Today—Wednesday, January 24th—marks the sixth year of International Day of Education, an annual celebration created by the United Nations General Assembly to highlight the role of education for peace and development.  

Last year, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) dedicated International Day of Education to the girls and women in Afghanistan: the only country in the world where girls and women currently don’t have access to education.    

And 2024’s International Day of Education theme is just as vital, and—unfortunately—all too relevant: learning for lasting peace.  

Using education for peace 

As emphasized in the UNESCO Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development, learning for lasting peace must be transformative: empowering learners to become active agents of peace in the world.   

It’s so easy these days to be overwhelmed by news of conflict that pervades our digital landscape and our world. 2023’s Global Peace Index had the average level of global peacefulness deteriorating for the 13th time in the last 15 years, with 2022 deemed the deadliest year since 1994. C’mon: our species can do so, so much better. In my opinion—no surprise here—the key is education.  

A young girl holds up a globe against a blue sky.

A young girl holds up a globe against a blue sky. 

Education builds empathy, the surest way to bring about compassion and understanding for the multiple perspectives and contexts crowding our world. In the shadows of ignorance, hate is allowed to fester. This is why a commitment to peace is more urgent than ever. 

Education is a basic human right. And—as outlined in the UNESCO Global Futures of Education report—inclusive and equitable quality education—and lifelong opportunities for all—require a rebalancing of our relationships with one another, with nature, and with technology. And when there is a foundation of participatory governance, respectful dialogue, and cooperation, a sustainable peace can flourish.  

A resolve to resolve 

The UNESCO Recommendation on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development calls for “education for peace” to be at the core of new social contracts for education. In addition to advocating that everyone has the right to an education, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocates for free and obligatory primary education to be made available to all students. Education helps prevent marginalization and conflict from erupting in the first place and brings about post-conflict healing and reconciliation. 

But there is still plenty of work to do. 

According to UNESCO, 250 million children all over the world are failing to acquire basic literacy skills and 1.5 billion students and youth are or have been affected by school and university closures. The United Nations estimates that nearly two thirds of the children falling behind reading targets live in Central and Southern Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. 

While over 90% of teachers think it’s important to teach Global Citizenship Education, only 1 in 5 teachers have resources available on how to teach global citizenship education. And becoming a respectful human being starts with tolerance. Social media connects us in many wonderful ways, yet it can also amplify dehumanizing hate speech. 

UNESCO offers a number of Global Citizenship Education and Hate Speech resources to help teachers address the root causes of intolerance and foster respect and a shared sense of belonging. 

Let’s use education for peace on International Day of Education 

We are living in challenging times—to say the least—and the impact of the world on students is profound. Meaningful learning experiences simply can’t take root amidst emotional and physical turmoil. 

By partnering with schools and districts and developing collaborative relationships with school leaders and teachers, we instill a deep commitment to the power of education in bringing about a more peaceful and equitable world. 

All learners deserve access to a high-quality education regardless of their ability, income, language, or location fueled by inclusively designed technologies to better prepare students for the future. Microsoft empowers every teacher and student to accelerate learning through experiences, feedback, and analytics while enabling organizations to innovate and meet their educational and operational goals. 

So, during this year’s International Day of Education, let’s put our differences aside and, instead, come together to show the important relationship between education and peace—on both a global and local level—and initiate frank, respectful discussions with one another. 

Let’s talk about how to improve education as a public good. 

Let’s talk about our priorities and challenges for education amidst global crises and conflicts. 

Let's talk about how to lead digital transformation to make education more equitable and accessible. 

Let's talk about how to support teachers and unlock the potential in every student. 

Let’s talk about how to make education the center of our national and global peacebuilding efforts. 

Let’s talk.