According to American philosopher John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”. This fundamental role of education in shaping, nurturing and transforming the human condition is celebrated and recognized today, the International Day of Education. The theme of this year’s observance, “Changing course, transforming education”, brings into focus the urgent need for education systems to be reimagined in order to meet the rapidly changing demands of the 21st century, a critical task in the age of Covid-19.

Over the past two years, educational ecosystems have been pushed almost to their limits, as plans and policies were formulated and reformulated to facilitate access to learning amid the disruption of the pandemic. Stakeholders—principals, teachers, parents and the state—had to become focused, flexible and innovative, generating new and inventive ways of delivering the curriculum to ensure that children could enjoy one of their most basic human rights.

Even as transformation is being achieved in the delivery of education services, it is critical that change also take place in the content and focus of the instruction given, as education encompasses more—much more—than the pursuit or mastery of academia. I have long advocated for a total re-think of the education system to reflect the need for young people to be equipped not only with the relevant knowledge and proficiencies necessary for them to find decent work and contribute to the nation’s sustainable development, but also core values of volunteerism, patriotism, charity and public spiritedness.

A full and balanced education requires a healthy diet of subjects and activities geared towards producing all-round individuals who can take this country forward. Well-designed curricula should encompass academic, moral and civic lessons, imbuing children with wholesome attitudes, mores and principles, enabling them to understand their place in the world and their responsibility towards their fellow citizens.

On this International Day of Education, let us commit to changing course, transforming education so that our education system can produce well-rounded, fully developed, civic-minded people who are assets to their workplaces, communities and nation.