Advocating for Educational Transformation at the United Nations

By Daniela González, Enseña por México alumna
Enseña por México alumna Daniela González (right) and Enseña por México student and former Teach For All Student Leader Advisory Council member Paola Parra Leggs spoke on a panel on student leadership and transformational teaching

As part of the Our Common Agenda initiative, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, convened a Transforming Education Summit (TES) in response to the global educational crisis and with the goal of mobilizing political action, sharing ideas, proposing solutions, and promoting solidarity to transform education. This summit was held at the UN headquarters in New York from September 16-19 and I was proud to be part of the Teach For All network delegation that attended!

Eight students and teachers from four different countries – Mexico, India, Denmark, and the US – came together in New York City to attend TES alongside Teach For All global organization and network partner staff. Excitingly, we got to attend not just as listeners, but as panelists and speakers with a platform to share our ideas, experiences, and proposals with leaders from around the world, such as Keishia Thorpe, the 2021 Global Teacher Prize winner; Marwah Awartani, Palestine’s Minister of Education; Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa; and even Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia!

For us as teachers and students, this was a great opportunity to be part of educational transformation, which we all yearn for, and to share our perspectives from our roles in the classroom. This was very valuable, since the voice of those who are on the ground in schools and who know in a more detailed and specific way what kinds of transformations education urgently needs are not often considered.

Alongside Paola Parra Leggs, an Enseña por México student and former member of Teach For All’s Student Leader Advisory Council, I participated in the panel “Fostering Student Leadership and Transformational Teaching,” where we spoke with policy and education leaders to advocate for the importance of a new student-centered vision for education through transformational teaching. Paola spoke about her experience as a student and shared a proposal focused on the importance of generating a better socio-emotional support system for students, and I discussed the importance of fostering leadership in students and how crucial it is to let them actively participate in the design of learning experiences. After the panel finished, we received very positive feedback. Knowing that someone listens to you and is genuinely interested in what you have to share is truly incredible.

The other members of our delegation also participated in various panels and events, and on the last day of the Summit we all attended an event organized by The World's Largest Lesson, which provided a platform for students to share their innovative ideas and suggestions with some of the most influential leaders in education in order to reimagine the future of education and challenge leaders to make it happen. The students from our delegation all played key roles during the event. Godfrey (Teach For America) and Pragati and Shruti (Teach For India) participated as hosts of the event – very good hosts, by the way! – while Paola and Lykke (Teach First Danmark) proposed an initiative highlighting the power of preventive mental health interventions.

One of the most valuable things I learned from this whole experience is realizing how student leadership and voice, in partnership with teachers, can generate crucial changes in teaching and learning. I also realized how important it is that we let students lead and be active participants in shaping their own education and advocating for what they think is important.

Attending the Transforming Education Summit was an incredible opportunity to learn about ideas and proposals from people who have the same interest in common: quality education for all. Listening to the voices, not only of leaders from around the world, but also of my colleagues, generated in me an even greater interest in promoting these educational transformations and helping to improve the performance of students, since I am convinced that quality education is one of the first and obligatory steps towards  justice and true equality, regardless of our place of origin.

There are certain emblematic places where ideas take shape and then become real and turn into solutions. The UN is one of those places, and I am very grateful to have been part of this process that sowed the seeds of transformation of education.