Happy United Nations Day! The United Nations does important work to eradicate extreme poverty and promote sustainable development. This work is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For me, the goal called ‘Quality Education’ is the most meaningful one in the agenda. It states that an inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities should be ensured for everyone in the world.
In Finland, we recognise the benefits free education provides for society quite well compared to the rest of the world. We understand that education should not be just the privilege of those children and youth whose parents can afford it. Of course, our education system still has significant problems related to equality. There is gender segregation in fields of study, education is still inherited and the study path of young people with immigrant background is too often cut short after comprehensive education, as Hannele Kirveskoski from SAMOK wrote last week. The programme on the accessibility of education that Antti Rinne’s government has promised must solve these problems.
As a country known for the best education in the world, however, we can afford to look after others than just ‘our own’. Finland must work towards the goal of an increasing number of people around the world having the opportunity to receive free, high-quality education.
The best way to promote accessible education globally is to use a minimum of 0.7% of our gross national product for development cooperation, as per the UN’s recommendations. Increasing the funds allocated to development cooperation would provide additional resources for organising education in the Global South. Particular attention should be paid to the quality of this education, though. An increasing number of children and young people all over the world are now able to go to school, but most of them still do not even learn the basic skills of reading and counting, as the Ministry of Education and Culture stated in July.
Education helps build world peace. It provides us with not only information but also understanding and empathy. Education creates faith in the future and prepares students for influencing matters in society and building their own kind of life. The University of Helsinki has already announced its desire to be involved in solving the global crisis of learning (HS 24 August). HYY wishes to be involved, too! There is an enormous amount of will and ability to act for accessible education for all in Finland, too. What we need now are actions.
The writer is in charge of educational policy on HYY’s Board.