The United Nations recognizes education as ‘a human right, a public good and a public responsibility’, proclaiming 24th January as the International Day of Education, to commemorate the essential role of education for societal and economic development.

Education, and the accumulation and sharing of knowledge, has been central to the evolution of humankind. Today, in many countries, basic education is perceived not only as a right, but also as a fundamental responsibility of the government to ensure access to for all.

Yet, despite advancements made over recent decades, the facts are undeniable: as a society, we need to do more. Latest figures from UNESCO reveal:

  • 258 million children and youth still do not attend school;
  • 617 million children and adolescents cannot read or perform basic mathematics;
  • Less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school;
  • Circa 4 million children and youth refugees are out of school.

Accessible education is pivotal to achieving sustainable development and plays a crucial role in supporting the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States. Failure to provide inclusive access to education takes us a step further away from breaking the poverty cycle that is gripping economies across the globe.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Education is ‘Learning for people, planet, prosperity and peace’, a celebration – and reminder – of the role of education, as it ultimately enables humanity’s ultimate renewable resource: the human race.

This year, Community Jameel, a global philanthropy, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Abdul Latif Jameel-Toyota Endowed Scholarship program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Established in 1994, the program was perhaps one of the earliest commitments to our pioneering education as a key development area. Over the past 25 years, more than 180 students from 28 countries have completed undergraduate studies at MIT through the Jameel-Toyota Scholarship. Many alumni Scholars have gone on to establish successful careers in business, academia and industry, in the US and in their home countries.

Speaking at the anniversary event, held earlier this year, L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, said:

“Through the leadership and vision of the Jameel family, the Jameel-Toyota Scholars come to MIT to fulfill their potential. While they are here, they enrich the MIT community with their ideas, energy and talent—and as they move on to successful careers and graduate studies, they use what they learned here to empower communities and improve people’s lives around the globe.”

In 2017, Community Jameel and MIT co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL).  J-WEL was inspired with the aim to spark a global renaissance in education for all learners and to serve as an incubator for change in education at MIT, and around the world.  Its approach is to bring together educators, technologists, policymakers, and society’s leaders to address global challenges in education through online and in-person collaborations, workshops, and conferences.

In 2018, J-WEL and MIT went on to announce a major initiative tackling strained education systems across the Middle East, working with Save the Children’s global education team to strengthen the capacity of teachers.

J-WEL, drawing on support from MIT and Community Jameel, and Save the Children experts spent more than a year developing a high quality, coordinated, teacher professional development program that addresses both teacher well-being and teaching quality for those in need of additional support. The ambition for the collaboration between Save the Children and J-WEL is to deliver a pilot program that can then be adapted and scaled in other emergency contexts.

Speaking about the initiative, Hassan Jameel, President of Community Jameel Saudi Arabia, affirmed the commitment to transforming education across the Middle East, commenting:

“Community Jameel sees education as a tool for people to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.”  

Fady Jameel, Deputy President and Vice Chairman, Abdul Latif Jameel International and President, International of Community Jameel, said:

“Education and learning are fundamental to a strong society and economy.  They promote employment and create increased opportunity for all, driving positive societal change and economic sustainability.”

As efforts across the globe continue to emphasize the pivotal role of education in economic and societal development, we are proud to be part of this global movement for change.