Global Movement Calls for Increased Investment in Education to Avert Catastrophe

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Education must be part of stimulus packages and education budgets must be protected.


An unprecedented global coalition of organizations called for urgent investment in education today to prevent a generational catastrophe. Launching a joint white paper at the Global Education Meeting hosted by UNESCO, the Save Our Future campaign – a movement of the biggest education multilaterals in partnership with over 600 civil society organizations, research organizations, foundations, media, youth, and influencers – put forward an evidence-based roadmap with concrete recommendations for governments to reimagine education systems post-COVID-19.


Ninety percent of students in all countries and continents – nearly 1.6 billion school children and youth – had their education disrupted at the height of pandemic lockdowns, marking the greatest disruption of education in history. With the catalytic impact education has across health, jobs, income growth, climate change, poverty reduction, and social justice, the next generation faces devastating consequences if this education emergency is not addressed.

Despite the dire and known social and economic impacts of this fast-growing education emergency, there is imminent risk that governments will deprioritize investments in education as they make short-term fiscal responses to the pandemic. This means that low- and lower-middle-income countries could face an annual financing gap of about $200 billion. If governments and development partners do not invest in education urgently, this crisis could turn into a catastrophe from which millions of children may never recover, particularly marginalized vulnerable children and adolescents, including refugees, girls, and children with disabilities.

The white paper—Save Our Future: Averting an Education Catastrophe for the World’s Children—recommends that governments and the international community commit to:

  • Protecting education budgets and targeting budgets to those left furthest behind,
  • Fully financing education as a key part of the COVID recovery,
  • Improving coordination and use of evidence to ensure education funding achieves maximum impact. The future of an entire generation is at stake. In addition, governments should also:
  • Prioritize safely reopening schools, resume delivering vital services such as health and nutrition to children, and protect the education workforce,
  • Transform education – making it more inclusive, engaging, and adaptive so that it can act as the engine of sustainable development desperately needed,
  • Strengthen the education workforce so that teachers and other professionals are equipped to enable learning and well-being for all children,
  • Focus education technology where it is proven to be effective and most equitable and avoid the risk that technology continues to exacerbate inequality.

This is a defining moment for the world’s children and young people. The opportunity to reimagine and reboot education must be seized in bold ways, developing a new vision for children in the decade ahead. This cannot wait.



View Quote Sheet from Save Our Future Partners. 

  • “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new reality that necessitates a rethinking of education delivery, with technology coming into sharp focus as an enabler to such a delivery. Today more than ever before, no learner should be left behind. Addressing the challenge of delivering quality education equitably and inclusively, requires out-of-the-box ideas, strategies and partnerships, least of which is the deployment of a multipronged approach as one solution does not fit them all.” Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)
  • “We have learned from past crises that children at highest risk who are missing out on education may never return to the classroom. We cannot allow this to happen as a result of the pandemic. As we build back we must view educators as among the first responders and focus financing on the children who are being left the furthest behind. Let’s enable a better future for all by ensuring equity and inclusion through the provision of quality education.” Mary Joy Pigozzi, PhD, Executive Director of Educate A Child, a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation
  • “For millions of vulnerable children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters, COVID-19 is another crisis upon already existing crises. For a young child or adolescent, it is easy to lose hope. As the global community works together to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we must remember that access to an education is one of the very last hopes for any child and young person enduring a protracted crisis. We must put education of millions of crisis-affected girls and boys at the center of our efforts. If we fail to immediately protect their right to a quality education and the safety, hope and opportunity it provides, post-crisis recovery will not take off, but will remain a mere wish. Let us deliver on their hope and build back better.” Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait
  • “For understandable reasons, the lion’s share of emergency funding to fight the pandemic has so far gone to public health interventions and economic recovery. But, because it is so essential to every person on the planet – as well as to health, economic development and poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, gender equality, social justice and much more – education deserves a place alongside these priorities. Countries and international bodies must make education the center of the COVID-19 crisis response.” Liesbet Steer PhD, Director of the Education Commission The future of an entire generation is at stake.
  • “COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the fragility of education systems around the world. The global community must come together to address this crisis and ensure that our children’s learning is not a victim of this pandemic. To save our future, we must prioritize inclusive, quality education, so that children keep learning, no matter the circumstance.” Amel Karboul, CEO of the Education Outcomes Fund
  • Disrupted learning and losing the lifeline of school could permanently derail millions of children’s lives, especially the poorest girls. Reopening schools is not enough. We need to create stronger, more resilient education systems and find innovative ways to deliver quality distance learning, so that all girls and boys can reach their full potential and harness the opportunities of the 21st century. Investment in education must be at the center of pandemic recovery plans. Fully funded, GPE will help transform education systems so that they serve the most vulnerable children who have been hit hardest by COVID-19.” Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education
  • “Alongside the Covid-19 health crisis, we are facing a global education emergency. Without an urgent international response, that emergency will rob millions of the world’s most deprived children of the hope and opportunity that comes with learning. This White Paper provides an antidote for the learning crisis. It is a call to action for children.” Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children UK
  • “When education is in danger so is our future. It’s in our hands to make sure that young generations are not excluded from their right to education because of the global health and economic crisis but rather empowered with inclusive, quality learning to act for a more sustainable and peaceful future.” Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education
  • “COVID-19 related disruptions to education systems around the world will have a particularly devastating impact on refugee communities and on refugee learners. Data analysis between UNHCR and the Malala Fund found that half of all refugee girls who are in secondary school – already just 25% of that age group – may never set foot in a classroom again after COVID. Within global and national protocols for safe school re-opening, restarting education for refugees and other vulnerable populations is crucial. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the explicit inclusion of refugees in national plans, budgeted response plans and programmes to enhance the quality of education – both in response to COVID and in the long term. Education is consistently prioritized by refugee children and their parents and we have a duty to provide it.” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • “COVID-19 has exposed deep inequalities in how children learn, the tools available to them, and the investments made in their education,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “This is a child rights crisis. The longer it goes on, the deeper these inequalities become. Business as usual is not an option. We need an urgent commitment to keep children at the centre of all decisions on the safe reopening of schools. We also need new, fast and scaleable ways to deliver quality education remotely.” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director
  • “Since April, around 370 million children have missed out on meals and essential health services due to school closures. Without school acting as a gateway for families to access health and nutrition programmes, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for millions of the world’s poorest children. If we’re serious about building a more inclusive and resilient education system for future generations then ensuring good health & nutrition is critical. We need to invest in learning AND the learner to ensure a whole generation of the most vulnerable children are not left behind.” David Beasley, Executive Director UN World Food Programme
  • “Even before COVID-19, more than half of all children in the developing world couldn’t read a simple passage by age 10. The pandemic has sparked a crisis within that learning crisis. The disruption of societies and economies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating the pre-existing global education crisis and impacting education in unprecedented ways. Without concerted, aggressive action to help today’s children recover and improve foundational literacy and numeracy skills, they will suffer lifelong scars, leaving school earlier and earning less throughout their lifetimes. But we can act: we know how to turn this around, if we just heed their call to ‘Save Our Future.’” Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education, World Bank
  • “As a record number of children and youth are affected by school closures and governments face serious economic challenges, we need to remind ourselves that education is the most powerful investment in our shared future, and should be a fundamental pillar of global and national responses to the pandemic. Decisions taken in the next few months will be pivotal in enabling or hindering the children of today to secure meaningful employment and have the skills and knowledge they will need to solve the many future world challenges. Now, more than ever, we have a shared responsibility to rebuild a future in which all children can engage in meaningful learning experiences, allowing them to flourish and acquire the skills they need to be productive, lifelong learners. We MUST build back better for ALL children as they are the future. The LEGO Foundation is honoured to support the Save our Future campaign which invites all of us to both protect and reimagine education in a post-COVID world.” John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation

White Paper Highlights

Education faces a triple threat:

  • 90% of children in the world have had their education interrupted due to COVID-19. This means that vulnerable children are missing out not only on education but also on vital services such as nutrition and health.
  • Budgets for education are at risk of being slashed due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 and this could lead to a huge funding gap of almost $200 billion per year for low- and middle-income countries.
  • These COVID-19 impacts are hitting an education system that was already in crisis: even before the pandemic more than half of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries were not learning to read a simple text.

This White Paper, issued as part of the Save Our Future campaign, sets out priority actions to deliver changes in the coming 6-24 months in order to avert an education catastrophe.

In light of the scale of the crisis, the paper focuses primarily on education from pre-primary to secondary and in particular on those children who are most left behind, including children who live in locations where the vast majority of children are not learning, as well as children from marginalized groups. It includes children who are out of school and those who are enrolled in school but learning very little.

Download the full paper here

Download the executive summary here

Download the cheat sheet here

Download the press release here

Download the quote sheet here

Background Papers

This paper is based on a thorough analysis of the evidence and has been informed by a series of background papers developed by working groups consisting of 200+ experts from a wide range of organizations, geographies, and disciplines.

Download Background Paper 1: Education in Crisis
Download Background Paper 2: From Schooling to Learning for All: Reorienting Curriculum and Targeting Instruction
Download Background Paper 3: EdTech and COVID-19 Response
Download Background Paper 4: Strengthening the Education Workforce and Creating Learning Teams
Download Background Paper 5: Unlock Education for All: Focus on the Furthest Behind
Download Background Paper 6: Turning Education Systems into Learning Systems

TWEET ME: Investment in #education as part of #COVID19 recovery will avert a generational catastrophe. This and more in new @SaveFutureNow paper:



About the Save Our Future Campaign

Save Our Future is a global movement of diverse voices uniting to amplify the voices of children and young people as they deliver a simple, yet powerful message amidst the COVID-19 crisis: Save Our Future. The campaign seeks to ensure that: all children and youth to continue to learn during lockdowns through inclusive distance learning; every child and youth is supported to return to school when it’s safe to do so; and governments and donors invest in education now so we can build better, more inclusive, and resilient education systems for the future.

Save Our Future is led by a core hub of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, the Asian Development Bank, BRAC, Education Above All, Education Cannot Wait, the Education Commission, the Education Outcomes Fund, the Global Partnership for Education, Save the Children, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the World Food Programme in partnership with over 600 organizations and youth.


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