Karen McCleave: Support Educational Reforms for Better World

As the global pandemic still unfolds, governments and institutions must increasingly address the systemic problems exacerbated by it.

Among the myriad international challenges — including climate and strained medical infrastructures — education is key among them.

According to community advocate Karen McCleave, addressing inequalities in education will be critical to improving and maintaining educational standards in countries around the world: “We must grapple with how children in a pandemic world will be educated and what tools employed to address the damage created to their learning and mental health.”

“There is a growing international recognition that education must be elevated as a key priority for world leaders,” McCleave said. “We need to measure what has been lost and plan to remediate it or an entire generation risks a lesser education with significant world impact. In particular, we see a specific need to hone in on girls’ education.”

The issue of girls’ education took center stage at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2021, reflecting an unprecedented” level of interest in girls’ education as a climate solution. The United Kingdom, which hosted the conference, has made the climate and girls’ education a major priority over the last 12 months.

The UK led both the G7 conference and Global Partnership for Education Summit in 2021. This past summer, G7 countries doubled down on their political commitments to girls’ education. They reaffirmed it as a human right and set ambitious goals for 2026.

Those goals are:

  • 40 million more girls in school
  • 20 million more girls reading by age 10 or the end of primary school

All around the globe, there’s increasing acknowledgement that girls’ education has fallen behind and must be improved for long term growth.

In a recent MIT panel on education in Latin America, Priscila Cruz, the executive president of Todos Pela Educação, led the conversation around the challenges of basic education within Brazil and Latin America as a whole. While improvements were seen in some states, but not all, Cruz sees a “need to universalize equality.”

With limited vaccine access, only a few states in Brazil were able to institute remote learning in March 2020. The majority of their schools haven’t been able to offer alternative solutions for education, Cruz added.

Reforming education is truly a global problem, McCleave said, as evidenced by World Teachers’ Day, on October 5, 2021, when the UN released sobering statistics about the state of education.

In a July 2021 survey, the UN found that:

  • During the pandemic, only 40 per cent of countries trained at least 3/4 of teachers on the technology involved in distance learning
  • 58 per cent of countries provided teachers with content for remote learning, while 42 per cent provided them with ICT tools and ensured internet connectivity

While governments must address funding and technology issues, nonprofit organizations also have a place in educational reform, McCleave added.

To illustrate, nonprofits in Indonesia, Mexico and Washington, D.C., all made crucial differences in their communities by supporting education, Global Giving reported.

“With close to half the world’s students still affected by partial or full school closures, nonprofits like these need help bridging the gap between COVID-19 relief and education—because kids can’t keep learning during the pandemic if they don’t have the basics,” the article said.

Karen McCleave agrees. The best way that individuals concerned about these problems can make a real difference is by finding and supporting the nonprofits stepping up to fill in the gaps created by the pandemic and government inaction.

“The world’s children need our help,” she said. “One day they will be the ones leading the world. It’s in our best interest to make sure they have the knowledge they need to make the world a better place.”

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