Podcast #50: Significant progress seen in education in 2011

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'Beyond School Books' – a podcast series on education in emergencies

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 28 December 2011 – In 2011, significant strides were made in improving the education of children around the world: More children are now enrolled in primary schools than ever before. Still, in spite of remarkable progress, civil unrest and natural disasters have slowed down improvements in affected areas.

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To wrap up the year, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Kishore Singh.

Sustainable progress

The past year has seen major educational achievements on several levels, Mr. Singh says. There has been sustainable progress in expanding education, greater recognition of the critical importance of education on the UN development agenda, serious country initiatives to advance secondary education, and stronger emphasis on technical and vocational training around the world.

Girls’ education has also improved significantly, even though girls still comprise more than half of all children out of school.

“One of the biggest impediments [to gender equality in education] is the social misconception,” says Mr. Singh. “Girls in many developing countries are still viewed to be not equally entitled to education.”

Educating children in emergencies

In his latest report to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Singh estimates that around 28 million children of primary school age who live in conflict-affected countries are currently out of school. Around 875 million school children live in high seismic-risk zones and millions more face regular floods, landslide or other natural disasters.

Educating children in these areas is vital, not only to recovery but also to preventing humanitarian emergencies in the first place.

“Quality education is absolutely important in post-conflict and reconstruction phases” following these disasters, said Mr. Singh. “We need to focus on cultivating in children a love of learning and enable them to appreciate each other…and therefore welcome differences on ethnicity, religion, languages and cultural differences, which in some cases are being the reasons for conflict.”

Mr. Singh also emphasized that there is need for a clear vision that leads to more innovative and equitable education systems around the world.