The UN Secretary-General convened the Transforming Education Summit, which saw more than 130 countries commit to “rebooting their education systems and accelerating action to end the learning crisis.” Among the key initiatives launched at the Summit is the International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd), which will provide an initial USD 2 billion in “additional affordable funding” for education programs.
The Summit took place against the backdrop of a learning crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that since 2020, some 147 million students missed more than half of their in-person instruction and in 2021, 244 million children and young people were out of school. With half of all countries cutting their education budgets, more than 90% of the world’s children suffered setbacks in their education since the beginning of the pandemic.
The commitments are the result of 115 national consultations where leaders, teachers, students, civil society, and other partners developed collective recommendations on “the most urgent questions.” According to a UN press release, nearly half of the countries prioritize measures to address learning loss. A third commit to supporting the psycho-social well-being of students and teachers. Two in three countries reference “measures to offset the direct and indirect costs of education for economically vulnerable communities,” and just as many highlight the importance of gender-sensitive policies and approaches to education.
The three-day event comprised:
- a youth-led Mobilization Day on 16 September, where youth advocates shared a Youth Declaration, laying out youth’s commitments for action on education and recommendations to policymakers on the transformation they want to see, such as including youth in education policy design and implementation as partners, not just beneficiaries, and investing in youth leadership and in gender-transformative education;
- a Solutions Day on September 17, which featured stakeholders from civil society and the private sector, and other education actors highlighting solutions around five “Thematic Action Tracks”: inclusive, equitable, safe, and healthy schools; learning and skills for life; work and sustainable development; teachers, teaching, and the teaching profession; digital learning and transformation; and financing of education; and
- held immediately after this year’s SDG Moment, a Leaders Day on September 19, when countries announced their national commitments to transforming education.
Addressing the Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted five areas for attention: 1) protect the right to quality education for everyone, especially girls; 2) focus on teachers’ roles and skillsets; 3) ensure that schools become safe, healthy spaces, with no place for violence, stigma, or intimidation; 4) ensure that the digital revolution benefits all learners; and 5) boost education financing and global solidarity.
Guterres released the Secretary-General’s Vision Statement charting a path for education in the 21st century. The Statement serves as an input to negotiations in preparation for the Summit of the Future in 2024.
The Secretary-General and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched the IFFEd, developed in partnership with the Governments of Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands as well as regional development banks. It is estimated that the facility could unlock USD 10 billion of additional financing by 2030.
Other initiatives announced during the Summit include:
- Gateways to Public Digital Learning, a global multi-partner initiative to create and strengthen inclusive digital learning platforms and content, launched by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF);
- a Commitment to Action on Education in Crisis Situations, by Member States and partners, seeking to transform education systems to better prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises; and
- a Greening Education Partnership, which aims to prepare learners to “acquire the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes to tackle climate change and to promote sustainable development.”
The SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee is responsible for the follow-up to the Summit, including contributing to the education dimension of the Summit of the Future, to further shape the future of education and meet the education targets of the 2030 Agenda. The Committee will “continue to monitor progress, promote and facilitate knowledge and practice exchange, engage youth, and champion cross-sector and multilateral cooperation.” [Transforming Education Summit Website] [UN News Story] [UN Press Release Ahead of the Summit] [UN Press Release on the Summit’s Outcomes]