‘Education the solution to economic uncertainty’

Governments worldwide should treat education with the same urgency they bring to bear in combating HIV/Aids and global warming, and the private sector must play a far larger role in assisting them to do so.

This was World Bank economist Steen Jorgensen’s message to more than 1 200 delegates at the 2nd World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) in Doha, Qatar, this week. “We should learn from our colleagues in the health and the environment sectors and leverage with business for the future of education,” said Jorgensen.

Wise is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organisation focusing on education, scientific research and community development. The foundation describes the Wise conference as a global collaborative initiative that seeks to address the urgent challenges and powerful economic, demographic and technological pressures facing 21st-century education.

Delegates from more than 100 countries attended the three-day conference, which started on Tuesday and this year had the theme “Building the Future of Education”. Delegates included policy-makers, academics and representatives from private corporations.

Jorgensen said investment in education is vital for economic recovery from the world financial crisis and for poverty reduction. Education also improves personal health, reduces crime and increases people’s awareness of and involvement in local politics.

The primary provider of education funding should remain national governments but the the private sector should also play a much larger role because the challenges were too complex for governments to resolve on their own, he said.

It was “critical for national governments to protect their education budgets and invest in education as a solution to economic uncertainty”, Jorgensen said.

Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, said societies needed to move away from business as usual when it comes to education funding because it was not working. Only five years away now from the deadline for the Unesco’s Education for All goals, the aftershocks of the global financial crisis threatened to deprive millions of children in the world’s poorest countries of an education, she said.

Unesco’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report for 2010 exposes the ongoing failure of governments to address extreme national inequalities and of donors to mobilise resources on the required scale, Bokova said.

The Wise conference also explored education and reconciliation, access to quality education for all and education assessment and education.

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