24 January - First UN International Day of Education
Very recently, on 3 December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as the International Day of Education
. Initiated by Nigeria with 58 States, the day shows that “Education is not only a human right, but a path for sustainable development”, as Ambassador Tijiani Muhammad Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, emphasized when introducing the day.
Globethics.net with its focus on Ethics in Higher Education fully supports this day. My message for the day is: education is key for sustainable development. Education through imparting knowledge and skills can be used for good and bad: it can empower people to sustain their lives, it can humanise human beings, it can innovate societies and is key to solving problems. However, the knowledge and skills that come with education can also be used to oppress and exploit others. Knowledge can be abused to make the strong stronger and the weak weaker. Therefore, education and knowledge are not intrinsically good, but rather depend on the purpose for which they are offered and implemented.
Therefore, Globethics.net calls for values-driven education: education which helps people to earn an income to sustain their own lives and to thrive for sustainable development by transforming societies towards peace, justice, equality and a healthy environment. Respectively, higher education means a higher responsibility to serve society.
In modern societies, education is often one-sided and seen through an economic lense: governments finance education to increase economic competitiveness and innovation, private investors invest to make more money, parents hope that with higher education their children will have better chances in the job market. Education is more than a business. Producing shoes that serve the consumer for a short period of time is different from education, which can have an impact for generations. Values-driven education empowers human beings to live with integrity and dignity.
I hope that this International Day of Education strengthens at least seven objectives:
- Values-driven education should support human dignity and autonomy;
- Values-driven education needs increased funding and is at the same time more than a business;
- Values-driven education is holistic and balances elementary, secondary and higher education, academic education as well as vocational training. For stable, peaceful societies, vocational training is as important as a university education;
- Increased quality in education is a key need especially in public schools and in developing countries;
- Such quality education depends a lot on the integrity of the teaching staff and administration staff in educational institutions and this again depends on decent salaries;
- Values-driven education needs to find – especially in secularised societies – a more relaxed, constructive, non-sectarian inclusion of religious education instead of excluding religions which rather strengthens fundamentalism; and
- Values-driven education needs parents to find a balance between non-interest in education and putting pressure on children to perform well, which can be very counterproductive.
Globethics.net invites all its individual participants and its partner institutions to discuss and support ways to implement these objectives and to celebrate this day with thankfulness.