By Beatrice Thomas
Former US President makes keynote speech at Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai
Former US President Bill Clinton has called for a greater level of co-operation between the education sector and businesses and non-government organisations in a bid to improve access and quality of education across the globe.
In a keynote address Sunday on the first day of the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Clinton also described as a key issue equal opportunity education for girls as well as "other specific education populations" such as the disabled, immigrant and refugee populations.
For girls in particular, he said, educated women had fewer children, later in life and provided better pre-natal care and ultimately raised better educated children.
Clinton, who is honourary chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, which is one of the hosts
of the conference along with UNESCO and UAE MoE, said a survey of 1,000 global CEOs found constraints on available talent in areas of investment interest prevented them from pursuing opportunities.
However, for every $1 invested in education it provided $53 of benefit to an employer at the start a person's working life, he said.
"One of the things we need to do is to think more, particularly in poorer countries, developing countries, about how we can merge the education and training being done by business and NGOs with the work that the education system itself has to do," he said.
Hailing the role of the teacher as that which "matters the most", Clinton noted there were 100 million children in the world who never went to school and at least another 200 million more who went to schools with inadequately trained teachers and learning materials.
However, underscoring the importance of a quality education, he said young people without education were twice as likely to contract HIV/AIDS in countries where that was a problem.
"Young people who have education are far more likely to grow up to earn greater income, resist conflict and support democracy," he said.
"Individual, quality education is still profoundly important to get young people off to a good start in life."
Acknowledging that technology had a role to play in education, Clinton said the one laptop per child initiate, while exciting, was still unrealistic with too many children still without a laptop and unlikely to have access to such technology soon.
He said the goals of the conference to elevate education as a global concern, on par with poverty, health and climate change, were both laudable and critical.
However, he noted that the challenges were exacerbated in poorer countries where they often struggled to build a well-resourced education system.
Clinton discussed the challenges in South American nation, Haiti, which was taking steps to reform its antiquated child labour system, called Restavek' where families sold a child for as little as $40 a day to pay for education for their other children.
He also mentioned the role of the GEMS Foundation in Uganda where it was investing in a teacher training program.
"There a things that we can all do to make a real difference here," he said.
"So much needs to be done and no one and no single government can do it all, even no international institution can. Given the financial constraints on donors everywhere the ideal solution for every country that ought to be enacted and developed locally and then implemented and financed by somebody somewhere else is not going to happen overnight.
"That cannot be an excuse not to do what we know works if we have the ability to do it anywhere."
As the teacher is the most important factor, why do GEMS treat theirs so badly?