Financing education, imperative for ‘peaceful, prosperous, stable societies’

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently spoke alongside Gordon Brown, his Special Envoy for Global Education, to draw attention to the critical issue of finding innovative ways to finance education. The UN’s top official spelled out the world’s need for more, not less, money for education everywhere. 

Guterres explained that though wealthy nations can fund schools through domestic sources, some developing nations are suffering from a higher cost of living crisis. His goal was to spread awareness that nations such as these need support from the world to finance lower to middle-income countries where some 700 million children don’t have access to a school. 

As he spoke, the UN chief explained that the Facility is not new but is a tool that can help increase resources to multilateral banks that will be used as a low-cost option for education financing. Guterres said that in time, the fund would grow to $10 billion, which will go toward educating the generations of tomorrow.  

This plan is meant to work alongside and complement tools such as the Global Partnership for Education which works to provide grants and assistance to those in need. Then, on Day 2 of the UN Summit, Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General, recapped the necessity for education transformation, increased inclusion, and equity, and to rethink the innovation and curricula that are being taught.  

She also stressed the importance of funding for this process, as it’s impossible without “more and better financing.” In fact, Mohammed described education as a large ecosystem that supports many goals, but such projects need to be scaled higher. Hence, pilot projects need to be avoided, as the way to achieve this is known, but steps must be taken.  

Yet, though the steps are known, Latin America and the Caribbean are still struggling to find effective ways to improve participation in higher quality education with the current skills gap in the labor market. Perhaps part of this problem is that educators, policymakers, and businesses constantly look to elite universities to meet these gaps. While this is crucial for high-end jobs, social demands and the labor market require them to look elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, nations like America have a network of community colleges and technical schools to use as alternatives, but Latin America’s higher education has traditionally been reserved for the elite. And even after emphasis has been placed on the development of human resources within the past few decades, participation rates are still some of the lowest in the world. In these countries, adult education rates only average about 10 percent. The only area in the world with lower participation rates in tertiary school is Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Over the last ten years, Latin America has shown that it has a solid interest in going further than just improving basic numeracy and literacy. However, many programs created by the government are focused on the quality of elite higher education, creating initiatives like exchange programs with prestigious overseas schools.  

Many businesses and governments in CELAC countries understand the need to improve skills in reasoning, critical thinking, communication, and technology, as these will help the citizens effectively bring value to their communities, countries, and the world. There are new educational strategies that focus on more than the middle-class demographic that’s college-bound. This signifies that they understand how important global competitiveness is across all skill levels.  

CELAC countries now have a system of Technical Vocational Education and Training, which is a tool for helping millions of Latin Americans get the higher education they once only dreamed of. These networks consist of post-secondary programs that help train students for jobs in the private sector. Typically, schools are controlled by national labor ministries and tied to needs based on commerce and industry. These TVETs are fully or partially supported by student tuition, the private sector, or religious affiliations.  

This system is a great start to help combat the emergency at hand, with some of the more well-funded TVET institutions being the envy of technical colleges in the US. These programs boast state-of-the-art labs, high job placement rates, and amazing corporate sponsorships.   
Yet still, regardless of TVETs’ responsiveness to the industry needs within Latin America and the Caribbean, they are not perfect. These programs can be very limited as to the number of students accepted. Though it’s a great start, it does need more funding to allow more students to achieve their dreams.

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