Sarah Brown: Why Expanded Education Opportunity Is Key to Solving Global Challenges

Sarah Brown(Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

In advance of the launch of Asia Society's Center for Global Education, Sarah Brown, president of Theirworld, founder and executive chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, and former First Lady of the United Kingdom, explains why global competence has implications beyond mere education — it can also help future generations tackle the world's most pressing crises.

Asia Society has seized the term "global competence" to identify what today’s youth need in order for them to fulfill their potential in the world’s marketplace. I hope — with all due deference — that the need for higher global competence can also be applied to our global leaders. As we are all too aware, the world’s population must respond to unprecedented rapid change, an ever-changing technological revolution, and the impact of the mass movement of people. So this presents the greatest challenge for the world’s leaders, both to those with lengthy expertise and those fresh to the international stage. The need is there for them to all to step up and address a long list of issues from the top down. And at the top of that list is education for every child, from early years' support through primary and secondary school and on to higher education.

Writing about Syrian refugees in a Theirworld/GBC-Education/ODI report, Kevin Watkins said: “The sheer force of numbers dictates this is not a crisis that can be dealt with by creating ad hoc projects and parallel delivery systems. Expanding provision in education and other areas to create opportunities for all refugees can only be achieved if national systems are strengthened and reformed to reach, teach and support refugee children. " This is true not just for Syrian children but for all children caught up in emergencies and crises. We now have the Education Cannot Wait Fund (launched earlier this year) which for the first time is able to address education immediately in the wake of the next unfolding crisis. The Global Partnership for Education also stands ready with a stronger replenishment to support education in development and ongoing emergencies.

Young people are right here — ready to be entrepreneurs not employees, ready to embrace the new, and sympathetic to the changing and unstable natures of things. Our youth are a caring generation who want to learn and to embrace the future. To the most vulnerable, we must guarantee food, water, shelter, and safety but we must bring hope to them all — from the youngest citizen to the most disaffected youth. We must find the investment to create school places, train teachers, enhance tech in learning, foster creativity and encourage growth. We must provide the opportunity for every child to learn, thrive and dream.

Only then will we have a global population of prepared citizens who can demonstrate a global competence. We must give these citizens the chance to look back at the early 21st Century and wonder what took us so long to understand that education lies at the heart of it all.

The Center for Global Education at Asia Society has a great challenge ahead, and the only way to meet this challenge with success is to work together with its partners around the world towards a shared vision for the future.

About the Author

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Sarah Brown is the founder and executive chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, the president of TheirWorld, and the former First Lady of the United Kingdom.