UNESCO: Accelerating Digitalization Brings Quality Education to All
We are already at the halfway point of implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN). Progress has been made towards SDG 4, which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, inclusive education remains a challenge, with 60% of the world's 10-year-olds unable to read or understand simple stories and 244 million children and youth yet to return to school.
At UNESCO, we lead the global Education 2030 Agenda and work hard to ensure the right to education. As part of our efforts to transform the global education system and achieve SDG 4, we are constantly seeking new ways to collaborate, share knowledge, and adopt innovative mechanisms to support transformation.
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person learning, we launched the Global Education Coalition. This Coalition brings together more than 140,000 members from the UN family, civil society, academia, and the private sector to support national efforts to expand remote education, particularly for disadvantaged children and youth. Since its inception, the Global Education Coalition has created the Digital Transformation Collaborative (DTC), which leverages expertise and resources from all sectors of society to drive education transformation at the local, national, regional, and global levels. This platform has strengthened the link between academia and industry, and is expected to carry out more varied and more valuable educational activities in the future.
GSA: Creating opportunities and equity
One such activity involved establishing the Global Skills Academy (GSA), which was tasked with mobilizing Coalition resources to help learners improve their employability and resilience. Employment and skill gaps have widened since the pandemic, with youth unemployment rates in many countries deeply concerning the International Labour Organization (ILO). Youth who are not in employment, education, or training face unique risks such as finding it difficult to return to the labor market or vulnerability due to informal employment situations. The global community is working to smooth the transition from the school to job market within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 8.6 was set specifically to increase youth employment opportunities and substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training (ILO & United Nations, 2015).
The GSA draws on the UNESCO-UNEVOC network of institutions to bring learners free, high-quality training programs that will help them excel in the demanding and rapidly evolving labor market. As part of UNESCO's strategy for TVET 2022–2029, the mission has also recently scaled up to support 10 million learners by 2029 and is currently working with 23 partners.
Huawei ICT Academy 2.0
Huawei is a member of the Global Education Coalition and a committed partner of the GSA. Since 2020, the company's ICT Academy 2.0 program has provided free online certification training for learners around the world. The program's trainees have proven themselves more competitive in the labor market and many now have flourishing careers in the ICT industry. The program also has secondary goals to help digitalize the education industry, use ICT to bridge the digital divide, and achieve equity in education. Training is currently available in nine languages and the program also holds an annual ICT Competition where outstanding trainees are given the chance to shine on the global stage. The program is a prime example of how industry can work with UNESCO, government organizations, and higher education institutions to build an innovative talent ecosystem.
Open schools for all: Enabling quality education with ICT
Education is not simply a tool to improve employment figures. It is a basic building block of every society, so we must ensure that everyone has access to quality education. During the pandemic, the education systems of countries without sufficient ICT infrastructure and well-resourced digital learning systems suffered the greatest disruptions, highlighting the increasing importance of digital technologies in education. A more sustainable change is necessary for the definitive transformation of our education systems. Digital technologies offer new methods for accessing educational resources and for increasing inclusion. They enhance the relevance and quality of learning content, build lifelong learning pathways, strengthen education and learning management systems, and help monitor learning processes.
The Global Education Coalition has recently pivoted from simply creating tools for emergency response towards the wider transformation of education – a journey that has been hampered in many countries by the disruptions of the pandemic to learning systems.
The Technology-enabled Open Schools for All project is one such way we are seeking to achieve transformation. With a US$3 million commitment, the project brought together the Ministries of Education and other partners in Ethiopia, Egypt, and Ghana to design, pilot test, and scale up Technology-enabled Open School Systems. Completed in July 2023, this three-year project has provided national platforms and connectivity for schools and improved digital content and educational resources for learning centers, so that they can provide teachers and students with digital skills training.
In Ethiopia, the project supported a new national initiative for digital textbooks, resulting in a vast digital library for secondary school students that will benefit 12,000 students and 250 educators. In addition, the program acted to broadly enhance access to national educational platforms and digital content for all secondary students and educators in the country.
In Ghana, the project has empowered learning outcomes and the acquisition of skills required in the twenty-first century by integrating technology with new pedagogies, which have directly benefited 1,000 teachers and 3,000 students.
Public-private collaboration: Advancing education digitalization
High-quality online content is a key part of digital transformation. For content creation to be sustainable, local education stakeholders must be empowered to create and share their own content. While government agencies and professionals can lead these efforts, enterprise participation is critical.
I would like to call upon companies like Huawei to help give learners better access to more reliable and effective learning platforms. UNESCO already works with Huawei to extend the company's initiatives in Latin America based on a roadmap they signed with the Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean in November 2022. The 'Teacher Training in Digital Competencies' regional roadmap will be piloted in Chile, where Huawei will help identify specific areas where teachers need support and create corresponding courses to equip teachers with the tools they need to utilize digital technologies in the classroom and for distance learning. Evaluations will be carried out to certify learning outcomes.
Huawei is also helping UNESCO to promote literacy in target countries. In our increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich, and ever-changing world, literacy does not just mean reading, writing, and counting. It also includes identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication. By acting as a corporate partner for initiatives like the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Leaning (UIL) and Moodle project, Huawei is helping to build the capacities of literacy educators by delivering training modules and designing digital skills monitoring and assessment tools.
Huawei has demonstrated how enterprises play an important role in accelerating progress towards SDG 4 by facilitating the creation of quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities. As partnerships between UNESCO and enterprises continue to flourish, I am excited to see ever more content, training programs, and initiatives empowering teachers and students in different regions.
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