Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, never a sentence has been so true and in line with the times. But what are institutions putting in place to actually “arm” the new generation?
As of now, the 4th point of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all the 191 United Nations Member States have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2030, is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
But, before that, the 26th article of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stated that everyone has a right to education and that “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
As a matter of fact, human rights are about equality, dignity, respect, freedom and justice (freedom from discrimination, right to life, freedom of speech and the right to education). They should be held by all persons equally, universally and forever, and they are equally important as well as complementary. After all, as the different countries and realities are nowadays interconnected, so are our rights as human beings.
This means that, the violation of someone’s freedom and the assumption of certain policies in a defined place, could have consequences even on the other side of the globe. That’s why we should get used as soon as possible to the concept of “global citizenship”, a field that enables us to understand that, even educational injustices, diminish the quality of life at a personal, but also at a local and global level.
Quality education itself aims to ensure the development of a fully-rounded human being able to think and choose for himself, in fact, it is one of the most powerful tools in lifting socially excluded children and adults out of poverty and into society. UNESCO data shows that if all adults completed secondary education, globally the number of poor people could be reduced by more than half.
Plus, it narrows the gender gap for girls and women and for each year of schooling it reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5 to 10 per cent; but for this human right to work there must be equality of opportunity, universal access, and enforceable and monitored quality standards.
Nevertheless, despite all of this, as far as we know today:
– 258 million of children and young adults, of which 129 million of girls, don’t have access to the educational system yet
– 3.7 million on 7.1 million refugee children of school age do not go to school
– Only 155 countries legally guarantee 9 years or more of compulsory education
– Only 99 countries legally guarantee at least 12 years of free education
– Only six in ten young people will be finishing secondary school in 203
– 102 million youth lack basic literacy skills
– 771 million of adults are illiterates
All of this with a visible gap between the poorest and richest countries or social groups.
The good news is that, for example, UNESCO is developing, monitoring and promoting education norms and standards to guarantee the right to education at the country level and advance the goals of the Education 2030 Agenda. UNESCO’s Constitution itself actually requires Member States to regularly report on measures to implement standard-setting instruments at country level. It also addresses recommendations to improve the situation of the right to education at a national level.
Even from a gender gap point of view, UNESCO is able to monitor the implementation right to education of girls and women along with providing technical assistance and policy advice to Member States that seek to review, develop, improve and reform their legal and policy framework.
Also, the Council of EU is collaborating to jump-start progress on this SDG, by committing to securing the active participation of young people in decisions and actions at local and regional level and by the Human Rights Education Youth Programme, an educational programme that focus on promoting equality in human dignity, in conjunction with other programmes such as those promoting intercultural learning, participation and empowerment.
States, on their side, are supposed to allocate at least 4-6 percent of GDP and/or at least 15-20 percent of public expenditure to education, but overall, they need to strike a balance between educational freedom and ensuring everyone receives a quality education. This goal is also based on alarming data, that tells us that two-thirds of the estimated 617 million children and adolescents who cannot read a simple sentence, or manage a basic mathematics calculation, are in the classrooms.
In this landscape, Junior Enterprises play a significant role in promoting and enhancing quality education by providing practical experiences, fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship, and connecting students with the real-world business environment.
They offer students a unique opportunity to gain practical hands-on experience in various fields of study and this supplements theoretical knowledge acquired in classrooms, or during mentorship sessions, allowing students to apply their skills and concepts in real-world situations. Experiential learning is a crucial component of quality education, as it bridges the gap between theory and practice.
Working in a Junior Enterprise also means being exposed to a wide range of challenges and problem-solving scenarios. Students learn to analyse issues, devise strategies, and implement solutions. This cultivates critical thinking, which is vital for quality education.
JEs even provide a network that enables higher education students to meet with professionals, businesses, and other students, which makes them face diverse perspectives and encourages teamwork. Plus, many Junior Enterprises operate internationally or collaborate with organizations from various countries, leading to a global understanding of cultures and markets. Building these interpersonal skills is an integral part of a well-rounded education.
Finally, through Junior Enterprises, young people have the opportunity to attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to their fields of study, which prepare them for a dynamic job market.
In conclusion, the skills, knowledge, and mindset developed through participation in Junior Enterprises complement traditional classroom learning, preparing students to excel in their careers and make a meaningful impact on society.
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JEE is the umbrella organisation that represents, integrates and supports the European Network of Junior Enterprises.
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