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Putting SDG 4 Back on Track After COVID-19: The Essential Role of Multilingualism in Education

11 July 2022 @ 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT


A High-Level Political Forum Side Event on 11 July 2022

co-hosted by the NGO Committee on Language and Languages, the Universal Esperanto Association, and the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations

Register here by July 10!


Even before COVID-19, alarms were sounded that progress on SDG 4 was too slow and that the achievement of its targets by 2030 was in jeopardy. Linguistic inequality in access to education has been a key factor. The 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report showed that 40% of the global population was not accessing education in a language they understand. The onset of the pandemic exacerbated such inequalities as over 1.6 billion learners experienced school closures, cutting them off from language and literacy learning opportunities. Moreover, the digital divide prevented vulnerable populations, especially in least developed countries, from accessing online education, including resources for language development. In order to achieve inclusive and equitable education for linguistically diverse student populations, multilingualism must be foregrounded in post-pandemic educational planning.

Accordingly, this side event focuses on recommendations for the role of languages in education put forth in Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education, the UNESCO report on the Futures of Education initiative. Specifically, it brings together leading experts in the field of language education from diverse global contexts who address what it means in practice to take a multilingual perspective on the targets of SDG 4. Drawing upon empirical research and documented best practices, they demonstrate how schools can cultivate multilingual resources, including mother tongues, major world languages, national and regional languages, Indigenous languages, and international languages like Esperanto to achieve inclusive and equitable education that empowers students as global citizens prepared for participation in social, economic, and political life.


  • Pedagogical Translanguaging to Make the Most of Multilingualism, Professor Jasone Cenoz, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU
  • Multilingualism as a Resource for Learning and a Decolonial Strategy, Dr. Xolisa Guzula, University of Capetown, School of Education

Moderated by Professor Humphrey Tonkin and Professor Francis M. Hult with welcoming remarks by Mr. Guillermo Escribano, Director General for the Spanish Language around the World at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Spain


CoNGO Notes: The NGO Committee on Language and Languages is a Substantive Committee of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations – for more information, please email the co-chairs at or Likewise, for more information on the NGO Committee on Social Development, please visit For more information on the NGO Committee on Education, Learning, and Literacy, please visit