This is a guest blog from Zoe Cohen, Secretariat Coordinator of the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd). Established in 2020, IPNEd seeks to mobilise political leadership for global education, and is the newest of RESULTS UK’s hosted organisations. 

International Education Day – Protect and prioritise education in 2021 and beyond  

Five school children wearing purple uniforms and face masks stand together outside a classroom, reading and talking. They are wearing face masks
Children who are Palestinian refugees at school in Ein El Hilweh, Lebanon. Image: Fouad Choufany / Education Cannot Wait

Since the emergence of COVID-19, the spread of the virus has been accompanied by disruption to, and in many cases closure of, schools and educational institutions across the world. 

At the height of the pandemic, school closures affected 90% of the world’s children and young people.

Despite strict lockdown measures and pandemic-response plans implemented across the world, the course of the virus remains unpredictable and in many countries schools remain closed or have closed again. Schools being closed has a devastating impact on children’s learning, with 8 in 10 children reporting in a recent survey that they learnt little or nothing at all when schools closed in 2020. You can see some of the ways schools around the world are adapting to COVID-19 in this ABC News photo blog.

Education must be protected on the domestic and international stage

Monday, January 25, will mark the third International Day of Education under the theme of ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’

The day provides a crucial moment at the outset of 2021 to both celebrate the resilience of teachers and learners, but also to spotlight the need to protect education in the face of the persistent threat from COVID-19.

The International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd) is calling on parliamentarians and advocates alike to utilise International Education Day to highlight the education emergency.

IPNEd has invited our member parliamentarians (currently numbering almost 200 across 40 countries) to hold parliamentary debates, table motions and ask questions of their governments on how to protect education during and after the pandemic.

In the UK, IPNEd Co-Chair and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education, Harriett Baldwin MP, has secured a Parliamentary debate. Scheduled for Thursday 28 January, it will be a platform for MPs to highlight ways the UK government can ensure education is protected and prioritised around the world.

A year of action for education

A child and teacher stand at the front of a classroom, the child is reading aloud
(Sameena, 6, reading with her teacher in front of class 2 at the Nasir Ghari government primary school , Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Image: Asad Zaidi / Save the Children)

2021 provides a number of opportunities for governments, parliamentarians and civil society (organisations like RESULTS UK and passionate individuals) to ensure children’s learning is prioritised as the world builds back from the pandemic. 

Political leadership

The UK is hosting this year’s G7 summit, and has pledged to put education, and girls education in particular, at the heart of its Presidency.

The Foreign Secretary set out an ambitious plan to work with the G7 to get 40 million girls into education, and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10.

Similarly, the G20 summit is this year hosted by Italy and has established a Working Group to lead education policy analysis ahead of the Summit, particularly focusing on the ‘digital divide’; overcoming the stark disparities in digital infrastructure, access and skills nationally and internationally.

The G7 and G20 nations will have an important opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring a quality education for all children.

Raising funds for education

In July the UK along with the Government of Kenya will also host the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment conference.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a shared commitment to ending the world’s learning crisis. At the conference, GPE seeks to secure at least $5 billion in funding for the period of 2021-2025, to transform education for over 1 billion children in up to 90 countries.

As co-host, the UK has a vital leadership role to continue its long history of commitments to GPE, and encouraging fellow governments to pledge and deliver the financing necessary to protect education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made existing humanitarian crises worse, and donors must address the impact this will have on education, by supporting Education Cannot Wait (ECW). ECW, the global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and ongoing crises, raises its funding on a more ongoing basis, and requires an additional $400 million of funding up to 2023. The world must continue to be reminded that children in crises and emergencies must not be left behind.

In hosting the G7 and co-hosting the GPE replenishment, the UK has a crucial role to play in mobilising the international community to protect and prioritise education financing across the world.

Education is a driver for the Sustainable Development Goals

Graphic depicting all 17 of the SDGS

Education is not only central to children’s learning and development, it is also critical for driving progress for all the Sustainable Development Goals. COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the links between health and education, but education is also key to unlocking wider social and environmental progress. 

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021 will also be hosted by the UK Government, and is an opportunity to highlight these links, as demonstrated in a recent report by the Send My Friend to School Campaign, between education (SDG 4) and climate change (SDG 13).

Further, the work of ECW and other partners has increasingly highlighted the relationship between emergencies, conflict and education. According to a recent report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), between 2015 and 2019 there were over 11,000 attacks on education facilities, students and educators. GCPEA will host the fourth Safe Schools Conference in Nigeria in mid-2021 to consider progress in protecting education from attack, and to encourage governments to sign and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, institutionalising frameworks and mechanisms to protect education.

Throughout 2021, the International Parliamentary Network for Education will be mobilising our member parliamentarians across the world to protect and prioritise education, to build on the global promise to deliver the SDGs, and to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. It is heartening to know that RESULTS UK campaigners will also be campaigning locally to encourage their MPs to champion global education this year.