Education needs to undergo a major transformation to fulfill people’s potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet, UNESCO says in a thought-provoking report released this week.
“There is an urgent need for progress in education to speed up. On current trends universal primary education in sub-Saharan Africa will be achieved in 2080, universal lower secondary completion in 2089, and universal upper secondary completion in 2099. This would leave the region 70 years late for the 2030 SDG deadline,” the Education for People and Planet report reveals.
The 2016 Global Education Report (GEM) report comes at the time when many African countries are struggling to fund and rehabilitate their education sector, which analysts have described as ‘catastrophic’, ‘inadequate’ and environment-unfriendly.
The United Nations education, science and culture agency urges countries to bring their education systems in line with environmental concerns.
“Education is the best indicator of climate change awareness, half of countries’ curricula worldwide do not explicitly mention climate change in their content,” the GEM report says.
Research has shown that many pupils and college students across Africa do not have a single knowledge of the world’s environmental affairs, which includes the burning issue of climate change.
“When the majority of people in Sub-Saharan Africa believe that food security, peace, jobs, housing, basic healthcare and sanitation must be given priority over issues such as the protection of the environment and climate change, then you know that Africa has a serious problem with its education system,” education expert Daniel Matondo Mangani said.
“Climate change is the white man’s problem, not blacks because they are the ones that pollute the planet. This is what an average African pupil or university student would say,” Mangani added.
“Despite being one of the regions most affected by the effects of environmental change, sub-Saharan Africa has far fewer mentions of sustainable development in its curricula in comparison with Latin America, Europe and North America,” the report says.
“A fundamental change is needed in the way we think about education’s role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet,” UNESCO DG Irina Bokova says.
“Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth, and peaceful living together.”
Photo: Schoolchildren in the DRC. credit: Global Partnership