by Sara Smith, GCDC Program Assistant
The United Nations General Assembly established January 24th as International Education Day to bring awareness to the profound impact of education. Many people realize that education is important, but when I asked a group of peers why it is meaningful to them, the responses were limited to personal benefits, such as personal growth and career advancements. These responses do not seem to appreciate the immense benefits education has on not only the individual but also the society, planet, and prosperity. That sentiment is reflected in this year’s International Day of Education, as it brings attention to this important issue by announcing the theme as ‘Learning for people, planet, prosperity, and peace.’ While education provides us opportunities to advance personally, it also allows us to design the world we live in.
Through education, you gain knowledge by learning to store, interpret, and apply information. The acquired knowledge enlightens our perspectives and influences our individual opinions and beliefs, weighing in on our character and actions. On an individual level, education is a tool for self-discovery and self-improvement. The more knowledge a person has, the more skills and insight they will be able to provide. In a job market with an emphasis on known skills, quality education can offer benefits to an individual’s career path.
Further education allows the individual to progress in their career, yielding more financial and economic benefits. Having educated individuals in the workforce benefits everyone in society. Education gives people opportunities and resources to participate fully in society. With a plethora of knowledge, comes the progress and enrichment for everyone.
For these reasons, education plays a vital role in sustainable development. The United Nations set 17 sustainable development goals to be reached by 2030. Each goal is interconnected and rooted in education.
For example, the first goal is to eliminate poverty. The UN’s Global Education First Initiative conducted a study that showed if people who are burdened by poverty had access to education and gained basic literacy skills, 171 million people could no longer live in poverty. The second goal is zero hunger. If people were knowledgeable about fundamental nutritional values, could hunger be eradicated? Over 800 million people are undernourished. Results from this same study showed that if mothers received secondary education, 12 million children could avoid stunting issues. This leads to the third goal of good health and well-being. If people were educated on common signs and symptoms, would they be able to realize illnesses before it was too late? If individuals in a poverty-stricken society had access to a medical book, could that change the medical issues in that community?
Research shows that secondary education could lead to 49% fewer child deaths. For the rest of the SDGs, I continued to see links between the goals and education. Education allows humanity the opportunity to reach these sustainable development goals by being our most valuable and renewable resource for future progress.