By Catherine Meadows, Teen Ambassador of Education SDG Hub

During my gap year of traveling, volunteering, and soul-searching, I found myself in a remote orphanage in Malaysia. The orphanage was primarily comprised of Indian children who only spoke Tamil. They attended a Tamil school during the week, but our primary initiative as volunteers was to further their quality of education by supplementing them with English and Mathematics lessons on the weekends. We hired an English tutor to teach the older children once a week, and we instructed the younger children in beginner English lessons and various activities.
Though I was serving as a teacher to the children, I learned so much from my time with them. I realized the importance of providing a quality education to all youth, including the poor and orphaned, who are most often overlooked. For them, an education wasn’t simply learning their addition and subtraction. We knew that for them to overcome the social gaps they would face in life, they had to be taught in areas such as technology, English, and skills training. In our increasingly technology and English-reliant world, it was vital that they received this knowledge in order to succeed in life.
While I was teaching the younger children the English words for certain fruits and vegetables, I was awestruck by our ability to communicate. Even though we both spoke very little of one another’s languages, we were able to play and interact through our innately human ability to understand each other via body language and social cues. To the happy children in a small orphanage in Malaysia, it didn’t matter what language I spoke or where I was from. It only mattered that I was there.
It was there that I truly learned and witnessed the importance of education in an adaptive classroom. Every group of students in every corner of the world has a unique set of educational needs that need to be met, and these requirements are constantly evolving in our modern society. The ability of teachers to adapt to these circumstances is vital in properly leading and engaging with young people.
Armed with my new experiences, I am more excited about this Education SDG Hub than ever before. Our mission, to engage other young people to act upon their dream of improving the quality of education worldwide, is inspiring. Our coalition of youth can and will change the world, and we don’t have to wait to begin our call to action.