Our focus moving forward
Globally, as we work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it is becoming increasingly clear that education is the center point of action. Education is vital so that the young people can gain decent employment, inequalities can be reduced, poverty and hunger can be eradicated, gender equality can be achieved and our environment can be preserved. We can be really proud that over the past decades, the Commonwealth has seen substantial improvements in our education infrastructure with reduced teacher – student ratios, clear learning outcomes and objectives as well as the increased standardization in the methods of assessing learning outcomes. However, our destination where no child is left behind and are provided the opportunities, resources and education required to gain decent employment is yet to be achieved. We need to focus our attention of three main areas- Accessibility, Sustainability and Quality
As our standards of living rise, there is a spike in the demand for higher education as more young people recognize and appreciate the value of it. Funds must be matched to improving the quality of colleges and universities and teachers have to be maintained at a standard of excellence. Our education systems need to ensure that young people are equipped with the necessary skills so that we can contribute to the skilled labor force and a knowledge based economy. What we learn in schools and colleges need to be transferable to our workplaces and in our daily lives so that we can make that smooth transition after we graduate.
Our curriculum needs to be rapidly evolving to match the leapfrog in technological advancements, to ensure that students remain competitive and relevant as they graduate. Youth skills such as critical thinking and analysis, problem solving, learning to grapple with failure and using our resilience as a trampoline to spring back up to keep moving forward is essential for our success. We also need to equip ourselves with soft skills like leadership, teamwork, communication and empathy so that each one of us can give back to someone else who has less.
The CSA looks forward to working with different stakeholders of education to address the issues on rising tuition fees so that no talented young person is denied his or her right to higher education because of the inability to pay. A safe learning environment needs to be provided for young women and girls so that they do not have to worry about compromising their dignity or safety in the quest for knowledge. It would otherwise be a huge loss for the Commonwealth if we are not able to fully tap into the talent pool of women and benefit from their skills and knowledge. It is time for our youth to reclaim their rights to equitable, high-quality education.
Interconnectedness of Different Education Stakeholders
While we understand the importance of education, it is important to ask ourselves a simple question- who is responsible for ensuring that our young people are well educated and are equipped with the necessary skills? Students? Teachers? Professors? Education Ministers? Presidents? At different levels, the various groups would point to the other groups shifting the accountability away.
But when we look at education as a whole, we can imagine this as an intricate spider web, where all the stakeholders and partners of education are strongly interconnected. The failure of any sector to deliver will result in the disassembling of this spider web. It is very intuitive that students are the primary consumers of education and should, therefore, be heavily involved in policy formulation.
The Role of NSOs
National student organizations have a good deal of potential power and influence. Activism within a students’ organization can facilitate the development of transferable employability skills, campaigning for gender equality and reduction of tuition fees.
So we, as the students are critical in influencing our future. A well-developed, established and structured national student body is essential in representing our voices, our needs, concerns, and feedback to decision makers. We need to know the importance of student voices and that we can bring about the change that we wish to see. It is a matter of concern that only half of our member states have NSOs of which, only half of them have regular interaction with ministers and governing bodies.
We need to make sure that we are actively involved with our national leadership. However, at times the general consensus could be that students are too young and immature to be part of policy making and decision making. So we also need to prove ourselves as young people that we should be and are deserving of a space at the decision-making table and not just looked at as tokenistic organizations. We need to do our research, be able to draft policy papers and provide our suggestions taking the best interest of students into account and clearly articulate our expectations.
The CSA will become the link between governments and decision makers where we advocate for student voices at the decision-making table as well as ensure that students have the capacity and are deserving to sit on the decision-making table.