“There is only one thing in the long run more expensive than education: no education.” This insight from John F. Kennedy has recently become a sad new reality. According to UN information, school lessons have been at least partially cancelled for around 90% of all children and young people due to the coronavirus pandemic. And that surely comes at a price. But even before the pandemic, progress towards quality education was slower than required. If no additional action is taken, the UN estimates that 84 million children and young people will still be out of school by 2030 and some 300 million students will lack the basic numeracy and literacy skills necessary for success in life. This is because education is an essential and critical element in the advancement of a country and the people who live there. In fact, there is no doubt that education establishes the very basis of development.
Only people who can read and write, only those who know how computers work, who can tap into new knowledge and communicate, will be able to navigate the world of the 21st century. This applies to industrial countries where digitalisation has already become established in nearly all areas of life. But it also applies to developing countries. That is precisely where part of the development potential lies in the use of new technologies, for example in the energy sector or in efficiency gains like those being made in agriculture. Without training and education, without lifelong learning, it will be impossible to manage these types of advancements in efficiency and technology.
But the advantages of education go far beyond economic benefits. For example, democracies need informed electorates of citizens who can independently find facts and build their own opinions. Only then can they fulfil their intended role and participate in political processes. And finally, people benefit from good training – indeed “Quality Education” as SDG 4 calls it – at a personal level. Because it opens doors to new opportunities: professionally and personally, alone and with others. The value of education can thus not be overstated. Conversely, when educational opportunities are forfeited, the material and non-material losses are significant.
The promotion of quality education is a key area of German development cooperation. In 2022 alone, KfW has made a good EUR 435 million in new commitments, that contribute to the achievement of SDG 4. They thus highlight KfW's view that education is invaluable in every situation and should not be neglected, especially when circumstances become difficult. The fact that there was no alternative in pandemic times should be viewed as an exception and only confirms the rule. In the future, the global community must continue to work resolutely to ensure that Corona does not create a "lost generation" and that educational opportunities are equally available to all.