United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

UNESCO Contribution to the 2020 HLPF thematic review, 7-16 July 2020

I. Accelerating action on SDG4 and across the SDGs

The momentum for education has never been stronger. Global challenges – such as the current health pandemic or climate change –require an urgent shift in our lifestyles and a rapid transformation of the way we think, learn and act. In a complex and rapidly changing world, education is more than ever central to all 17 SDGs. Education is both a driver of inclusion and empowerment, as well as a generator of knowledge to address the challenges of our time.

Yet, although we are entering the last decade of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is behind on its commitments, including in reaching the education goal. Even though more children are starting school, one in six aged 6-17 will still be excluded by 2030. Of those who are enrolled, many are not learning or will drop out early. By 2030, when all children should be in school, four in ten young people will still not complete secondary education.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupts education of millions and raises the immediate challenge of ensuring continuity and equity of education through alternative means. As of 18 March, almost 900 million children and youth - half the world’s student population –is not attending schools and universities due to closures to contain the pandemic. Even when temporary, school closures carry high social and economic costs. This situation puts immense pressure on governments to provide open, distance and on-line learning responses, unevenly developed within and across countries, which tends to disadvantage vulnerable and marginalized children and youth. The context calls for resolute international cooperation to share tools and experiences and build capacity to respond to the crisis.

It is clear that we can raise up to the learning challenge only through collective and coordinated action, around clear priorities and drawing on multidisciplinary perspectives, with education at the heart of the strategy to accelerate progress across the SDGs, leading to more sustainable societies.

United Nations