Education as a vector of change

Article, 26.09.2016

UNESCO's latest Global Education Monitoring Report reiterates the key role played by universal access to quality education in the pursuit of sustainable development. It recommends that school curricula be designed to teach students about contemporary challenges. Another priority lies in making lifelong learning possible. The SDC shares these principles, which guide its action.

Cover of the Global Education Monitoring Report 2016.
The Global Education Monitoring Report 2016 highlights the close relationship that has been established between education and sustainable development. © UNESCO

UNESCO’s latest Global Education Monitoring Report, which was published on 6 September 2016, delivers a clear message: education is a key factor in achieving truly sustainable development. Sustainable development represents a broad vision in which societies take responsibility for integrating their underprivileged members. It includes social, economic and environmental dimensions. The goal of universal access to quality education plays a fundamental role in this regard. Not only does education rely on progress in other fields of development (e.g. healthcare, hygiene, employment and the environment), it also contributes directly to these fields. 

This transversal view of education conveyed by the report corresponds to the approach taken by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which the international community adopted in September 2015. The SDC believes in it fully. The new “Education Strategy” that it is about to adopt aims to continue strengthening the link between education and the other vectors of development. 

Environmental awareness and reducing inequality

The UNESCO report is called “Education for people and planet”. One of its recommendations is for school curricula to put more emphasis on climate change and its effects and on the necessary energy transition. This will help people gain a better understanding and awareness of environmental challenges. The report, which contains a vast amount of useful information, provides an example of how this can be done. It describes a preschool programme in Botswana that teaches children about nature. The programme is based on the traditional knowledge of the indigenous San people: the students’ parents and other members of the community contributed to the curriculum. In addition, the classes are taught in the local language, which makes the learning process much easier. 

Reducing inequality is another major challenge. Here again, education is a key factor. Quality, universal education leads to a more egalitarian society. It helps limit the risk of violence and conflict, especially in fragile contexts (i.e. crisis-prone countries, or countries with an underdeveloped institutional framework). Conversely, greater gender equality can spark interest in school, as shown in a study on elected officials carried out in India. In that country’s 16 largest states, a 10% increase in the number of women being elected raised the percentage of students completing primary school by 6%. Countless young girls (and their parents) will draw inspiration from these women, who are willing to fight for what they believe in. 

Lifelong learning

Education does not only take place in school. The report also touches on the widespread belief today that education is a lifelong learning process. According to this belief, core skills (reading, writing, maths and using the internet – a necessity in today’s world) are not learned only at school. Alternative educational approaches must be developed to meet the needs of those excluded from the system, such as young people who never went (or wish to return) to school, those working in the informal sector, and certain ethnic minorities, including nomadic groups. 

Alongside the core knowledge that should be shared with as many people as possible, the report calls for constant improvements to vocational training programmes, so that trainees are better prepared to meet societal needs and find jobs. 

Focus on three projects

The SDC fully agrees with these ideas. When it comes to the challenges of education, the SDC has long been at the forefront of thinking at the international level, informed by pilot efforts and projects successfully carried out on several continents. 

In West Africa, for example, the SDC has been financing an extensive education programme for pastoralist groups across seven countries of the Sahel since 2012. Custom training modules were designed around the traditional educational system, which is based largely on urban professions. Breeders learn, for example, of the conflicts that may arise when their herds stray onto cropland.

Regional Programme for the Education and Training of Pastoral Communities in Cross-Border Areas, SDC project (fr)

Sahel communities learn reading, writing and arithmetic, video (fr)

In Mali, where nearly half of all children do not complete primary school, the SDC supports the creation of accelerated courses. These courses provide a way back to school for pupils who have been forced to interrupt their studies, in some cases owing to an outbreak of conflict. For nomadic groups in the north of the country, mobile schools are another solution. In such situations, teachers and school materials travel alongside nomadic communities as they move from one grazing area to another.

Good schools for all Malian children, SDC project

In the western Balkans, the SDC has long been a partner of the Roma Education Fund, which seeks to integrate Roma children in the education system as early as preschool. Major challenges remain (including that of pupils who are forced to interrupt their studies), but the initiative has delivered some significant results: from 2005 to 2015, 235,000 Roma children and youth and 375,000 sets of parents benefited from it.

The social integration of Roma children requires education, SDC project

Roma children discover the joy of learning, video (fr)

In the coming years, the SDC will further expand the resources it allocates to education and vocational training, with a particular focus on fragile contexts. To do this, it will deepen existing partnerships with the private sector in an effort to diversify funding sources.

Current projects

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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Improving nursing care for better health services

A nurse sitting in a treatment room.

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

In Bosnia and Herzegovina nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals. However, the potential offered by their proximity to local communities is underexploited. They are often responsible for administrative tasks rather than patient care and, with limited career prospects, many nurses are attracted by better working conditions in Western Europe. This is regrettable because nurses and the care they provide can be a gateway to better health services for people living in rural areas and marginalised communities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Health systems strengthening
Primary health care
Education facilities and training

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

CHF 5'125'000

Better training to facilitate the integration of youngsters in rural areas into the labour market

Three young Nigerien men walking through a plantation.

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

The SDC is committed to improving the education and vocational training system in Niger. Over 1.5 million young people living in rural areas currently have no access to education or vocational training. Their future ability to enter the labour market depends on good-quality basic education and vocational training tailored to their needs.

Country/region Topic Period Budget

Dosso and Maradi

Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Vocational training
Employment creation
Primary education

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021

CHF 14'500'000

Programme for Supporting Decentralised Management of Literacy in Benin (PAGEDA)

An adult literacy centre in a Fulani camp in the village of Goure Bene, municipality of Nikki, Borgou, 2014

01.01.2014 - 30.09.2020

The programme for supporting the decentralised management of literacy services in Benin (PAGEDA) aims to provide high-quality literacy programmes that will enable 30,000 people (50-50 gender split, with most aged 15-30), who are excluded from or have no access to the formal education system, to acquire life skills and fully exercise their rights. The programme also aims to address gender, age and regional disparities in relation to access to education.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Basic life skills
Vocational training
Employment creation

01.01.2014 - 30.09.2020

CHF 6'320'000

UN Joint Programme on Youth Employment

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2028

Cambodia is the most youthful country in South East Asia with more than 50% of the population below 25 years. The key challenge of Cambodia is to create decent and productive employment opportunities for new entrants to the labour market. With its contribution, SDC addresses the challenge by enabling young people to have access to skills and quality education and employment whilst promoting rightful and decent working conditions.

Contribution à l’organisation internationale de la Francophonie OIF

01.07.2019 - 31.12.2022

Conjuguant une double mission de diplomatie politique et de coopération, l’OIF donne corps à une solidarité et à une coopération actives entre les 84 États qui la composent. En soutenant la mise en œuvre du programme de l’OIF, la Suisse contribue au renforcement de la gouvernance démocratique, à la prévention des conflits, à l’accès à une éducation de qualité et à une croissance durable et inclusive en Afrique de l’Ouest, en particulier pour les femmes et les jeunes.

Promoting Market Oriented Skills Training in the Great Lakes region (PROMOST)

01.07.2019 - 30.06.2022

PROMOST contributed to increased employment and income generation in the Great Lakes region by providing access and enhancing quality of vocational training. Building on the achievements of the previous two phases, the third phase will focus on the sustainability of the interventions, on the labor market insertion of graduates and on the institutionalization of short-term training and apprentice-ships, thus permitting the phasing-out of Swiss contributions and the continuous increasing of national and regional commitments to professional skills education, especially in Rwanda.

Ifakara Health Institute: Scaling up of research results and innovations to maximize public health impact

15.06.2019 - 14.06.2022

Investment in health research and innovation in Tanzania is a national policy priority but receives irregular public support. This contribution aims to strengthen the Ifakara Health Institute, a successful research institution with Swiss roots, to improve its research impact at policy and community levels. The intervention will also bring together researchers and end-users in an innovation hub to identify livelihood challenges of youths and innovative approaches to address these. Private sector partnerships with Swiss innovators will be primary clients of the innovation hub.

Programme d’appui à la Qualité de l’Education (PAQUE)

01.04.2019 - 31.12.2022

La qualité de l’enseignement et de la formation est préoccupante au Niger et se traduit par des compétences très faibles des élèves. La contribution de la Suisse au Fonds Commun Sectoriel de l’Education et de la Formation, soutenue par un dialogue politique fort et le partage d’innovations promues par la Suisse, appuiera les réformes essentielles pour améliorer la qualité du système. Ceci facilitera les perspectives d’emploi des jeunes et contribuera à prévenir l’extrémisme violent au Niger.

Programme d’appui à la formation professionnelle au Tchad

01.03.2019 - 28.02.2029

Le système de l’enseignement technique et de la formation professionnelle (ETFP) au Tchad ne répond, en l’état, ni à la demande du monde du travail, ni à la demande sociale. En s’appuyant sur les orientations stratégiques nationales, la DDC développe un programme de FP inclusif – prenant en compte l’équité de genre, les déscolarisés et non scolarisés – et innovant car visant à diversifier une offre de formation adaptée au contexte et répondant efficacement à la demande du marché du travail, en particulier du monde rural.

Afghanistan Quality Learning (AQL)

01.03.2019 - 31.03.2023

Though it remains low, access to education in Afghanistan has improved significantly over the past decade. The low standard of education however is a serious problem and impedes the development of the country. Working through the competent directorates of the Ministry of Education, the project therefore aims at improving the quality of education. This, by strengthening methodology and subject specific knowledge and promoting community involvement for school improvements.

Accès aux populations vulnérables grâce au soutien au Service Aérien Humanitaire des Nations Unies (UNHAS)

01.01.2019 - 30.11.2024

L’UNHAS est le service aérien des Nations Unies qui appuie la mise en œuvre d’interventions humanitaires ainsi que du développement économique et social en faveur des populations les plus vulnérables et marginalisées du Niger. L'UNHAS facilite et sécurise au Niger l'essentiel des déplacements des agents des programmes respectifs, leur permettant de rejoindre les régions reculées du pays et leurs populations rapidement et en toute sécurité.

Contribution programme pour Enfants du Monde 2019 – 2020

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2020

L’ONG suisse Enfants du Monde (EdM) mène des initiatives participatives visant à améliorer la qualité de l’éducation de base et la dimension communautaire de la santé maternelle et infantile. S’inscrivant dans les poli-tiques publiques, EdM travaille sur la base d’approches développées avec ses partenaires locaux. Elles sont adaptées aux réalités sociales, culturelles, organisationnelles, politiques et économiques des pays d’intervention d’EdM en Afrique de l’Ouest, en Amérique latine et Haïti, ainsi qu’au Bangladesh.

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