UN commission explores threats to global education
The United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) on Monday began examining the various threats to the achievement of the global educational goal, stressing the importance of quality and inclusive education for women and girls.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed warned that the goal of achieving quality education for all by 2030 is "seriously off-track," with 263 million children and young people out of school.
Mohammed made the statement at the latest CPD session, held at the UN headquarters in New York, where the issue is under scrutiny this week.
The current session, its 56th, will conclude on Friday.
Mohammed highlighted the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, who have been banned from high school and university, calling it "one of the gravest educational challenges of our time."
Mohammed stressed the need "to transform the education system" to equip current and future generations with the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world.
She also called for initiatives to make all learners "climate-ready" and connected to the internet and digital innovation, especially for girls and women from the Global South who are the most excluded.
The importance of inclusive education for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics was also emphasized by Mohammed and Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund.
They noted that education is a "door opener" and "life changer" for vulnerable women and girls, reducing the risk of harmful practices and increasing health, income, and participation in the formal labor market.
Kanem highlighted the significance of safeguarding education for everyone, including comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), which equips young people with information and skills to develop healthy and positive relationships. CSE empowers girls to avoid unintended pregnancies and encourages both genders to stay in school, among other benefits.
She emphasized that providing people with knowledge and power to manage their own reproductive rights and choices leads to improved development outcomes.
A pre-recorded message from UN Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) head Li Junhua outlined how population dynamics affect education, citing millions not in school and low math and reading proficiency as examples.
There are some parts of the world, where public financing capacity is limited, where a rapidly growing school-aged population makes achieving education goals more difficult, he said.
Meanwhile, other places have experienced relative declines in this sector of the population, resulting in less pressure on education budgets, which has opened up opportunities to boost investments geared toward young people and adults alike.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in education systems, resulting in large cuts in public spending on education in low and lower-income countries, leading to deprived access to learning, particularly for children and young people. Li called for investing in digital literacy and closing the digital divide, along with increasing access to the internet and digital technologies for education.
The pandemic, together with conflict, climate change and rising food insecurity, have further deepened inequalities, said Qu Xing, deputy director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
This situation has led to a dual crisis affecting learning and well-being, he noted, again citing the staggering out-of-school figures and factors mentioned previously, such as unintended pregnancies, he noted.
"Added to this are increasing rates of depression and stress among young people in many contexts - fueled by fear of what the future holds, among other factors. The toll of these stressors on health and well-being are leading to increased student drop-out and teacher shortages," Qu said.
The Commission on Population and Development was established nearly 80 years ago by the UN Economic and Social Commission, one of the six main bodies of the global organization.
(Cover: United Nations Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, New York, United States. /CFP )