Thursday, October 25, 2012

Investing in the future of our Youth

Twenty years ago there were 183 million illiterate adults in China; 183 million people missing out on the chance to best support themselves and their families, and improve their lives. Today that figure has dropped by 66% – an achievement to be proud of. No wonder countries in Africa now look to China and other East Asian economies to learn how to help their young people lacking the most basic of skills.

As today’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, published by UNESCO reveals, weak education systems are leaving one in five young people in developing countries without the skills that completing primary school offers.

Apart from producing the skilled workforce that our businesses need, as UNESCO has been advocating since its conception, a solid education also confers dignity and the potential for self-realization. China recognized this in the 1970s. By not only upgrading skills for industrialization, but also focusing on productivity for smallholder farmers and non-farm self-employment, the number of those living below the poverty line fell dramatically. The reward of this investment was strong and sustained economic growth.

This investment also benefits young people through better earnings. In rural China, wages are significantly higher for those involved in non-farm work who have at least some post-primary education. This has global implications too: the Education for All Global Monitoring Report calculates that for every $1 a country spends on a child’s education, it will yield $10-$15 in economic growth over that person’s working lifetime.

Once in school, teaching our children to prepare themselves for work also goes beyond learning to read and write as well, vital as those skills are. China – the host of an international congress on technical and vocational education and training convened by UNESCO in May – has set a target of 50% technical and vocational enrolments in secondary schools by 2020, which will mean young adults are practically equipped for a wide range of jobs. China also recognizes the need to teach people transferable skills – not those taught from a textbook, but the ability to solve problems, take initiative and communicate with others well. Problem solving is now a key feature of the school curriculum.

For the full article, please click here.


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