Global Campaign for Education breaks world record for World's Biggest Ever Lesson

Published: 25 April 2008

7.5 million children, adults, teachers joined politicians in over 100 countries to learn about the importance of everyone having the chance for a quality education.

More than 7.5 million children, adults, teachers and campaigners took part in the Global Campaign for Education's "World's Biggest Lesson." The world record for the largest simultaneous lesson in history has been broken already – and the numbers are still coming in. The World's Biggest Lesson focused on providing a quality basic education to everyone especially the 72 million children and 774 million adults who are currently missing out. All over the world politicians and ministers went back to school, were taught the lesson by children before being asked what they planned to do to make sure everyone gets a quality education.

The Global Campaign for Education is still collecting verification forms from around the world, but an early count shows that the World Record has been broken. The total attempting the record is at least seven and a half million people. The country with the highest recorded count is Bangladesh, with 2.5 million people taking part in over 25,000 different locations across the country. Millions also took part in lesson in Vietnam and in an impressive campaigning effort a million took part in the lesson in the Palestinian Territories. 

Celebrities, Heads of States, and Officials took part in the lesson across the world, with the highest profile being Colombian singer and Grammy award winner, Shakira. She sought international attention as Honorary Chair of Global Action Week, both on a media call with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and as she lobbied Congress with students in Washington.

"I find it so inspiring that there are so many young people who care so deeply about the rights of all children to go to school that they would bring about this global movement," said Shakira.

Amongst the impressive list of others to take part in the World's Biggest Lesson were Papua New Guinea's Head of State Paulias Matane, Afghanistan's Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masuood, Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, Mozambique's Vice Minister for Education, the Netherlands Minister of Development Co-operation, Bert Koenders and Turkmenistan's Deputy Minister of Education, Ms. Gulshat Mamedova.

"The most promising reason to believe that the world will achieve its goals of Education for All by 2015 has been the emergence of strong civil society movement and this mobilization of millions of children, women and men during the Global Action Weeks each year," noted Kailash Satyarthi, GCE President. "We will not fall silent until we have ensured quality education for all." 

"One in four women in the world are illiterate. It's not right, and it's not just. The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) has been demanding an end to this injustice since 2000," noted Muleya Mwananyanda, GCE Action Week Coordinator.  "By having legislators and government leaders join in the World's Biggest Lesson, we are challenging them to share with us what they are doing to ensure others get educated, and have the opportunities to be sitting where they're sitting now."

The World's Biggest Lesson was the highlight of the Global Campaign for Education's (GCE)'s Action Week which is taking place 21st – 27th April. Every year civil society across the world takes part in this week that pressures all governments to keep their promises and meet the Education for All goals, which were signed up to by 164 governments in Dakar in April 2000. With the phenomenal success of the World's Biggest Lesson, 2008 has seen the biggest Action Week since the beginning of the Global Campaign for Education in 1999.

Highlights of the 'World's Biggest Lesson' from around the world included:

Argentina - A group of young people between 16 and 19 years from schools in the City of Buenos Aires and the province of Buenos Aires met with national senators at the National Congress of Young Students.  They gave the lesson to Senator Inés Osuna of Entre Rios Blanca, and Fernando Daniel Filums of the City of Buenos Aires.

Bangladesh - The number of people counted so far is 2.5 million, and reports are still coming in. The lesson was held in more than 25,000 centres around Bangladesh with people from all walks of life taking part alongside leaders, local elites and public functionaries who vowed fresh commitments towards establishing everyone's right to quality basic education and creating an enabling learning environment.

Brazil – Events across the country communicated the results of a recent consultation on quality education in Brazil to teachers, students and pupils.

Canada – A number of primary and secondary schools in the Toronto area hosted their Members of Parliament as they went back to school for the World's Biggest Lesson. A huge lesson was also held at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.

Denmark – Close to 200,000 school students took part in Denmark's Action Week with a special book called 'Læseraketten' that tells stories about education in poor countries.  Schools used the book to get ready for the World's Biggest Lesson, which was attended by the Minister for Education.

Dominican Republic – More than 300 schools took part.  They compiled reports and wrote letters to political leaders about exclusion in education that will be delivered to the National Congress.

Ethiopia - Nine regions and two administrative councils worked together to make demands for the provision of quality education to end exclusion. In Addis Ababa 10 schools took part in the World's Biggest Lesson.

Georgia - 70 politicians returned to their native schools. In the capital city, Tbilisi, there was a press conference after the World's Biggest Lesson. In attendance were the Deputy Minister of Education, different government departmental heads, local NGOS, representatives from UNESCO and UNICEF.

Honduras – Students marched to the Presidential House at the start of Action Week, after which politicians returned to school to be taught by students, and an 'Education Changes Life' forum brought together stakeholders to discuss 'Quality Education to End Exclusion'.

Hungary - The Teachers' Democratic Union organized the World's Biggest Lesson in over 500 institutions schools and hundreds of schools. Following lots of press coverage, thousands of children took part in the lesson.

Japan – The UNESCO Assistant Secretary General for Education Nick Burnett and UNICEF's Chief of Education, Cream Wright shared a school lunch with Japanese school children before being taught the lesson. The attendance of popular celebrity, Agnes Chang from Hong Kong, attracted great national media coverage for the lesson.

Jordan – The Ministry of Education, National Commission for UNESCO, Educational Directorates, schools and NGOs took part in the official ceremony of the World's Biggest Lesson.

Mexico – Hundreds of schools took part in the Worlds Biggest Lesson. Outstanding people from the community, public figures, politicians, and representatives from the local educational sector returned to school to be part of the World Biggest Lesson.

Mozambique – 'Major Aula' (the World's Biggest Lesson) took place in schools across the country, and for some involved was the first chance of sitting in class. The Vice-Minister for Education returned to a school with no chairs, desks, or glass in the windows, where children struggle to study, and was taught the lesson.

Peru – Over 300 schools in different parts of the country took part in the World's Biggest Lesson.  GCE's school report card for Peru was presented to Ministers, Congressmen and Members of the National Council for Education in Lima.

Somalia - The World's Biggest Lesson took place in the Old Football Stadium in Abdal Aziz, Mogadishu. The lesson focused on how to address the education needs of internally displaced children who have been excluded from school following the recent Mogadishu violence.

More information about the GCE's activities and more highlights from the World's Biggest Lesson at: www.campaignforeducation.org

Photos are available from around the world here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/campaignforeducation/pool/

Global Campaign for Education (GCE)

The Global Campaign for Education, founded in 1999, brings together major nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and teachers' unions in more than 120 countries. GCE promotes access to education as a basic human right and raises public awareness to create the political will for governments and other leaders in the international community to fulfill their promises to provide at least a free, public basic education for all children. Oxfam is a founding member of GCE.

Contact Information

Please contact Alex Kent at +27 76 428 5390 or alex@campaignforeducation.org if you are interested in more information about the Global Campaign for Education and the World''s Biggest Lesson 2008.

Photos and interviews are available.