Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos at Meeting of G20 Education Ministers

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US Department of Education

Sept. 5, 2018
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or

Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos at Meeting of G20 Education Ministers

MENDOZA, Argentina – I appreciate the opportunity to be with all of you and to meet and learn from so many of my counterparts in education and employment from across the G20.

I want to especially thank Minister Finocchiaro and his team. We are grateful for your work in planning and hosting this first-ever G20 Education Ministers Meeting. I also very much enjoyed visiting two of your impressive schools yesterday in Mendoza, UNCUYO and Infinito, and meeting some of the talented educators and the students they serve. Gracias por su hospitalidad!

This gathering provides an important opportunity to learn from each other, acknowledging the vital link between education and the economy. Here, we can discuss our respective challenges, and, importantly, discuss ways to improve education for all students on their lifelong learning journeys as they prepare for today’s and tomorrow’s careers.

Indeed, education and the economy are indivisible, especially given the interconnectedness of the world today. In the United States, we are focused on expanding pathways to success. We recognize that a dynamic and changing economy requires dynamic and changing approaches to education.

We must first acknowledge that every student is an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every student – and there is no such thing as an “average” student. Each of them come to learn with different experiences, different needs, different learning styles and different dreams. Their education must be equally customized and individualized.

How we approach education must reflect the realities of today’s economy, with an eye toward tomorrow’s opportunities. We simply don’t know what the economy will look like 10 years from now, or even five years from now.

So students must be prepared to anticipate and adapt. They need to acquire and master broadly transferrable and versatile educational competencies like critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and cultural intelligence. These are essential – but often unaddressed – skills for students regardless of their chosen careers.

Students also need to be better prepared to pursue professions not yet imagined. Forecasting experts for Dell Computers recently estimated that “around 85 percent of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.”

Students need multiple and flexible pathways to pursue the opportunities that our global economy offers. Such pathways include industry-recognized certificates, two-year degrees, stackable credits, advanced degrees, badges, four-year degrees, micro-degrees, apprenticeships and more.

All of these are valid pursuits. Each should be embraced as such. If it’s the right fit for the student, then it’s the right education. And importantly, no stigma should stand in the way of a student’s journey to success.

To that end, President Donald Trump has made apprenticeship expansion a national priority. He established a national Task Force on Apprenticeships, which I co-chaired. Our charge was to explore ways to empower Americans with options to earn and learn, and to encourage entrepreneurs and educators to work together.

I recall two women I was fortunate to meet. One had been to university and was working as a court reporter. After several years, she found herself bored with her desk job and looking for something new. She pursued a Mechatronics program at a community college and said she’s never been happier.

Another student had studied to be a professional ballet dancer. Unable to support herself, she enrolled in a welding program and is today employed in high tech manufacturing.

The antiquated notion that education begins when you are five and ends when you turn 18 or 22 suggests that education is merely transactional, with a finite beginning and end. But there is no finish line.

Learning must be lifelong, because careers are like highways, not one-way or dead-end streets. Highways have many off-ramps and on-ramps. Students should be able to exit easily for a time to learn a new skill, then re-enter the highway at an on-ramp of their choosing and change lanes as needed.

I recently met a 70-year-old man who was in his fourth career. His first was as a helicopter pilot. He then went on to work in the defense contracting industry, followed by another career in banking. He then found retirement to be quite boring, so he learned the necessary skills to drive big 18 wheeler trucks across America. And he said his fourth career is his best one yet!

Just as he was open to new possibilities, we too must constantly look for new opportunities and embrace new approaches in education. Ultimately, students demand that we fundamentally rethink education, and the 21st century global economy requires that we do so.

“Rethink” means we question everything to ensure nothing limits a student from being prepared for what comes next.

Thank you and I look forward to our next steps, together.