are facing a profound crisis that requires urgent response makes the Summit a hugely important moment and an opportunity for change . This requires a vision for education that is directed to the full development of each person and to strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education should promote understanding, respect, and friendship among peoples. Education should promote the advancement of a culture of peace, liberty, equality, and nonviolence. It will take courage and leadership to realise this vision, but it is clear that young people need to be at the centre of the process.