Incheon, Republic of Korea

19 May 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at the World Education Forum on "Sustainable Development Goals and Education" [as delivered]

Thank you all for coming to this important World Education Forum.

I am especially grateful to the Korean Government and President Park for hosting this forum on education.

We are very proud that this Forum is being co-convened by seven United Nations agencies. I want to thank my United Nations colleagues for their leadership.

This shows how education cuts across our global agenda.

The Republic of Korea is the only nation in the world that moved from the list of least developed countries to the OECD, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

There is one word that explains how: education.

When I was a child in wartime Korea, we were constantly told to study hard.

That was the only way to invest in our future – and it worked.

Everything I am, I owe to education – including textbooks donated by the United Nations agencies UNESCO and UNICEF.

Every child deserves that global solidarity.

Studies show that one dollar invested in education can generate up to fifteen dollars in economic gain.

If all students in low-income countries learned basic reading skills, more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

Education is not a privilege; it is a birthright.

The Millennium Development Goals rightly focused on education. Primary school enrolment is more than 90 percent.

My Global Education First Initiative aims to improve the quality of learning and foster global citizenship.

This Forum will set a new course for education as the United Nations prepares to adopt a bold agenda for sustainable development at our Summit this September in New York.

Nearly seven and a half million people who took our MyWorld Survey online said education is their priority concern.

We need to listen to this call.

Education is a powerful weapon to fight security threats, including the rise of violent extremism.

The terrorists know this. That is why they keep attacking schools, like in Garissa, Kenya and Peshawar, Pakistan. They target girls with books, like Malala Yousafzai and her friends as well as the girls in Chibok, Nigeria. We never forget their struggle.

Students in danger zones have the courage to keep going to school despite the threats.

We have a collective responsibility to reply to their bravery by raising our voices for their rights.

That will make the world safer for everyone.

It is unjust that 57 million school age children are out of school. 

We cannot call this world prosperous if it is too poor to educate its children.

I urge action to focus on girls and women, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and children living in conflict-affected areas, rural areas and urban slums. I also call for school curricula and activities that promote gender equality.

Education must do more than produce individuals who can read, write and count. It must nurture global citizens who can rise to the challenges of the 21st century.

At any age, people can learn.

Let us give them the chance – so that we can all create a new future.

Thank you.