What is the vision of the United Nations Secretary-General for the present and future of the right to education?

On the 22nd of September, during the United Nations Conference for the Transformation of Education, UN Secretary-General António Guterres shared his vision of the right to education. The UN’s most senior official began by stressing that education is a fundamental human right, the realisation of which has been a source of dignity and personal empowerment throughout history. He emphasised, in the same way, the importance of this right as a driving force for the advancement of social, economic, political, and cultural development.  

At the same time, we live in a critical moment in time for education due to pressing inequalities and fast and radical changes, as Guterres observed. The dissatisfaction of all stakeholders in education testifies to this challenge. Young people are not equipped with the knowledge, experience, skills, or values needed to thrive in a changing world. Teachers are poorly trained, undervalued, underpaid, and held back by certain methods and tools. Parents and families complain about the low return on their investment in their children’s education. Employers suffer from the skills mismatch when looking for employees, while many adults complain about the lack of access to affordable training and re-skilling opportunities.

In addition to the crises specific to education, other structural crises impact the future of this right also: climate change, poverty, growing inequality, cultural and political polarisation, lack of trust, and conflicts.  

Looking to the future, the Secretary-General underlined the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals in order to transform the world towards 2030. In this regard, he mentioned the Future Summit in 2024 and encouraged the international community to contribute and collaborate for its success.

Referring to the pillars for rebuilding education to meet the challenges of the future, the Secretary-General suggested the report of the UNESCO International Commission on the Future of Education as a starting point. According to this report, a truly transformative education must be conceived as a common good: it must be built hand in hand with communities, families, parents, and children, respond to local, national, and global needs, cultures, and capacities, and promote the holistic lifelong development of all learners.

Guterres called to mind the four pillars of the Delors Report: learn to learn, learn to live together, learn to do and, consequently, learn to be. He pointed out that «learn to be» is the deepest purpose of education: to instil in learners the values and capacities to lead a meaningful life, to enjoy that life, and to live it fully and well.

The holistic consideration of “learn to be”, together with the conception of education as a common good, entails rethinking educational policies so that identity development for individual and community becomes an integral component of education in the 21st century.

The Secretary-General gave indications to the different actors of the international community on the Transformation of Education: ensure a learning environment that supports the development of all learners; enable teachers to become agents of change; harness the digital revolution for the benefit of education; and invest more, more equitably and more efficiently in education.   At the end of his presentation, recalled once more the relevance of all actors, including explicit parents and civil society.

Mayca San Andrés


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