Let’s make the New Education Deal a reality now

Parents International’s message on the International Day of Education – 24 January 2022

Today the world celebrates the International Day of Education with the annual theme „Changing Course, Transforming Education” aiming to showcase the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realize everyone’s fundamental right to education and build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. UNESCO is demanding the establishing of a new social contract on education with all key actors working together, and this is something parents can only celebrate while offering to sign or even draft the “contract”.

While there is little to really celebrate on this day in 2022, after close to two years of constant uncertainties, sudden and unfounded school closures, and conditions in schools violating children’s rights more than anytime in the past decades with mask mandates, freezing classrooms and healthy children forbidden to attend classes, this is still a good moment to revisit what parents have had to say on the annual theme. Organisations gathered from all parts of the world still hope that the experiences of these past 20-24 months will lead to the so-much needed changes for the best interest of children.

Undoubtedly, the most urgent item on the agenda is the unrestricted re-opening of schools. The New Education Deal – Parents First global initiative that Parents International launched in the early summer of 2020 has demanded that schools should be recognised and operated as places for social-emotional learning rather than sheerly focusing on academic content. This needs provisions for the normal interaction of children. We have known since May 2020 that referring to the Covid-19 pandemic is not a well-founded excuse for preventing this as children are not at risk and also play very little role in spreading the virus. This has already been the demand of parents globally on the same day last year. However, many countries are still operating their schools as if research evidence was not available.

This has resulted in a situation that has not been seen since the second world war. Steady social inclusion trends have been reversed, parents in various parts of the world have started organising alternatives as they don’t believe countries will fulfil their duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by providing schools, and child psychiatry ward have months-long waiting lists for the young victims of fearmongering and blame-games. In a growing number of countries, governments are introducing vaccine-mandates that result in the best professional leaving schools and children often being prevented from attending school even if completely healthy. This must end now.

At the same time, it is also clear that schools should not go back to their own old normal, but they should emerge from this crisis re-born as child-centred places that nurture the individual capacities of each child for the mutual benefit of local communities and societies. Recent research that Parents International participated in or conducted clearly shows that there is a bit more openness on the side of professional educators to co-create with the most primary educators of children, their parents. It is also clear that parents are currently better suited to support change than many teachers with parents on average having higher levels of skills than teachers in all walks of digital age, digital literacy and active digital citizenship.

Recently published research by the Brookings Institute shows that there is a shift in beliefs about the goal of formal education towards social-emotional learning and learning to become a responsible citizen. The wish is there, and there are some actors, including Parents International that are ready, willing and able to overcome the most important barrier: the lack of training of and support for teachers.

On the International Day of Education 2022 we are offering partnership again. All education stakeholders committed to “Changing Course, Transforming Education” are welcome to join forces with us to widen the activist group wishing to make the New Education Deal a reality. There are several initiatives already, but there is room for much more. Our children’s and our world’s future is at stake.

To further this, Parents International is holding an event during the #LearningPlanet Festival in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 26 January “Enterprising education for fit-for-future results”. The introductory plenary session will be recorded and broadcast on YouTube, but it is still possible to join the rest of the workshop also in person by filling this form until midnight CET today (https://forms.gle/aP1UXqu384v7GjNp9 )

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