Calls to gear up schools for the 21st century are ubiquitous today. Dominant international educational discourse hails the potential of 'the youth dividend' and digital technology for enhancing growth. Some Asian education systems are held up as models for an innovation-led utopian future. But across much of Asia, neither the reality of schooling nor the patterns of development with which it is associated give cause for blithe optimism.
This study is informed by UNESCO’s commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through educational reform worldwide. Since its inception, UNESCO has championed a humanistic vision of education — a vision today encapsulated in SDG 4.7. These ideals need to be strongly restated and defended in an era when educational debate worldwide has come to be framed by a narrowly economistic and instrumentalist agenda.
Deriving urgent significance from this broader context, the present report analyses how far the ideals of SDG 4.7 – of 'education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship' - are embodied in policies and curricula across 22 Asian societies. At one level, it seeks to develop benchmarks against which future progress can be assessed. It also argues forcefully that conceptions of the fundamental purposes of schooling need to be reconfigured, if the ideals to which the global community has subscribed are actually to be realised.