World Facing ‘Learning Crisis’ in Areas of Equity, Quality and Relevance, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Political Forum Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level political forum side-event titled “Transforming Learning for a Better Future:  Education for Sustainable Development”, in New York today:

Thank you, Ambassador [Kimihiro] Ishikane and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, for bringing us together today.

At the outset, please allow me to convey my sincere condolences to our Japanese colleagues on the horrific killing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  Mr. Abe was a true champion of multilateralism and his loss leaves all of us who had the pleasure to cross paths with him with a heavy heart.

Education for sustainable development is an important element of the Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit in September.  Transformed education systems is one of the keys to unlocking the broader breakthroughs that our world urgently needs to secure a better future for all, through the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The pandemic has exacerbated deep and long-standing challenges, leaving progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 badly off track.  We are facing a learning crisis on three fronts:  equity, quality and relevance.  This is a slow‑burning and often unseen crisis, but it has enormous implications for young people, for nations and for our collective future.  And it demands a decisive response.

The Summit provides a unique opportunity for world leaders and the broader education community, particularly our young people, to formulate and mobilize around that response.  As the Secretary-General stated in his recent message to the Paris Pre‑Summit:  “Any country that is not actively conducting a root and branch overhaul of their education systems today risks being left behind tomorrow.”

Preparations for the Summit are making good progress.  The recent discussions at the Pre-Summit are still reverberating around the high-level political forum.  The Pre-Summit helped us to identify the landing zone for September.  The key outcome document will be a vision statement from the Secretary-General on transformative education.  This will be informed by the outputs of the Summit’s Thematic Action Tracks.  Let me briefly share a few of the elements with you, as background for today’s discussion:

First, we need to redefine the “what” of learning.  Curricula should prepare learners for a rapidly changing world of work.  They should emphasize ecological, socioemotional, intercultural and intergenerational learning, respect for diversity, care for the environment and civic engagement and solidarity.

Second, we need to reimagine how we learn.  We need to develop education models that support personal and collective agency, and help teachers to contribute as active facilitators of learning.  We must leverage the opportunities provided by digital technologies, and take concrete measures to ensure a truly equitable, safe and healthy learning environment.

Third, we need to rethink the organization and financing of learning.  This includes embracing education as whole-of-society and whole-of-government responsibility.  We need to consider education from the perspective of life-long learning, and drive greater commitment to mobilizing resources from new sources.

The concept of education for sustainable development — as expressed in Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.7 — cuts across these three elements and is central to the question of what we learn.  I thank the Group of Friends and Japan in particular, for championing this issue.

We have just over two months until September’s Summit.  I encourage you to continue to engage in the Summit process both on the issue of education for sustainable development, and on the full spectrum of issues that are critical to education transformation.

For information media. Not an official record.