The current state of youth unemployment reflects the economic crisis in Europe as well as demographic growth in the countries of the South. What is UNESCO’s response to this problem?
The various forums which UNESCO organised between 2011 and 2012 have shown just how indispensible it is for the views of young people to be taken into account on questions that concern them directly such as education and employment. And this must be done without losing sight of their diversity.
In so far as the employability of young people is concerned UNESCO feels that there is a need to co-opt them at the educational, civic and cultural levels. It is important that youth no longer be seen solely as a problem, and that they themselves are able to propose solutions. Their expectations from society must be supported through participation. This will require a change of outlook and the creation of new mechanisms of involvement.
The Third International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training was held in Shanghai in May 2012, and in September of the same year the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his initiative « Education First» in an effort to renew and reinvigorate global commitments to quality education and raise enough funds to enable every child to attend school, improve the quality of their education and develop a sense of world citizenship. Do synergies exist between these events? What has been the role of UNESCO?
UNESCO, which has given the subject much thought and analysis, plays a central role in the initiative of the Secretary-General, who has created a Steering Committee with the UNESCO Director-General as its Executive Secretary. This plea on behalf of education is intended to speed up implementation of the Education for All objectives included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Congress of Shanghai was part of this process, attended by some 40 ministerial level officials representing 120 nations (on UNESCO’s site: “more than 500 representatives from 107 countries…”)who adopted the so-called “Shanghai consensus” defining Education for All goals at the international level. The consensus stresses the importance of providing learning opportunities for both the young and the less young. Existing systems need to be adapted to respond to such challenges as youth unemployment, fairness and sustainable development. The Congress of Shanghai also strengthened international collaboration, having been organised by UNESCO in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as well as the development banks.
The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report evokes the danger of donor demobilisation. And yet paradoxically do not these various initiatives themselves contribute to a dispersal of forces?
On the contrary, in view of the financing problem and in order to stand a chance of influencing the political priorities of the various countries, there is now a strong need for advocacy for the cause of Education for All. The Secretary-General’s personal commitment itself sends a very strong political message to the international community. His initiative is likely to offset the fall-off in financing. Being addressed directly to the heads of state, the Secretary-General’s initiative will be decisive.
Which of the Education for All objectives are to be given priority?
The 2012 Report has shown that there are 61 million youths receiving no education, while those in the school systems often lack the basic skills they will need to find a job. Some because they leave school prematurely, while others simply fail to achieve the required levels of proficiency even after completing the core curriculum. Since both young and less young need such basic skills there is clearly a need to improve the quality of the education on offer.
The period allowed for implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ends in 2015. Despite all that has been achieved much still remains to be done. How does UNESCO envisage the post-2015 period?
Although a considerable number of youths have now been processed by the various school systems the goal of Education for All cannot be achieved by 2015. A new set of Millennium Development Goals is required. The development of skills, and technical and vocational education and training are among the main features of the new Education for All agenda. We are at present working with our partners towards agreement on the objectives which the international community must adopt. We need to redouble our efforts if we are to meet the new challenges on the horizon such as youth employability and the growing importance of secondary education.