There’s a global learning crisis and it’s leaving millions without basic skills

Children school 2018.jpg

UNHCR/Sebastian Rich Haqmal (centre), a six year-old returnee from Pakistan loves his new school, the Ansarul-Momineen School in Pajhman, Kabul District Afghanistan.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Skill development is a critical part of preparing for work in the future, even for jobs that do not exist yet. A child who cannot read, write or perform at least simple mathematics with proficiency will of course be poorly equipped as an adult to excel in the technology-driven industries of the future.

Next week, two very different – but powerful – groups will be grappling with the ways in which the global learning crisis is in fact a skills crisis threatening the prospects of current generations and those to come. In Geneva at the Global Shapers Annual Summit, about 400 “change-makers” under the age of 30 will be exchanging ways to address the needs of their communities while striving to have a global impact. Just days later, education ministers from G20 countries will meet in Mendoza, where the question on everyone’s mind will be: how do we prepare our children and young people for the future?

The jobs of the future will require students to have strong cognitive skills in mathematics and literacy, as well as soft skills such as problem-solving and creative thinking, to enable them to adapt to a quickly changing environment. However, millions of children are not gaining these skillsets, either because they never started school, they have dropped out of school, or their school does not offer a quality education.

We are in the midst of a global learning crisis: 617 million children and adolescents are not proficient in either reading or mathematics, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). It shows that two thirds of children not learning are actually in school, or were in school, but dropped out.

Not only is the learning crisis alarming from a national economic perspective, it also threatens the ability of individuals to climb out of poverty through better income opportunities. Each additional year of schooling can improve an individual’s job prospects and raise their income by 10-20%, if they gain the required skillsets. Educated individuals are also more likely to make better decisions, such as vaccinating their children, and educated mothers are more likely to send their own children to school. The learning crisis is, simply, a massive waste of talent and human potential.

The learning crisis is global but concentrated in low-income regions

The learning crisis impacts children and adolescents on every continent. Of the 617 million children and adolescents not learning, almost half live in the G20, the UIS estimates in a new paper.

Proportion of children and adolescents in school not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and out-of-school children and adolescents as a percentage of total children and adolescents not learning, 2015. Note: The grouping G20 countries covers data from 19 countries.

 Proportion of children and adolescents in school not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and out-of-school children and adolescents as a percentage of total children and adolescents not learning, 2015. Note: The grouping G20 countries covers data from 19 countries.
Proportion of children and adolescents in school not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and out-of-school children and adolescents as a percentage of total children and adolescents not learning, 2015. Note: The grouping G20 countries covers data from 19 countries.

Image: UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Breaking it down by region, the data shows that Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are bearing the brunt of the learning crisis. About 80% of adolescents in school (roughly between the ages of 12 and 14) are unable to read at minimum proficiency levels.

As these young teens prepare for life and the job market, they are at a marked disadvantage over their peers who are able to gain these skills in school. Their countries also suffer a huge loss of talent of young people, who will be ill-equipped to deal with the challenges posed by technological changes in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

But the learning crisis does not only affect the poor. Wealthier regions such as North America and Europe are similarly impacted. A sizeable proportion (almost 20%) of adolescents in school lack the basic skillsets to get ahead.

Young people without a primary education are more likely to be unemployed

So where does this leave us? Consider the proportion of young people aged 15-24 not in education, employment or training (NEET). As one might expect, more NEETs have less than a primary education than those young people who have stayed in school or are working.

However, data also shows that in almost one third of G20 countries, 10-15% of young people not in school or working have completed university-level education or its equivalent. It may be that job markets are also unable to absorb university graduates, but more research is required.

The learning crisis puts a serious dent in the abilities of countries and job-seekers to seize the benefits of technological change. As the G20 education ministers meet next week, UIS data highlights three take-away messages underlying the learning crisis:

– Lack of access to school means that there are children who will never have the chance to gain foundational skills that stem from literacy and numeracy

– Schools are failing to retain children who enroll, leading to high dropout rates and insufficient learning

– Poor quality of education and classroom practices are leaving millions of children and adolescents without the skills to compete in the global economy.

The role of education in skill development is particularly relevant today. Governments around the world have already been taking a hard look at the subject as part of their commitments to the sustainable development goals. The goal for education (SDG 4) includes a range of education targets such as equal access to vocational training and university, as well as free universal education at the primary and secondary levels.

To meet these goals and to ensure that all children are learning, we need a meaningful investment in millions of children and adolescents around the world. They deserve an opportunity to develop their own talents so they can help themselves and contribute to the well-being of their families and communities.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU labour mobility: Inconvenient truths for everybody

Afghanistan: UN ‘unequivocally condemns’ attack in Kabul

South Korea once recycled 2% of its food waste. Now it recycles 95%

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

Europe faces economic turmoil as Italy gets closer to the Excessive Debt Procedure

Latvian economy is thriving, but boosting productivity, improving social protection and transitioning to a low-carbon productive model are vital for sustainable and inclusive growth

The five stages of the Chief Digital Officer – and why they often fail

Unanswered questions for Europe’s youth in President Juncker’s State of Union

The AI moment: preparing for the revolution

These countries are best at attracting and nurturing talented workers

Are medical students with equal access to the medical profession?

Confronting neo-mercantilism: why regulation is critical to global trade

These dogs can smell tree disease – and could help save the world’s orange groves

In the future, no one should be excluded from healthcare

This Dutch butcher makes plants taste just like meat

How drones can manage the food supply chain and tell you if what you eat is sustainable

Coronavirus: Pandemic alert should be trigger for countries to do more against COVID-19

New EU rules to boost crowdfunding platforms and protect investors

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

LUX prize will be awarded jointly by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy

China’s impact as a global investor; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

The next talent opportunity for the digital workplace? Neurodiversity

Why and how did ISIS and Muslim fundamentalism gain momentum this year?

UN Security Council hails ‘courage’ of Afghan voters

The historic accomplishment of a seamless EU patent and intellectual property space

The need to resume preventive policies for chronic noncommunicable diseases

Drugs cost too much. There is a better way to fund medical innovation

UN chief calls for ‘solidarity, compassion and action’ on World Refugee Day

6 ways China and the United States could jumpstart trade reforms

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

Republic of Korea President proposes DMZ as future ‘peace and cooperation district’ on Peninsula

Russia is ready for its Phase 3 evaluation once it fulfills high-priority recommendation

MEPs strongly welcome the Global Compact on Migration

Shanghai has tough new recycling rules – and it will stop collecting trash from communities that don’t comply

Key Brazilian border crossing for Venezuela refugees reopens as asylum numbers pass last year’s total

The UN supports Europe’s military action in Libya and the Mediterranean; Russia and China agree

Rights experts call for greater protection of indigenous people during migration

Following the World Cup? Then you’re watching high-performing migrants at work

Can collective action cure what’s ailing our food systems?

Here are five things to know about the future of being human

COVID-19 is widening the education gap. This is how we can stop it

‘You can and should do more’ to include people with disabilities, wheelchair-bound Syrian advocate tells Security Council in searing speech

Human trafficking, slavery reports and health of migrants in Libya

Cyclone Idai: emergency getting ‘bigger by the hour’, warns UN food agency

Commission steps up fight against money laundering and terrorist financing

Nearly 3 billion people around the globe under COVID-19 lockdowns – Today’s coronavirus updates

Commission hardens its stance against carmakers ensuring emissions reductions targets

Is it just visa-free travel that Erdogan demands from the EU to not break the migration deal?

Here’s how innovation could help car companies hit by COVID-19

Rule of Law: European Commission refers Poland to the Court of Justice to protect judges from political control

Warmer months ahead for many parts of the planet: UN weather agency

Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere break another record, UN report shows

The EU Commission to fight unemployment tsunami with a…scoreboard

The Sahel is engulfed by violence. Climate change, food insecurity and extremists are largely to blame

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

Sudan: ‘Violence must stop’, says UNICEF chief, ‘gravely concerned’ over 19 child deaths since military backlash

New neighbours: Could Venus really be home to alien life?

Visa liberalisation: Commission reports on fulfilment of visa-free requirements by Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries

Eurozone: Despite anemic growth and shaky banks marks record trade surplus

Can North Korea and the U.S. strike a nuclear deal?

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s