Writer & Author: Vassilia Orfanou, PhD, Post Doc
For over 3 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global emergency, which continues to have considerable a multi-level health, social, and economic impact. The pandemic has altered our daily lives and raised questions about the future. As the pandemic persists, it is shaping the world in ways that will be felt for years to come, particularly in terms of education and employment and the ability of future generations to prepare for the future.
Before the pandemic, the education and labor systems were already struggling to provide job skills for young people with around 267 million youth (ages 15-24) not in employment, education, or training (NEET). The pandemic has exacerbated this skills gap and limited access to education and skill-development opportunities for marginalized young people. By 2030, more than half of all children will lack essential skills. To address this, we must rethink our approach to education and address a series of limitations.
Do children really learn well in School?
According to a UNICEF report, most children in 32 low and middle-income countries are exiting primary school lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. The report states that these learning disparities significantly impact the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
For example, only around one-third of students in third grade can comprehend simple texts, and fewer than one in five have mastered basic numeracy. Without access to quality education, children cannot reach their full potential, and their lives, as well as the economies of their countries, are negatively affected.
A Skills Crisis that is only growing by the day
The data indicates a significant crisis in learning and skills development – numerous children and youth have difficulty acquiring the fundamental skills they require. Without important intervention, these skill gaps will persist, emphasizing the immediate need for increased and collective efforts. The 2030 Skills Scorecard by the Global Business Coalition for Education and the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity 2030 Skills Scorecard highlights these dire predictions.
- By 2030, there will be a projected 1.6 billion children in low and middle-income families who will be of school age.
- Of these children, 420 million are projected not to learn essential skills during childhood.
- 825 million are projected not to acquire basic secondary-level skills, which measures their readiness for the workforce.
Despite the optimism expressed by young people for their prospects, the reality is that the deck is stacked against the youth from the very beginning of their lives. This has significant consequences for their opportunities as well as the stability and prosperity of their countries.
Addressing the ever-growing Youth Skills Gap
Undoubtedly, we are the cross-roads of a severe educational crisis. To give children and youth the best chance to succeed, we must see and provide a holistic support that is measured based upon their needs and expectations of their future. The first step towards achieving this is to identify where children stand in developing the skills they need and ensure that no child is left behind, no matter where they are.
The report titled “Recovering Learning,” issued by UNICEF, the Education Commission, and Generation Unlimited, is essential in improving skills attainment among children and youth. It highlights the importance to monitor progress in skill development, particularly in light of the global focus on recovering education after disruptions caused by COVID-19. To effectively aid in developing the minds of the younger generations, it is necessary to gather more inclusive data, overhaul the education system, and increase investment through innovative methods.
To bridge the skills gap, PwC, UNICEF, and Generation Unlimited have joined forces to investigate the barriers preventing young individuals from gaining the necessary skills for secure and fulfilling employment. The recent research document “Reaching YES” (Youth Education and Skilling) calls on governments, corporations, international organizations, and young people to collaborate and empower the next generation to thrive in the rapidly changing digital landscape.
The next few decades will pose numerous obstacles for the current generation of young students who have just begun their educational journey. For those in leadership roles, neglecting to establish an educational system that cultivates the necessary skills for the 21st century would be a catastrophic failure.
As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, providing equitable, high-quality education for all should be at the forefront of our priorities. Education has the potential to not only improve individual lives but also to shape entire economies. A collective global effort is needed to ensure education remains a top priority.
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Featured photo: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz, Pexels.