World leaders are failing us on education, say young people
04 August 2022
Global youth poll shows more than two-thirds feel leaders are betraying their promise to provide quality education
- Poll comes a month before world leaders meet at major UN education summit
- Gordon Brown describes summit as “global education’s COP26 moment”
- United Nations Secretary-General says young people “are questioning the relevance of their education systems and curricula for today’s world.”
- New #LetMeLearn campaign calls on leaders attending the summit to listen to young people
Today’s education systems are failing a generation of young people and leaving them unprepared for the future, according to a global poll of 10,000 young people.
In rich and poor countries alike, a lack of support for teachers, outdated curriculum and a lack of digital connectivity are just some of the reasons leaving students without the skills to navigate today’s fast-changing world, the poll across 10 countries found.
The results reflect what experts are calling "a crisis of equity, quality and relevance" in global education.
The poll paints an alarming picture of the state of education all over the world. Nearly four out of five (77%) young people are “worried” about the prospect of poor education leaving millions of children without basic reading or writing skills by 2030. 69% say world leaders are not doing enough to ensure all children receive a quality education, while 88% think world leaders need to take urgent action to fund education.
Commissioned by the global children’s charity Theirworld, it comes a month before world leaders meet at the Transforming Education Summit at the United Nations in New York to make crucial decisions about children’s education.
Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, describes the historic summit as “global education’s COP26 moment – a last chance for action to avert an education catastrophe”.
World leaders will decide what action needs to be taken to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 of “inclusive and quality education for all” children by 2030 - but campaigners warn that education around the world has become “a privilege, not a right”.
Even before the pandemic, 260 million children were not in school, most of them girls. Covid-19 has deepened the crisis. Today, it is estimated that 70% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries are unable to understand a simple written text. By 2030, experts predict that 825 million children – more than half the world’s children - will leave the classroom without even the most basic qualifications they need to get a job.
Nearly half of the young people surveyed who said they were disappointed with their education did not feel equipped for the future (43%); a third of those young people (33%) felt they were not learning or did not learn useful skills; and more than a quarter (27%) of students did not feel valued.
António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said:
“Across the globe, education is in crisis. This is a slow burning and often unseen crisis, but it has profound consequences for individuals, societies, and our collective future. Reeling from the disruption caused by the pandemic, hundreds of millions of children and young people are still out of school.
“Many of those who are in school are not learning the basic skills they need, as citizens and participants in society. Many more are questioning the relevance of their education systems and curricula for today’s world.”
Despite the crisis in global education, three quarters (76%) of young people remain optimistic for the future, with more than four in five (83%) believing that youth can change the world through campaigning and making their voice heard.
That is why today (August 1), Theirworld and education campaigners around the world are launching a new campaign to mobilise young people all to call on world leaders to put in place the plans and finance required to provide a quality education for every child, no matter who they are or where they are born.
The #LetMeLearn campaign – backed by the United Nations Secretary-General – is calling for the experiences and voices of young people to be heard by leaders so that the right decisions are made to transform education for every child, not just the few.
Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said:
"I have been listening to young people and they have one single message: Let Me Learn. It is it time that we take this seriously and bring their message to the halls of the United Nations and say to one another that we can be the first generation in history where every child goes to school.
“This historic Summit is global education’s COP26 moment – a last chance for action to avert an education catastrophe”.
Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld, said: “The decisions world leaders make at the Transforming Education Summit will affect the lives of hundreds of millions of children around the world and reverberate through every community on the planet.
“Global education is facing a crisis of equity, quality and relevance. Currently, education is a privilege, not a right, and denied to children based on factors beyond their control at birth. It’s time for world leaders to listen to young people and take action today. Time is running out and inaction is not an option.”
Nhial Deng, 23, was born in Ethiopia where his father settled after fleeing the first Sudanese civil war more than five decades ago. In 2010 his village in Ethiopia was attacked by an armed militia and he fled to Kenya where he spent 11 years in the Kakuma refugee camp.
Last August, he moved to Canada after securing a four-year scholarship to pursue a bachelor's degree in global studies and digital communications at Huron University College.
He said: “When I fled my home 11 years ago, the first thing that came to my mind after arriving in the Kakuma refugee camp was school. I knew that school was the only way where I could make my childhood dream of becoming a journalist a reality.
“Although I was traumatized by the brutal images of war I witnessed while fleeing my country, the school gave me a safe space where I could heal from my trauma and think about a glowing future again.”
Notes to Editors
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Head of Media and Partnerships Communications
Media Relations Officer
Theirworld is a global children's charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation. The organisation aims to ensure that every child has access to the best start in life, a safe place to learn and skills for the future. In 2022, Theirworld celebrates its 20th year of unlocking big change for children around the world.
About the survey
Hall & Partners worked in partnership with Theirworld to run two separate online surveys:
- An online survey amongst 10,237 16–30-year-olds who achieved either secondary or primary level education. Fieldwork was conducted through Dynata panels and took place from 23rd June to 26th July 2022. 1,000+ 16–30-year-olds were spoken to in each of the following markets: UK, USA, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya, Nicaragua, Honduras
- An online survey amongst 629 young people from Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassador network, including 522 Global Youth Ambassadors. Fieldwork took place from 10th June to 15th July 2022.
Hall & Partners also worked with Theirworld to develop a questionnaire for young people not in education. Theirworld’s not for profit partners distributed the survey and collected responses.
The survey tables are accessible on the following link: https://theirworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/LML-survey-table.pdf