Peoples Voices at the World Education Forum


For the past two and a half years, the United Nations has asked people around the world to tell them what matters most to their lives. Thus far, 4.9 million of the 7.5 million people who voted in the MY World Global Survey have chosen “A better education”. This trend is true regardless of age, gender, education level and is similar across most countries in the world.

Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF
Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF

From May 18-21, we partnered with UNICEF in the production of an exhibit to amplify the voices of people around the world at the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea. The forum, co-convened by UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR & UN Women, brought together stakeholders from all sectors to look at achievements and shortfalls from the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All targets. Participants agreed on the Incheon Declaration which sets out a renewed vision in education, one that aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.

The exhibit featured data visualizations on the importance of education for people around the world, such as the MY World datasetMY World priority heat mapUN Global Pulse MY World Twitter mappingWorld We Want key word visualisations, and stories of why people voted for education through the Humans of MY World communications campaign. UNICEF showcased two innovations targeting the out-of-school children:  Raspberry Pi Learning Initiative from Lebanon provides non-formal education to the millions of displaced children as a result of the Syrian crisis, and E-learning, offers accelerated learning opportunities to some of the 1.8 million out-of-school children in Sudan.

Executive Directors Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka UN Women and Irina Bokova, UNESCO visit the exhibit
Executive Directors Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka UN Women and Irina Bokova, UNESCO visit the exhibit

The exhibition centered around Clouds Over Sidra, a virtual reality experience about the daily life of a Syrian refugee. Clouds Over Sidra tells the story of a 12 year old Syrian refugee living in the Za’atari Camp in Jordan. Sidra talks about the important support structures in the camp, including education, football for girls, wrestling and computer labs for the boys. She also talks about the children who don’t use these support structures:

Some kids don’t go to school. They want to wait until we are back home in Syria. I think it’s silly to wait. How will they remember anything? And there is nothing to do here anyway.

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The world has voted – and a good education is top priority

© UNICEF/SRLA2011-0158/Olivier AsselinBy Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report

It is very encouraging news that people around the world have so far ranked “a good education” as their top choice in the UN’s My World poll on post-2015 priorities. It’s too early to celebrate yet, however. There are recent signs that advocates have to work even harder to demonstrate that education is not only a fundamental goal in its own right but also a crucial route to achieving other development goals.

For one thing, education was not even mentioned in the communiqué of the recent Bali high-level panel the post-2015 agenda on ‘developing a global partnership for development’. The communiqué made progress in aligning two competing visions for the post-2015 development agenda – one centred on eradicating poverty and the other on sustainable development. But it is worrying that the communiqué failed to mention education, which underpins all other development efforts and transforms them into long-term change. While the high-level panel failed to recognize education’s importance, 200,000 people voting on their post-2015 priorities – whose views were passed on to the meeting in Bali – have placed education at the top.

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