This year marks the fifth year of the International Day of Education. It will be celebrated on 24 January 2023 under the theme to “invest in people, prioritize education.” As part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for People, Planet, and Prosperity, education is recognized as a crucial component to accelerate progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals that were laid out. And especially in these uncertain times of global recession, growing inequalities, and climate crisis, there is a stronger push to translate political commitments and global initiatives into real action – to invest in people and to prioritize education.
In the 2022 Sustainable Development Goals summit, 133 countries made national commitments to recover lost learning opportunities in learning due to the pandemic. They have also committed to future-proofing their education, making them more relevant, inclusive, and resilient to future uncertainties.
Along with the national commitments, the summit’s Youth Declaration highlighted the vital role of education in building resilient societies and creating opportunities and capabilities which would work to address global challenges like inequality, poverty, and climate change.
“If we are to survive and thrive in planetary peace and righteous equality, then education is our primary source of hope and resolution.”SDG summit’s Youth Declaration
Purpose of International Day of Education 2023
Education is recognized as a key economic driver. Still, in many countries, only some have the right and access to quality education. And even in countries that do, there is more to be done to ensure that learning environments are inclusive, safe, and healthy.
Furthermore, the delivery of education needs to be considered. Teachers, for example, must be empowered with the right resources to carry out their functions effectively. It is also necessary to consider how the digital revolution can play a more significant role in benefiting public education.
The International Day of Education aims to encourage wider adoption of these initiatives to accelerate foundational learning. It is a means to help learners be climate-ready and digital-ready and advance gender equality within and through education.
The International Day of Education calls on governments and key stakeholders to observe their commitments to prioritizing investment in education and the transformation of education. It is also a call for social activation by global influencers and youth champions to raise awareness and garner societal engagement to meet education goals.
Besides awareness and activation, the International Day of Education also sees itself as a platform for youths to build on by voicing their demands and showcasing their innovations to advance this cause.
Invest in People
Part of this year’s theme is a call to Invest in People to advance progress toward Sustainable Development Goals.
More than a financial change, it involves changing mindsets and behavior regarding learning. In the journal paper titled “Achieving School improvement through “investors in people,” Brown and Taylor found that institutions that dedicate themselves to quality and ongoing improvement see their employees as their most essential resource and invest in them.
Start Investing In People
Institutions that acknowledge their people as essential resources are helmed by top management interested in their employees’ development. When top management is committed to developing employees at all levels, a culture of training and development permeates the organization. Investing time and financial resources to develop employees must happen right from the start. It is also necessary to periodically review their needs and to adapt accordingly. Evaluation methods must also accompany training and development initiatives to ascertain their achievement and effectiveness. (Brown & Taylor, 1996)
For an effective training and development program, senior management can actively involve themselves by demonstrating support, fostering a good and open communication system, and having the desire to help their employees realize their full potential.
As noted by Brown and Taylor, investing in teachers and staff at all levels prepares, empowers, and motivates them to improve processes. Through that, it fosters a stronger sense of commitment and value for their work. (1996)
Although education is often seen as a right and entitlement, it can also be understood as a duty. Guilherme discusses, in his inquiry based on Fichte’s views on education, that education is a duty because it is an “obligation that humans have towards themselves and the community.” (2016)
Humans live in communities and societies, so the individual is more than an individual. He is also a member of the community and society. Education becomes his duty to learn and perform his place within his community or society. In fact, education can be seen as the “very lifeblood of the state.” From this point of view, prioritizing investment in education at all levels is paramount so that each individual can play their part and take their place in the community. Otherwise, the future of the community will be doomed.
What to Prioritize?
Prioritizing investment in education is beneficial to economic growth, but investment in different levels of education may yield different results. In their study, Li et al. found that increased investment in general education contributes more to economic growth than advanced education (college and above). (2022)
Based on their study in China, expanding advanced education has a complex effect on economic growth. On the one hand, more options for higher education increase the percentage of skilled workers in the workforce, which encourages economic growth.
However, on the downside, increasing enrollment in advanced education will worsen the crowding effect of advanced education, causing the quality of education to decline. Furthermore, when the level of public advanced education investment remains constant, expanding advanced education may negatively impact economic growth.
In addition, the declining quality of advanced education will lessen the pressure of competition on general education and lower parents’ expectations for their children to pursue advanced education. All these may, in turn, limit China’s educational expenditure. As such, the authors recommend that governments prioritize funding education, and they should continue to raise their educational spending.
While the International Day of Education, led by The United Nations General Assembly, can be a significant force to create awareness, unite the world, and push for action, it still falls back to individual countries and governments to push through their commitments on the ground. Whether education is a right or duty, let us celebrate and remember education as a force to create a better tomorrow.