As thousands of children head back to school, all thoughts turn to uniforms, packed lunches and doling out words of encouragement. In many parts of the world we take this annual ritual for granted, but research from UNESCO shows that more than half a billion children are missing out on basic skills, and that unemployment can be determined as early as primary school age. Why it’s particularly important to tackle this now is because with the world of work changing, the lessons children learn today need to equip them for the jobs of the future.
Skill development is a critical part of preparing for work in the future, even for jobs that do not exist yet. A child who cannot read, write or perform at least simple mathematics with proficiency will of course be poorly equipped as an adult to excel in the technology-driven industries of the future.
In September, two very different – but powerful – groups have been grappling with the ways in which the global learning crisis is in fact a skills crisis threatening the prospects of current generations and those to come. In Geneva at the Global Shapers Annual Summit, about 400 “change-makers” under the age of 30 will be exchanging ways to address the needs of their communities while striving to have a global impact. Just days later, education ministers from G20 countries will meet in Mendoza, where the question on everyone’s mind will be: how do we prepare our children and young people for the future?
millions of children are not gaining these skillsets
The jobs of the future will require students to have strong cognitive skills in mathematics and literacy, as well as soft skills such as problem-solving and creative thinking, to enable them to adapt to a quickly changing environment. However, millions of children are not gaining these skillsets, either because they never started school, they have dropped out of school, or their school does not offer a quality education.
We are in the midst of a global learning crisis: 617 million children and adolescents are not proficient in either reading or mathematics, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). It shows that two thirds of children not learning are actually in school, or were in school, but dropped out.