Education is indispensable in strengthening the bonds that hold communities and societies together.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 12.44.52The GMR is based at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and, while none of the Report team was directly affected by the weekend’s tragic events, a black mark has been left on us all. The impact is felt even more as the attacks follow so swiftly after other acts of ruthless violence affecting innocent people going about their daily lives in Beirut, and in Sharm El-Sheikh.

As a team we are more determined than ever to continue in our work in identifying barriers to progress in global education, and advocating for education’s place in helping to shape more peaceful and inclusive societies. We know that education helps people understand democracy, promotes the tolerance and trust that underpin it, and motivates people to become active inquisitive citizens. We are even more energised to ensure that education’s vital role is recognised, especially in regions and countries where lack of tolerance is associated with violence and conflict.

The GMR 2013/4 showed that education is a key mechanism for promoting greater understanding and mutual respect. In Latin America, the research showed that people with secondary education were less likely than those with primary education to express intolerance by 47% for people of different race, 39% for people of a different religion, 32% in the case of homosexuals and 45% towards those with HIV/AIDS.

In the Arab States, people with secondary education were also less likely than those with only primary education to express intolerance towards people of a different religion.

Gypsy children and Romanian children study together in a school near Bucharest. Credit: UNESCO/PETRUT CALINESCU
Gypsy children and Romanian children study together in a school near Bucharest. Credit: UNESCO/PETRUT CALINESCU

In Central and Eastern Europe, where intolerance towards immigrants is a cause for concern, those with secondary education were 16% less likely than those who had not completed secondary education to express such intolerance.

Education increases the likelihood that citizens will make their voices heard in other ways than violence, such as signing petitions, boycotting products or taking part in peaceful demonstrations. In Turkey, those with a secondary education are twice as likely as those with a primary education to participate in a peaceful demonstration.

Increasing access to school for all generally reduces feelings of injustice in society that have fuelled many conflicts. But it needs to increase equally for all population groups; otherwise, perceived unfairness can reinforce disillusionment and injustice as shown at length by the GMR 2011 Report. Skills need to match market needs or the ‘waithood’ between education and work can boil over into frustration as many believe was the case in the Arab Spring, and as was investigated in the GMR 2012. We must advocate for an education that does not reinforce violence, intolerance and that can help overcome language barriers. Attacks like those this past week should serve as a potent reminder of the depth of importance behind providing a quality education equally and for all.

The post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda seeks to “foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence.” It envisages a world of “universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity…a world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation.” An entire new global goal is dedicated to the importance of equity. As a team we share such values, and such a vision. Education is – and should be — a cornerstone of such a transformed world.




  1. Never before has lifelong learning held such significance to me as a term. We are learning all the time, and no more than when faced with seemingly impossible challenges such as ISIS. We must teach ourselves again the values of respect, dignity and brotherhood. We must revisit what we thought was ok, as it most obviously was not.

  2. What do we know about populations which have become more educated but still do not have opportunities for economic sustainability or establishing a sense of belonging with their broader community? Does this happen? What variables are we considering?

  3. I cant agree more with the findings mentioned supra. However we need to deploy a mode of education delivery that enables us to access all and sundry. We still have millions of people who remain unreached with education because of the elitist mode of education that the world has chosen to largely use. With the use of Open and Distance Learning many more people would be accessed and enabled to benefit from education. They would also become part of the noble course to a more tolerant, creative, civilised and self-sustaining society

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