I am the product of a very bold leadership decision. The first president of Tunisia, Bourguiba, who came into power in 1956, decided to invest an expanded portion of the country’s GDP into education. Many people protested – after all, what use could schooling be to a population without running water, roads, or electricity? Bourguiba’s priority was free, high-quality education for every Tunisian child.
Today, the world requires similar bold, education-centered leadership.
We are in an educational crisis, and it is worse than we previously thought. Rather than making progress, we have been backsliding. The number of primary out-of-school children has increased by 7 percent since 2010; twice as many girls as boys will never start school, and multilateral aid for education has fallen over the past decade. Should current trends continue, by 2030 more than half of the world’s children will either not be at school or will acquire such limited skills that they will be utterly unable to compete in a job market that is becoming increasingly automated. By 2050, GDP per capita in low-income countries would be almost 70 percent lower than it would be if all children were learning. What is more, the number of lives lost each year because of lower levels of education would equal those lost today to HIV/AIDS and malaria, conflict will be on the rise, and, in turn, we will continue to face unprecedented migration.