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Sarah Brady | January 14, 2019

“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”
–Marian Wright Edelman

January 24 marks the first annual International Day of Education. This holiday, created by the UN General Assembly in Brussels in late 2018, celebrates education as a builder of peace and a contributor to development. It also brings global attention to Sustainable Development Goal 4: to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Education eradicates poverty. It improves gender equality. It leads to environmental sustainability, sustainable development and peace, and it improves health.

However, according to the UN, “more than half of children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.” That is equivalent to more than 600 million children and adolescents. Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest education rates, with 41 percent of children being educated, followed by Northern Africa and Western Asia. More than 100 million young people worldwide can’t read or write, and more than 60 percent of those people are women.

To bring awareness to the first-ever International Day of Education, consider using the following resources, activities and lesson plans from UNESCO in your classroom. Explore them here.

For primary grades, check out Why Are So Many Children Not In School, which explores the issues keeping young people worldwide from getting an education; or 2 Girls 2 Lives – 1 Goal, Education for All, a film that shows the difference between two girls born in Johannesburg, South Africa, one of whom is able to go to school and one of whom cannot.

For secondary grades, try Education Can Transform the World, which will let students practice their persuasive writing skills while learning about unequal access to education; or Educating the Next Generation of a Madagascar Family, a short film that shows an eleven-year-old girl who is committed to staying in school and not marrying young.

In celebration of the impact of an education, here are some quotes to keep in mind:

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
– Clay P. Bedford

“Education… can provide us with an opportunity to understand one another better, and so while I’ve spent a lot of my time in the world of politics, I’ve always felt that it is really not politics that will solve this for us. It’s really our betterment of individuals and then the commitment of those individuals to a collective better life for humankind.”
– Condoleezza Rice

“Education is all a matter of building bridges.”
– Ralph Ellison

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
– Haim Ginott