Many education experts worry that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold damage to the education prospects of children around the world, exacerbating problems of falling standards that already existed, with millions of children receiving minimal, inadequate education, or no education at all.
Leonardo Garnier, Special Advisor to the Transforming Education Summit, by Marco Bassano
In the days before the Transforming Education Summit, UN News met Leonardo Garnier, an academic and former education minister in Costa Rica, who was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as Special Advisor for the Summit.
He explained why going back to the old ways of teaching is not an option, and how the UN can help to bring fresh ideas to classrooms around the world and raise educational standards for children everywhere.
UN News The UN is tackling so many big geopolitical issues right now, such as the climate crisis, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Why has education been chosen as key theme this year?
Leonardo Garnier It’s precisely the right time to do it, because when there’s an economic slowdown, what usually happens is that education goes under the table: it ceases to be a priority. Governments need money, and they stop spending on education.
The problem here is that the damage this causes is only apparent after several years. If you take the Eighties education crisis, it wasn’t until the Nineties and 2000s that you started to see how countries had lost out because of a lack of educational investment.
Millions of children were left out of school because of the pandemic. But the pandemic also brought out what had been happening for years, because many of those who were in school were not really learning properly.
UN News Talk us through the 1980s educational crisis. What happened, and what were the consequences?
Leonardo Garnier What you saw in many parts of the world was stagflation, and a huge reduction in education budgets. Enrolment rates fell, teacher numbers fell, and many children missed out on education, particularly high school education.
And what that meant is that, in many countries, only around half the labour fo …