November 21, 2022
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) joined over 1000 educators, policy makers and government representatives at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit (TES) conference, a global conference for education ministries, thought leaders, and international NGOs to advocate for education priorities ahead of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Held September 19-21, the goal of the summit was to mobilize solutions to accelerate national and global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is working to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Those participating sought to raise awareness and mobilize education experts in a unified Call to Action to address the education crisis–especially literacy–as school systems closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a World Bank report, the world is facing global learning loss, especially in early grade reading proficiency. Reading comprehension has dropped more than 10 percentage points in the past two years, hitting particularly hard those learners in early primary grades without access to teachers and schools.
One key phrase was heard throughout the three-day conference, says ACR GCD Chief of Party Sergio Ramirez-Mena: “We have the education system of the 19th century, the education practitioners of the 20th century and the learners of the 21st century. How can we possibly transform with this huge disparity?” The summit included 45 different sessions in five thematic action tracks to address those questions:
- Track 1: Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools
- Track 2: Learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development
- Track 3: Teachers, teaching and the teaching profession
- Track 4: Digital learning and transformation
- Track 5: Financing of education
“Two tracks were particularly relevant to ACR GCD’s goals,” says Ramirez-Mena.
Track 1 had panelists–including Deputy Assistant Administrator and Acting Senior Coordinator of US International Basic Education Assistance LeAnna Marr from USAID, one of ACR GCD’s founding partners–on inclusive education as a priority to reach the SDG #4 goal in its fullest sense. Track 4’s focus was directly related to ACR GCD’s mission to support high-level actions to increase access to affordable and sustainable education platforms and national gateways for learning.
Ramirez-Mena honed in on several key points from the summit’s Call to Action to Connect Every Child and Youth to Digital Solutions, including:
- We must harness the power of the digital revolution to ensure quality education is provided as a public good and a human right, with a particular focus on the most marginalized.
- We must marshal the strengths of digital technology to advance our national and international aspirations for education and lifelong learning.
- We must use three keys (referred to as the Three “Cs” – Content, Capacity and Connectivity) to unlock the power of digital teaching and learning, making it more universally accessible and a more reliable pillar of holistic educational experiences: high-quality Content (and accessible for children with disabilities), building local Capacity, and providing better and affordable Connectivity.
“The underlying assumption here is that to address the digital divide/gap in access to digital learning of the most marginalized communities, students and their parents,” says Ramirez-Mena. “In other words, let’s ensure that by promoting more digital learning we don’t exacerbate the gap between the ‘well-connected,’ which are typically urban, middle and upper class learners, with the most disenfranchised in rural/poor communities.”
On behalf of ACR GCD, Ramírez-Mena participated in Track 4 panels engaging with key stakeholders including the El Salvador Minister of Education José Mauricio Pineda, who shared El Salvador’s progress to provide quality learning platforms for all Salvadoran youth. Ms. Agnes Nyanlonje, minister of education from Malawi, advocated for building a transformative education sector through technology highlighting the need to involve other sectors to invest in digital learning. Another promising engagement was UNICEF’sGiga initiative team focused on connecting more than 5000 schools to the internet, Microsoft education team, Google Learning solutions team, and Girls Education Challenge. (Watch more of Nyanlonje’s comments here.)
The TES Summit concluded with the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres summarizing the importance of digital learning: “The digital revolution must be a benefit to all school children. I ask states to ensure that students and teaching establishments be better connected.”
Be part of the solution
Education in the 21st century must leverage innovation and technology to help children learn to read, complete school and escape poverty. Be part of the solution to mobilize solutions to accelerate national and global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 and help increase literacy for the more than 584 million children globally waiting for the chance to learn to read. Explore our solutions hub and increase literacy opportunities for children in your region. Interested in EdTech innovation? Consider collaborating with us and join our partnership of over 30 organizations committed to improving reading outcomes for children in low resource contexts.
ACR GCD is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government.