Dubai: Former United Kingdom prime minister Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education who is currently in Dubai, has underlined the importance of international cooperation and connectivity even as countries take great initiatives towards global education.
Brown was speaking at the opening session of RewirEdX, a two-day virtual international conference on education that began yesterday. The conference is being held as a collaboration between Dubai Cares and Expo 2020 Dubai, in coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC). It is a staging-post on the road to long-term collective change in education, whereby the lessons learned from COVID-19 can be rolled out universally. Chief amongst these is the vital importance of connectivity in underpinning effective distance learning and making education accessible to all. “What has shocked me in the last year is that while there have been so many great initiatives by countries, individuals and organisations, the overall level of co-ordination has not been good enough,” he said.
He also called for “a strengthening of international co-operation at government leaders’ level over the next year”.
At the conference, Brown said budgets of $150 billion (Dh551.7 billion) towards education are set to be lost over the next year and there is a requirement to look at “innovative financing” and multi-lateral, not bilateral, funding. He commented that the G20 has a role in getting world leaders “committed to wiring up the world”.
“We need to have a recovery initiative taken by the leaders of the world. Part of that global initiative must be the centrality of education because education unlocks health, it unlocks gender equality, it unlocks sustainable development, and employment opportunity. We’ve got to be single-minded about this.”
He added that there are there are 800 million learning poor and there was a need for a recovery fund.
During the session, Italian Minister of Public Education Lucia Azzolina agreed that it was key to mobilise leaders from across the world to invest in education.
Azzolina and Brown were joined on the panel by Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF, who said: “This is a moment that we have as a world. It is one that we should not waste.” He said the G7 and G20, besides the World Bank, IMF and World Economic Forum should drive this as the number one issue and help bring about equality. “The most marginalised children just do not have a chance because they’re not connected, but if we can connect every school in the world to the internet, it will change the future of our world. It will give us a world in which everyone has an opportunity.”
Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister, chair of the board of directors of the Global Partnership for Education, said: “What we have learnt from this year is the pressing issue of the digital divide. The GPE has provided $580m in funding so far during the crisis putting “gender at the heart of the response” following its learnings from the previous Ebola crisis.”
Much of the discussion was centred around the technology infrastructure required in the future but Gillard highlighted that technology needs teachers to make it come alive. “If we are going to transform education around the world, we need to also be investing in high quality teaching. If we want to do big things, then we need to do it on a massive scale.”
Speaking ahead of the conference, Dr Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive officer at Dubai Cares, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impact on education by closing schools almost everywhere, causing the largest simultaneous shock to all education systems in our lifetimes. While the world is going through a large scale disruption globally, the discussion around education needs to be reshaped and redefined more than ever before. We hope that RewirEdX will be the starting point for long-term engagement and collaboration on new ways forward, as well as acting as a one-year countdown to the RewirEd Summit taking place in person at Expo 2020 Dubai from December 12-14 next year.”