Today is January 24, designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Education, and the theme of this year’s celebration is: “to invest in people, prioritize education.”
The United Nations General Assembly declared an International Day of Education five years ago to celebrate the role of education in building opportunities for peace and development, and to spread awareness that transforming learning systems can help to build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful future.
In 2023, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the value of education, and to encourage public and private institutions and individuals to prioritize it. We know that the disruptions and challenges of the past few years, ranging from a public health crisis to economic instability and conflict, have exacerbated the existing inequities in education and disrupted formal learning for over a billion students. UNESCO1 reports that approximately 244 million children and youth, especially girls, remain out of school.
Yet there is much progress to celebrate. All over the world, leaders in education, government, and public and private sectors have made investments in time, skills, and funding to accelerate learning and close gaps. These are examples of system-wide innovations that create more opportunities for students, expand access to education technology, and support educators in preparing every student to learn, explore, and reach their potential.
Microsoft is strongly committed to supporting more equitable education, and we support UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 to, “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”2 That goal is reflected in our mission – to empower every learner on the planet to achieve more.
To us, that mission is more than words. It’s a description of the guiding principles that are at the root of what we do. When you break it down into individual statements, we can see how each element drives toward the mission.
By “every learner”, we mean regardless of ability, disability, mobility, income, location or identity. By “empower” we mean with foundational skills like literacy, numeracy, communication, and higher order skills including computational thinking, creativity and analytical reasoning, plus social-emotional skills including self-awareness, regulation and responsible decision making. By “achieve more”, we mean for students to reach their potential, to contribute positively and purposefully in learning, work, and life.
To further this mission, next month we’ll be hosting a digital event, “Reimagine Education”, where we’ll be showcasing stories of K-12 schools and educators around the globe. We’ll hear from talented people who are improving reading, writing, math, and communication skills using technology, to prepare their students for the future. Top Microsoft leaders, including CEO Satya Nadella, will share their insights about the future of education, and how innovative learning tools can empower schools and teachers to create learning experiences that work for every learner.
Education unlocks the potential in everyone, so everyone should have access to it. In a statement3 in support of this year’s Day of Education theme, UNESCO makes the point that, “Only lifelong education starting in the earliest years in life can break the cycle of poverty, improve health outcomes, prepare people for decent jobs with opportunities to reskill and upskill, and mitigate the climate crisis.” The message continues, pointing out that, “to ensure inclusive, safe, and healthy learning environments [we must] empower teachers, harness the digital revolution for the benefit of public education and invest more equitably and efficiently.”
I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the transformational power of education today, and that you’ll tune in on February 9 for Reimagine Education.
1 UNESCO International Day of Education: https://www.unesco.org/en/days/education
2 UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 : https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal4
3 UNESCO day of Education 2023 Concept Statement: https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/education_day_2023-cn-en.pdf