According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, during the adolescent years it is formal education which is “the most effective base for developing learning and life skills” (United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011a, p. 54). Furthermore, while the number of adolescents outside the formal education system – just under 74 million in 2008 – has been declining, there are large regional variations. Secondary education suffers from particularly high levels of global inequality. Most rich countries are close to universal secondary school enrolment, while developing countries lag behind (ibid.).
Although access to formal education is extremely important, it is equally important to focus on quality; how effective it is. This is particularly significant in the increasingly skills-based global economy, where “higher [secondary/tertiary/vocational] education systems play a vital role in skills development” (ibid.). Unfortunately, here too, there are large global inequalities, and some of the gaps are widening. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011 states that, “Access to tertiary education is expanding more rapidly in richer than in poorer countries. Left unchecked, this development is likely to have major implications for future patterns of economic growth and globalization” (ibid.).
Indeed, the Africa Youth Report 2011 (United Nations, Economic Commission for Africa, 2011) emphasizes that, “A critical analysis of the current education situation in the region has led stakeholders to believe that there seems to be an overemphasis on enrolment numbers rather than attendance and the relevance of education.” This sentiment was also echoed by the majority of the participants in the e-discussion on youth employment.
High-quality multi-faceted education has a positive impact on decent jobs. This was highlighted at the 7th Youth Forum of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held in Paris from 17 to 20 October 2011. The 7th UNESCO Youth Forum final report (United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2011b) acknowledges the correlation between practical education and ever evolving employment needs, whereby a recommendation for Education, no. 8, states:
“In response to employment challenges, we strongly encourage Member States to expand the scope of education by including entrepreneurial skills and training
opportunities, and intergenerational partnerships for youth aligned to rapidly changing labour market needs, particularly in non-traditional fields, such as e-learning.”
Furthermore, the Young Foundation encouraged readers to look past the headlines and take the time to listen, understand and act. A representative of the Foundation, Gemma Rocyn-Jones, reported that:
“The key recommendations of [a 2011 publication] - The Way to Work: young people speak out on transitions to employment [(Kahn, Abdo, Hewes and others, 2011)] were echoed…in a report on global unemployment trends by the International Labour Organization. This has called for education and training to improve its relevance to labour market needs and for broad-based partnerships between everyone who plays a role in a young person's transition to employment, including employers. Perhaps it is time for everyone to move past the headlines, stop talking at each other and start listening so that expectations and aspirations can become aligned” (Rocyn-Jones, 2011).
Indeed, this call was further echoed by participants on the e-discussion platform: let us start listening and collaborating in a meaningful way…