In order to help countries scale their remote learning practices for the Covid-19 crisis, and in case of future pandemic lockdowns, UNESCO has launched a new coalition of private, public sector and international organisations. Consultants from KPMG, McKinsey & Company and IBM are among the first cohort of private sector coalition members.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at contributing “to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. In response to the school closures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, UNESCO has launched its new Global Education Coalition, as it seeks to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children and youth during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption.
At the height of the pandemic, more than 1.5 billion learners in 192 countries were affected by school closures. With 91% of the world’s student population is suddenly dependent on digital avenues to receive their lessons, UNESCO’s coalition seeks to support countries in scaling up their best distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk.
“Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Partnership is the only way forward. This Coalition is a call for coordinated and innovative action to unlock solutions that will not only support learners and teachers now, but through the recovery process, with a principle focus on inclusion and equity.”
Multilateral partners include the International Labor Organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees, The United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organisation, the World Food Programme, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and many more, all of which have stressed the need for swift and coordinated support to countries in order to mitigate the adverse impacts of school closures, in particular for the most disadvantaged.
The coalition also contains a number of private sector founding partners. Microsoft, GSMA, Weidong, Google, Facebook, Zoom and Coursera have collectively been donating resources and expertise around technology, notably connectivity, and capacity strengthening. At the same time, a number of the world’s largest professional services firms have also been supporting the coalition.
KPMG is one of the private sector founding partners, a move a release from the firm said would build on its “longstanding citizenship commitment to SDG 4 ‘Education and Lifelong Learning’ and its expertise as a learning provider.” At the same time, business technology expert IBM also confirmed it would be a founding partner, alongside top-tier strategy consultancy McKinsey & Company. Part of McKinsey’s role with the coalition also saw it partner with UNESCO to launch a toolkit to guide policymakers in their education responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.