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The Financial Express

International Day of Education 2020

Burning questions raised

Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed | Published: January 31, 2020 20:30:12 | Updated: January 31, 2020 20:33:16


Burning questions raised

The world celebrated the International Day of Education on 24 January, a day proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to honour education and its centrality to human well-being and sustainable development. The Theme of the Day in 2020 is : `Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace'. It highlights the integrated nature of education, its humanistic aims, as well as its centrality to collective development ambitions worldover.  The Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 3 December 2018 `acknowledging the importance of working to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels - early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and distance education, including technical and vocational training - so that all people may have access to lifelong learning opportunities that help them to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to access opportunities to participate fully in society and contribute to sustainable development', states:

``1. Decides to proclaim 24 January the International Day of Education; 2. Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, other international and regional organizations and civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, the private sector, individuals and other relevant stakeholders to observe the International Day of Education in an appropriate manner and to continue to give consideration to enhancing international cooperation in support of the efforts of all Member States towards the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 4; 3. Invites the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as the specialized United Nations agency for education, to facilitate the observance of 24 January of every year as the International Day of Education, mindful of the provisions contained in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1980/67;''

The 2020 celebration of the Day  of Education reaffirmed education  as a fundamental right, a public good and an enabler of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It framed 'inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all' as a goal in and of itself, as well as a necessary means to accelerate progress to meet the targets of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In her message, UNESCO Director-General Ms Audrey Azoulay said on this year's (2020) International Day, ``we are celebrating education's powerful influence on action in support of the four Ps on which our future depends: action for people, for prosperity, for the planet and for peace. This day thus provides an opportunity to remember that education is a valuable resource for humanity. However, it is also a resource which is all too scarce for millions of people around the world. …Taking action for education also means taking action for prosperity - because education is the best investment for the future. Education is, in the medium and long term, the most effective means of reducing poverty and inequality and encouraging social inclusion. It is for this reason that UNESCO places particular emphasis on the promotion of girls' and women's education through its Her Education, Our Future initiative. Education also provides key solutions for a planet threatened by a climate imbalance the consequences of which become more obvious with each passing day. Only education has the power to sustainably change societies' behaviour, as necessitated by the challenge of global warming. This is why UNESCO has called on all its Member States to incorporate environmental education into their curricula, from nursery school to university. We will share our expertise with States in order to reach this objective''.

The UNESCO supported a one-day high-level event organized in New York by the President of the  74th session of the UN General Assembly, Mr Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, to celebrate the  International Day of Education. It organized a half-day event at its Paris headquarters in collaboration with CRI (Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity). UNESCO field offices, together with their partners, organised  events to celebrate the International Day. A selection of UNESCO Learning Cities organized International Day celebrations. The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report team launched a new online tool to visualize education  progress towards SDG4.

The International Day of Education was observed last year in Bangladesh at the premises of Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF). SDG co-ordinator at the Prime Minister's office, representatives of national and international organizations attended the programme with PKSF head Qazi Kholikuquzzaman Ahmad in the chair.

However, the statements made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina coincided with the theme of the Day in many relevant areas. She stressed human development through education. At the ECNEC meeting she announced Govt. steps to overhaul the existing technical and vocational education of the country in conformity with the national and international job market along with building proper infrastructure, updating curriculum and training programmes. Her approach is positive and progressive.

A very recently published (23 January 2020) article of UNESCO News Flash from Bangkok raised few burning questions and placed a graph. The report says:

``Recent analysis by the United Nations Children's Fund shows that in many countries public spending on education favours children from the richest households, with the poorest 20 per cent receiving less than 10 per cent of public resources in education or even lower. As a result, the most disadvantaged children are less likely to receive the education and skills they need for a better future.

Public investment is also positively linked to learning outcomes and skills development at primary and secondary levels. Where and how public investment is spent is equally important. For instance, increases in teacher salaries have not always led to improvements in learning outcomes, while evaluations of school grants suggest positive impacts on enrolment, but limited impacts on learning outcomes. Sometimes, the resources never reach the schools and the students they are intended to benefit''.

It is high time we ponder over the issue with head and heart in Bangladesh and take appropriate remedial steps without wasting any time. The observance of the International Day of Education has created an opportunity for us. 

Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed, a member of National Education Policy Committee 2010, is a researcher in development of education. Prof.qfahmed@gmail.com

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