Youth is more than the theme of the day; it’s the theme of the decade
On International Youth Day, this blog looks at the continued importance of keeping the spotlight on better skills development for young people.
In 2012, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report analysed the youth skills gap and reported that it had reached new highs in the wake of an extended global financial downturn. According to this specially themed Report, Putting Education to Work, 200 million young people had not completed primary school and lacked skills for work. This International Youth Day we must revisit this theme; it’s as relevant today as it was two years ago.
As International Labour Office (ILO) phrased it in their recent report on youth employment, ‘it’s not easy to be young and in the labour market today’. Reaching record levels, as many as 73 million young people worldwide were estimated to be unemployed in 2013. In addition to being unemployed, as detailed in our 2012 Report, over a quarter of young people are trapped in jobs that keep them on or below the poverty line. Deleterious patterns of high youth unemployment and underemployment, as well as a mismatch in skills for decent work are among the long term effects of the economic crisis, which continue to be seen in many parts of the world.
The number of young people experiencing the impact of slow economic growth is at an all-time high. Currently, they make up 18% of the population in developing countries; and constitute 12% of the population in developed countries. Large demographic bulges in the youth population are especially acute in the least developed countries. These patterns create an enormous demand for secondary education and relevant skill training. Given the stall in the reduction of out of school children in sub-Saharan Africa, as our latest paper with UIS showed, even more young people will enter the labour market without basic skills, and left ill-equipped to find secure, well-paid work.
This burgeoning crisis has not gone unnoticed. The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report was released at the same time as the calls to raise youth voices in policy discourse, and the extent of the skills gap became common parlance. The combination of these two factors resulted in youth having more influence, which they used to make it plain and clear in theUN-led My World survey that their top-priority for the post-2015 agenda was ‘a good education’; ‘Better job opportunities’ was their forth.
We are encouraged, therefore, to see the extent to which skills have made it into the latest list of UN and EFA development goals. These policy ambitions recognize lessons learnt from 2000-2015 period: first, an education that leaves young people with few or irrelevant skills to their name is not worth much; and second outcome-oriented targets, rather than input-related ones, are more powerful drivers of substantive policy reform.
The importance of these lessons for the youth skills gap can already be seen in several countries. Just last week, a new curriculum was announced in Nigeria, containing not only core subjects, such as Mathematics, English and ICT, but also trades such as fisheries, catering or welding. India is on the verge of creating a new department looking solely at skills development for youth. Pakistan set up a youth-skills development scheme this year, offering 25,000 training slots across the country. The pan-African Ministerial conference on youth skills development last month also concluded with three concrete goals regarding inter-regional cooperation to increase training opportunities for young people. Hot off the press is the news that the US are going to be investing $33 billion into Africa; money that would help set up new leadership centres and online training for tens of thousands of young entrepreneurs across Africa.
Today is International Youth Day. It’s a day when this subject must rise to the top of the news. It is also a day when we ask why this subject is not top of the news more often. As the international community creates a new set of post-2015 policy priorities, clearly articulated youth targets and indicators are urgent. Indeed, the skills gap will be the recurrent theme for many years to come.
If Faraday had no access to books at all, imagine what the world could have lost. Please help Inspiration Cafe get off ground so that societies in India without a library can have one and academic help for free. I have started a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com and if not with money, please help like and share the page so that our chances of meeting our goals can get better.
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A Broken System
Since I was a child I have had a deep conviction to make a difference. I have valued leadership, equality, social justice, environmental stewardship, and so much more. This is because of education. I started in the poorest district in Colorado, one of the worst funded education systems in the country. I finished in one of the lowest funded, 27J. I knew this throughout my life. I knew if I wanted to learn, I needed to go outside of my over crowded classroom. Not physically, but mentally. I spent my lunches and the 15 minutes before the bus came after school, in my teachers’ rooms. Through out high school I formed so many bonds with them, I was the living definition of, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This deep connection with my teachers made budget cuts tear on my heartstrings because I knew how much my teachers tried everyday. I knew they were making a difference because of passion, never their paycheck, but that didn’t make it easier. I struggled with the packed classrooms and I wasn’t even the one trying to manage them. I watched my school downgrade every year as more millions were cut and I thought once I graduated I would leave to never look back, but I was dead wrong.
I was in my freshmen year of college when I found out the bond to fund my hometown district failed. I sat in the corner of the dining hall, tears falling, with a fellow Prairie View grad. We knew how much our teachers did. I was a teacher’s aide every year, I was in Student Council, played and managed soccer, and saw first-hand the passion that pushed my teachers. I have seen some of the best teachers lose their jobs while worksheet teachers with no dedication, skid by every year, just like their students. I went from being a proud, involved Thunder-hawk to a disappointed, ashamed alumnus. After my first year of college I returned to my hometown with a plan on how to pass MillLevi 3A, the bond to fund our district. 3 attempted emails later I finally got a response from the superintendent about a meeting. I prepped a PowerPoint, an outlined plan, all backed up with data I spent personal time to find. I showed up with faith and hope to be completely shot down. I didn’t even get to open my presentation. I was told, “No. The polling says no.” Not even a chance for me to show all the hard work I put in with my limited free time.
I left that meeting, got amped up again with “Pass 3A 2.0 - Revised Plan.” Sent the email, no response. A year later, I still haven’t heard a word. The only things I’ve heard about the district is their failing grades provided by the state.
This is the Year of the Student. I have created, signed, and shared petitions because my name on a list of thousands will be more heard than my endless attempts to reach out to my own district as a citizen, alumni, and former aspiring educator.
I wanted nothing more than to teach high school English. I was happy with little pay, as long as I had a chance at making a difference in someone’s life like the many teachers who changed mine. Now, I have no desire. My plan has completely changed because the way I have seen administrations treat their committed teachers, and lack of passion for students. Their conviction seems to lie in power more than anything, and it was painfully obvious as a student who could see teachers immediately on edge as an administrator walked by. As experienced administrators get pushed out, inexperienced, power hungry rookies come waltzing in the door. Quite frankly, it is disgraceful.
No one has to say a word, the passion is being defeated by arrogance, and it’s written on the helpless faces of so many.
Disgusted. That is the only word that comes to mind when I think of my Alma mater. The place that inspired me to be a leader and follow my heart now inspires me to dedicate my whole being to fixing the broken system. No matter what it takes. I will follow a graduate degree in Education Policy and return to secondary education to reform it. Because if I have learned anything from seeing the management at district 27J, it’s that it needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the bottom up.
I send this letter in hopes it will inspire and evoke those sitting in positions of power, to dedicate themselves towards make a positive difference for students, teachers, and this community. I know some things are out of your hands, but conviction towards change, brings it and I hope that in your leadership positions you can devote yourself towards trying to make change like, and for, the many teachers who challenge and inspire students every single day.
In Respect to Our Future
More often than not, we hear sayings like; “the youth are the leaders of tomorrow”, “the youth are our future” and so on…I think a lot has been taken out of those phrases and we are now at a point where they have almost lost all essence and have little or no effect on most members of our generation. In writing this, I only hope to restore even a fraction of that essence to as many people as I am able to reach.
It is often said that the human mind is a most powerful tool, whose capabilities are limitless. In my humble opinion, I believe that this generation, this 21st century generation proves this theory more than any other before it. The amount of information shared between us and the rate at which it is decimated, processed and digested is utterly astonishing. Judging by the range of subjects we allow ourselves to indulge in these days from academics to the social media, movies, music, sports, celebrity lifestyles and a few other things that I’m ashamed to mention, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our brains perhaps have to do much more work than previous generations demanded from their brains. It is all very impressive, it proves that as humans, we are truly capable of just as much as we are willing to let ourselves do.
But at a point, we have to pause and ask ourselves what our true purpose in life is, what our goals and aspirations should be. We have to ask ourselves what kind of impact our lives and our brilliant minds are having on the larger society and what impact they should be having. Many of us today suffer from a common problem, referred to as Misplacement of priorities; the inability to differentiate between the less important and truly important things in life. In addition, many members of our generation have simply refused to share in the responsibility for the goings on in their societies. We feel so unperturbed by the real issues and we rather choose to bombard ourselves with worthless information and knowledge of little importance, which prove to be of no possible value to our “future”. Maybe this is the problem…. Are we so naive that we sit and wait for this “future” to come? Is it possible that we don’t realize that there is no set date for the “future” to arrive? Are we all sitting idly waiting for some big bang like event to set the “future” in motion? God forbid! Because if this is the case, then we are all nothing, but a worthless generation of meandering souls with pending expiry dates.
I think we all need a reality check, we need and I mean NEED to reevaluate our true potentials and re-prioritize our goals. Let us stop wasting our time on trivialities and unfruitful frivolities. Let us stop the self-deceit and start to see things and call them as they are, not as we wish they were. Leonardo Da Vinci said “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions” This world didn’t build itself; it took years of dedication from dozens of generations, young men and women like us. Our dreams are realizable but we need to go about achieving them in the right way. I don’t want ours to be the generation than let humanity down.
Go to School, graduate and get a Job
Many years back, what was prevalent amongst the advice of our parents was that, it is important to go to school. No doubt, education is very important in order to acquire required knowledge in diverse areas and for development. We were not only encouraged to go to school but motivated and given incentives to ensure we complete. I remember my parents used to tell me the importance of education which I also discovered as I grew up. In their words…“if you go to school, after you graduate, you will get a good job”. Ofcourse, this has been the experience of so many people however, it may no longer apply in this process.
One of the buzz words which is prevalent in development is ‘entrepreneurship’. You may have also met or read about people who are proudly entrepreneurs by profession. Entrepreneurs own their own businesses and live up to the risks involved in managing businesses. How can entrepreneurs then extend these opportunities for wider societal development impact while ensuring that their entrepreneurship targets are met?
Social entrepreneurs as defined by Ashoka ‘are individual with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems, it further mentioned that they are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change’. The youth make up more than 60% of the Nigerian population. Nigeria also has a large number of unemployed youth hence, the need for change in thinking and time to start getting innovative. The government makes promises in every sector for what they plan to do or provide as the case maybe however, will definitely not be able to cater for the whole population especially with the problem of good governance. Globally, there is general excitement at the discovery of a new way of doing things which demonstrates that innovation in development is crucial.
The world is yearning for social entrepreneurs who will not wait for the government of their country but step up their thinking for innovative ideas and solutions for wider societal good. So, as you go through school, while also allowing school to go through you, be open to other form of learning and ideas. This should be the thinking for today and advice to all energetic youth out there.
What do you think makes a good teacher?
Last year, our report showed that 250 million children aren’t learning the basics, whether they’re in school or not. This year, our report will look into why this is the case, and how teachers can help us fix the problem.
Join us as we start the debates via twitter using #teachandlearn and on facebook
everybody has a little “soul singer” inside - whether you are a painter, a musician, a writer, a builder, an executive … each of us has that light inside of us to share with the world - we overcome our obstacles and triumph, and go through more struggles only to become stronger than we ever believed we could be - and it makes us a testimony to the power of the human soul!
Let the haters go and show the world what you know - knowledge isn’t just what we learn in school - it doesn’t come from a degree or a diploma alone. It’s that innate knowledge that each of us has within us. You are born with it. It fuels your passion and makes you who you are….
My name is Alexandria Forsyth. I am writing on behalf of the International Youth Initiative Program (YIP), and on the behalf of youth worldwide. After studying for a year in University, I decided I needed something more out of an education and I applied to YIP.
In the most basic sense, YIP is 40 participants aged 19 to 25, from all over the world, living and studying together for one year, exploring how to change the world through developing themselves.
YIP is primarily concerned with strengthening the capacity of young people to take an active role in fostering positive cultural, social, environmental, and economic change that will benefit all sections of society.
Acknowledging the challenges presented by the current issues presented by the time and world in which we live, the culture of YIP is one of questioning complexity, rather than seeking simple ‘quick-fix’ answers to dynamic challenges. YIP provides a space that allows its participants to stay with their questions, however uncertain and uncomfortable it may be. Instead of mandating obscure or irrelevant educational requirements, YIP challenges its participants to explore deeply those questions that interlink the human being to the greater whole.
As a YIP alumni, I believe that this is one of the most relevant and important educational programs of our time. Because of this, I am writing to you now, asking you to join me in supporting this amazing initiative. YIP is striving to be one of the world’s first crowd-funded education programs. Our goal is to raise 1 million SEK ($155,210). In order to raise this money, we want to build a community of 1000 “YIP Friends” who donate an amount of 1,000 SEK ($155) every year. We all know that times are tough, and one-time donations of any amount help us out as well! This global network of YIP-Friends will make YIP financially resilient and community-supported. Your money will cover the educational costs of the program, which under Swedish law cannot be charged to students.
As we step boldly into an unknown future full of a convergence of crises, it is clear we need to find new forms to address these challenges in innovative, dynamic, and holistic ways. YIP is an education that provides young people with the opportunity to truly find the capacities necessary within themselves, and equips them with the tools to create the sustainable change necessary, as well as the ability to continually develop new tools as circumstances demand. By becoming a YIP Friend, you are saying yes to a new form of education, where youth are given the freedom to explore these capacities and tools.
Applications are also open for YIP 2013-2014! An opportunity not to be missed.
Thank you from all of us in the YIP network,
Please go here to donate, apply, or read more about YIP!
Sometimes it hurts
To look back at pictures
Where eyes are innocent
When they glimmer like crystal balls
The future can be anything
It’s all a surprise
We were only babies.
School enters your life
Friendships made but also destroyed
Experiences with others
The first taste of the rest of our lives
But we’re still too naïve to know of hurt
Curiosity controls our life
We were still young.
Enter Junior High
Dealing with cliques
Every day the drama and lies
They cause you to question friend from foe
Our hearts hurt
We were growing up.
Enter High School
We start to form the rest of our lives
With the choices we make
And the people with whom we communicate
Sleepless nights turn into blurry days
And friendships become challenging
We are no longer young.
High school gets no better
Every day we’re more exhausted
Questioning basic things like life and belief
We learn more about ourselves
As we gain individuality and freedom
Decide who we like and who we don’t
Our childhood is but a memory.
Finally we experience
Jobs and group projects
Friendships and love
We go to sleep tired and knowing less
But we wake up more in touch with the world
We never stop challenging who we are
For we have grown up.
A post-2015 youth perspective: It’s make-or-break time for education
I came across this picture on my Facebook timeline a couple of days ago. It captures very well the state of education in many countries, where government schools providing free education are inadequate and quality of education is extremely poor.
In India, where I live, the government is going berserk to enrol children in schools and higher education institutes but quality has suffered badly, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012 published by Pratham, a non-government organization. The enrolment rate has risen but so has the dropout rate. Over 75.2% of all children enrolled in Standard 5 in government schools could not do simple division problems.
Globally, 61 million primary school age children are still out of school. More than 56 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa aged 15-24 have not completed primary school. In Tanzania, of 48 schools assessed, not even a single student could pass the primary school exam.
Primary education is vital for the inclusive growth of a country – and the individual. If you haven’t got primary education – because there were no schools or you went to a school that was dreadful – you don’t have an initial platform to stand on. It is the chief source of social mobility but it is not accessible to astonishingly large proportion of the poor.
Education, one of the basic rights of an individual, has become a distant dream for many; “quality education” has become a niche product accessible only by the elite. This has resulted in an extremely high skill deficit especially in developing countries, creating social malaise.
The OECD projects that India will produce 24 million graduates by the end of this decade, however:
- an earlier survey by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) found that only 39.5% of all graduates in India were viewed as employable
- only 10% of graduates from business schools in India manage to get hired
- a study by Aspiring Minds showed that India produces more than 500,000 engineering graduates a year, but barely 3% of an assessed 55,000 graduates were viewed as ready to be employed without extra training.
The problem is not just in India or developing countries; Harvard Business Review estimates that by 2020, the worldwide shortage of highly skilled, college-educated workers could reach 40 million.. “Even America is neither producing enough college graduates to sustain a robust workforce, nor fulfilling its national promise of economic opportunity for all,” writes Daniel Greenstein.
There are more youth in the world now than ever before, and most of them are concentrated in developing countries. With less than two years to achieve the Education for All goals and the Millennium Development Goals, now is the time to start planning for Education Post 2015. The focus needs to switch to quality of education and skills training for youth that can lead to meaningful employment.
Two major steps are required post-2015:
- By 2030, all children and youth should complete primary and lower secondary education which enables them to meet measurable learning standards and acquire relevant skills so they may become responsible, productive members of society.
- Corporations should conduct an inventory of skills and create a detailed estimate of the kinds and amounts of skills they require. Based on these needs, they should conduct skills training programs, and diploma and certificate courses in partnership with government agencies.
Public-private partnerships and participation of youth in policy decisions regarding education and skills development should be the mantras for education post-2015. I agree with Pauline Rose that “Education needs its Bill Gates” but I would add that “Education also needs its Martin Luther King Jr” – education needs funds and equity.
Naim Keruwala was a member of the international editing team for the youth version of the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report. He is a project consultant (governance) at Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries & Agriculture, a core team member of YUVA Unstoppable and an alumnus of AIESEC.
Email: naimkeruwala@gmailcom | Twitter: @Naim_K
Imagine a society where being a teacher is equally amazing as being a doctor.
If teachers are just as much as doctors are. Imagine the quality of education in that society. Kids will strive to be a teacher and not choose careers based on predicted incomes and what their parents tell them is a ‘very good’ career. Some people today still have the attitude that ‘if nothing else goes to plan - they’ll settle and become a teacher.’ That is not an attitude you want the teachers of your children to have.
Imagine a society where teachers drive ferraris. Imagine the quality of education then.
You can always say, then people will become teachers only for the income, but if a career like teaching is regarded as as important as being a doctor then becoming a teacher will be just as hard, and then only the best people become one of the most important figures in your child’s world.
I know that there are flaws to this idea and that there are economical and political boundaries that won’t let this happen probably in my lifetime.
But just a thought.
Freedom to Decide One’s Life Path
Trust Youth for (a) Change
According to The Mo Ibrahim Foundation report titled African Youth: Fulfilling the Potential, the continental average age is 20 years old, but the average age of our African leaders is 62. Africa’s tradition of rule by the elders – some of whom, unfortunately, assert a right to govern in perpetuity presents a challenge for youth to influence their country’s leadership in some states. This disconnect due to a variety of cultural, religious and traditional beliefs, between us and our elders, hampers and makes it difficult to solve our issues together. Maybe, we are ‘threatening’ and our elders do not want our questions. How can we approach our leaders in a way that is non-threatening and amicable? One of the ways to do this, which Youth are increasingly recognising, is through meaningful intergenerational dialogue.
As a youth, I have started to question whether our leaders are listening to and including youth in policy decisions. No, I am not denying that we aren’t being consulted; instead what I experience is a once a year youth month celebration which serves as platform for input from youth, and then it is business as usual. This is not necessarily best practice inclusive decision-making. Youth groups are fragmented amongst the bigger structures of leadership and we exist as sub groups from exactly those structures that make resolutions for us. We are disjointed in almost every platform where decisions are made. How possible is it for us to push integration of youth and inclusive participation? We cannot always exist as just networks of youths or young individuals. How about a Youth Affirmative Action Policy? Is that idea too radical as well? We don’t want to be included because of our category, but because we have valuable knowledge and innovative ideas needed to bring about change.
The ideas and models that are being used for youth development are still the same as in the past, yet our priorities have shifted in many ways. Our leaders are doing the same things repeatedly, expecting different outcomes. There are examples of programmes such as Activate! Leadership and Public Innovation that capacitates youth at a local level then connect them together to reach a critical mass of action that can positively develop and drive innovation at a country level. Making us as youth relative to the conversations and structures and to push for reforms using innovative ideas and providing new approaches to the same old problems our leaders are trying to fix.
In South Africa, discourse on youth is increasingly negative. We are referred to as a ticking-time bomb. We are often told that we are disengaged. Headlines in some media describe our aggressiveness and frustration. While we are being described in our deficit over and over, there are actually youths in our communities trying their level best at changing their circumstances for themselves and those in their communities. Let us look at CNN heroes’ nominee Thulani Madondo, and many other youths like him across the continent. We have an abundance of success stories to celebrate. Our perception of ourselves and the positive change we can contribute are extremely positive. These success stories are indications that youth are ready to meaningfully participate when it comes to solving the issues that affect us the most. Is it not also an indication that Africa does have dynamic and powerful youths who can navigate through structures of power with the valuable new knowledge we have? Youth have been so instrumental in change and used social media as a tool to achieve social justice. Many examples from Tunisia’s Virtual Voices, Twestival and the Arab Spring are some of them.
There are important leaders from our past including Ashley Kriel and the youth of 1976, and we acknowledge them, but this is the youth of NOW. The awareness of struggle heroes as champions of change and the previous generation of youth who had the ability to defy large structures are still romanticised, as much as we envisage our contribution that we are about to make. We are bound to do things differently even if we consciously remember those from our histories; we seek new ways at solving our problems. We are reinventing ourselves and defining our own vision. We can learn from the past, we can learn from the previous generation, but not everything.
My proposed solution is that succession planning is made for younger leadership and that more spaces or enabling environments are created for intergenerational dialogue where youth can participate in decision-making processes. More importantly, that our leaders, governments, business, communities, trust us. Otherwise, we will never ever convince ourselves of the value we are to this continent.
Trust us for a change.
Africa’s most prized assets, Youth.