As the most empowering force in the world, education is an essential tool for both human development and global peace. By creating knowledge, building hope and confidence, fostering opportunities for girls and boys all around the world, education is a fundamental right to be neglected under no circumstances.
In a world where extreme ideas and populist governments are taking an increasing lead, there is no other choice for the international community than to make education its top priority.
Indeed an educated and enlightened population is one capable of acknowledging global issues, analyzing their causes and suggesting solutions with an open minded spirit. Investing in education and reforming the scholar system must be at the very heart of a leader’s agenda in order to block blind and dangerous discourses which nurture feelings of exclusion and hatred among citizens. Tolerance and openness should never be taken for granted, but rather constantly promoted by processes of teaching and learning. Moreover, at a time where fake news is spreading in our daily lives, providing an education in the assessment of information is also crucially important to combat manipulation of opinions.
The world’s biggest challenge in the next fifty years
Access to education appears even more at stake in regions of the world where demographics are reaching unprecedented heights. The African continent represents both a great opportunity and a huge challenge as far as education is concerned. The African population will approach 2,5 billion people in 2050 among which half will be aged under 25 (UN data). Today in sub-Saharan Africa, 9 million girls (aged 6–11) are denied access to education. 60% of teenagers aged 15–17 are not in school (UIS data). Conflict remains one of the major barriers to education. However to quote Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, “education is, quite simply, peace-building in another name”. Therefore to avoid the vicious circle — impossible access to education due to conflict, stagnation of conflict by lack of sufficient quality of education — structural measures are to be implemented when and where it is possible. Building infrastructure, creating partnerships with renowned universities, training teachers adequately are measures to encourage and take action for, with no delay. Initiatives and opportunities are already on track and emerging locally on the continent. They need to be heard of, shared and scaled up for greater impact and inspiration.
Is technology education’s best friend ?
New features are revolutionizing the education system and helping to develop access to knowledge worldwide. The tech revolution and digitalization of the learning processes are more than ever an opportunity for a population to gain access to quality courses. Today, e-learning (access to courses through computers) and m-education (through mobiles) are becoming more and more common. Without denying the crucial role of teachers and by acknowledging the need for appropriate infrastructures, the revolution brought about by technology in education offers tremendous opportunities that need to be strongly developed. Not only does digitalization allow a better access to educational contents, it is also the springboard to embrace the new jobs of a changing world.
Open the borders to students: knowledge has no frontier
Far from being solely a national issue, education has global stakes and no barrier to its reach. Fostering student mobility must be encouraged in order for talents around the world to flourish and be efficiently trained. The success of Erasmus in Europe is undeniable and such initiatives should be developed on a global scale. Easing the process of obtaining a VISA for students and young people for example, so as to create opportunities and destroy barriers to success and empowerment, is more than desirable.
The State is not the only actor we need to await progress from in the field of education. That is why gatherings of great importance such as the Paris Peace Forum are imperative insofar that they bring together government officials, policymakers, members of civil society and NGOs, businessmen/women, think tankers and academics from all around the world to coordinate their strengths and ideas for a better global governance.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Laurent Bigorgne has been Director of Institut Montaigne since 2011. In this role, he wishes to promote the dialogue with France’s European partners and to contribute to the public debate by proposing practical recommendations to reform French public policy. Laurent has personally supervised the publication of reports and other policy papers on education. He has encouraged various innovative initiatives for Institut Montaigne, such as the budgetary analysis of candidates’ programs for the regional elections (2015), municipal elections (2014), and the last two presidential elections (2012, 2017), a citizen’s conference held in 2012 on France’s healthcare system, a testing on religious discrimination in hiring, as well as multiple investigations on suburbs in France.