A war breaking out here a natural calamity there, the world witnesses a new challenge every day. In the face of these relentless obstacles, the only fundamental that promises to nurture young minds is the education they receive. However, despite the year being 2023, despite India reaching the moon, despite AI dominating all spheres of our life, disparity in access to education remains a veritable reality.

Thus, it requires reiteration, even in this day and age, that education matters.

A child’s right to education cannot be snatched no matter the circumstances. As a part of our enduring campaign #Let’sTalkEducation, we present five TED Talks that capture the need and impact of education no matter the strenuous situation at hand.

1. Malaysia’s Jungle Teacher Calls for Saving National Schools
Known as “The Jungle Teacher”, Jarod Yong taught English to the children inhabiting the forests of Sarawak, Malaysia. In this impassioned TED Talk, he begins by shedding light on the monumental challenges that awaited thousands of teachers like him, who teach in treacherous conditions. With a smattering of wit and heartening anecdotes, Yong reminisces the pure joy of witnessing a child flourish from being an absolute non-English speaker to a gem-in-the-making, who speaks broken English but exudes immense confidence.

In his call to action, he urges his audience to contribute to nation building by contributing to education in national schools. For he believes, “if national schools fail, we all fail.”

“National schools are what stands in between a new generation becoming the policemen that protect you, the doctors that treat you, the lawyers that defend you from becoming the robbers that steal from you, or worse.”

A lesson on the importance of education in cutting across class, economies and geography, Jarod Yong’s TED Talk is a must-listen.

2. Refugee, Student and Teacher, Mary, Emphasizes the Ever-Going of Education for Children in War-Torn Countries
UNHCR’s newest Global Goodwill Ambassador, Mary Maker, fled war-torn South Sudan as a child. In her TED Talk “Why I Fight for the Education of Refugee Girls (Like Me)”, she sets the tone for the talk with a gentle reminder that no child chooses to be born in a country rife with conflict. However, there are millions of children like her who are not only born in such countries, but also live to experience the devastating impact of war. She goes on to relive the heart-wrenching days when her father, like those of many other girls, would go on to fight wars, her community would be under constant attack, soldiers would abduct her friends now and then, and how she fled all of these realities into life that felt like a dream.

Here she wore her first uniform, held her first pen, breathed the empowering air of a school. Her father would encourage her further saying, “With an education, you can survive. Education shall be your first husband.” In the midst of stifling patriarchy, where she was barred from her mother’s funeral only because she was a girl child, Mary found solace, equilibrium and freedom in her education.

She elaborates, “When you’re busy solving mathematical equations, and you are memorizing poetry, you forget the violence that you witnessed back home. And that is the power of education.”—A powerful message that perfectly sums up the importance of education.

3. American Scholar Elizabeth Kiss Chronicles the Evolution of Women’s Access to Education
Women and receiving the access to education wasn’t a singular, random occurrence. One may not have given it much thought, but it was a revolution. Chronicling the women’s equality revolution in this insightful TED Talk is Elizabeth Kiss, scholar of moral and political philosophy. Hailing from a home of where the importance of education was repeatedly reiterated, Kiss’s inclination towards higher education was no surprise. However, once she set foot in college, the realization that for scores of girls like her, education wasn’t as easily accessible as it had been for her.

She witnessed numerous inequalities meted out to women in an Ivy League College, which compelled her to approach her Board of Trustees, only to hear the response “it’s nice to have a pretty girl in the Board of Trustees.” Incidents such as these didn’t only make her mad, they developed within her a passion to educate and inspire young women.

Do give a listen to Kiss’s moving Ted Talk to understand the evolution of women’s access to education and its undeniable importance in their empowerment.

4. Obakeng Leseyane Shares Moving Instances of How Education Played a Pivotal Role in Drawing him Out of Poverty
In this inspirational TED Talk, education activist Obakeng Leseyane begins by sharing his own trepidation of being a Black student among a flock of White students, followed an interesting take on the division of South Africa’s education system. He elaborates how children from well-resourced families enjoy higher chances of success, as opposed to children who study in structurally impoverished public schools.

Leseyane then moves on to explain spatial apartheid—the need for socially disadvantaged Black children to leave their homes and venture far and wide to secure an education. In 2012, he was selected as 1 of 2 boys to receive Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi Scholarship to commence high school at one of the best boys schools in South Africa. Obakeng then sets the tone to describe how this milestone as a moment had a defining impact, which redirected his life.

Listen to Obakeng Leseyane’s moving insight on how education plays an important role in drawing underprivileged children out of poverty.

5. Charles Leadbeater Introduces the Phenomenal Impact of Transformative Education
Innovation adviser Charles Leadbeater set out to look for radical new forms of education, which he stumbled upon in the unlikeliest of places—Brazilian favelas, or slums. Citing how most of the population growth in the next 50 years is expected to be in the cities, and how almost all of this growth is expected to be seen in these very favelas, Leadbeater takes audiences on a tour of some of the most technologically advanced slums of the world. Right from Kibera in East Africa to Madangiri Settlement Colony, Leadbeater makes a compelling point about the astounding impact made by the introduction of technology.

More importantly, Leadbeater sheds light on the phenomenal effect these technological interventions have on the lives of the children inhabiting these slums. These interventions skip traditional school curriculum but introduce life skills by bridging the most primary gaps in their communities.

Do listen to the most insightful TED talk about the importance of transformative education in the lives of children.