First-ever International Day of Education (24 January)

Date: 
Thursday, 24 January 2019

Worldwide | UNESCO 

The world marks the first-ever International Day of Education today (24 January), which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly last year in celebration of the role of education for peace and development. UNESCO is calling on countries to increase political commitment to education as a force for inclusion driving the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals. 

"Education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General in her statement for the Day. 

“We will not succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty, mitigating climate change, adapting to the technological revolution, let alone achieve gender equality, without ambitious political commitment to universal education.” 

Headline figures point to the challenges

Today, 262 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.

On the Day, UNESCO will release a new handbook on the right to education. It will also publish new data on education inequalities showing which population groups are lagging behind in achieving SDG 4. 

These global statistics hide deep inequalities between rich and poor households, between girls and boys and between rural and urban areas:  

  • The poorest children and youth are more than 2x less likely to complete primary school than the richest in low income countries 
  • They are more than 4x less likely to complete lower secondary school
  • They are almost 10x less likely to complete upper secondary school
  • Children in rural areas are over twice as likely to be out of school than children living in urban areas in low income countries
  • Only 2% of the poorest girls in low income countries complete upper secondary school

"How we implement the global education goal will determine the success or failure of the entire push to end poverty, generate inclusive growth, strengthen peace and protect the planet," said Stefania Giannini, Assistant-Director-General for Education.  

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