The future of education

January 23, 2024
Young man in suit stands in front of white board

Young people are the key to meeting Sustainable Development Goal 4 - to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities to all.

Photo: Samsung Mobile Press

We have passed the midpoint of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) facing a stark reality, the world is falling short of meeting most of the goals by 2030. SDG4 is all about ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all. And yet with the current trends, only six in ten young people will be finishing secondary school in 2030

Geopolitical tensions and conflicts contribute significantly to this setback, affecting a quarter of the global population. Such conflicts disrupt education for an entire generation. In this context, education becomes not just a personal transformational tool but a key for sustainable peacebuilding and breaking cycles of inequality. UNESCO research indicates that global poverty could be cut in half if every young person completed secondary school.

I have devoted the past decade to fighting educational inequality and one thing continues to baffle me. In our many interventions to improve equity in education, we miss out on the value of the most important person - the learner. We consider them passive beneficiaries and do not realize what an important role they play as part of the solution.

Walk into any classroom and I can assure you that there will be students who will be ready to help others who didn’t fully understand the concept being taught. There will be a tradition of handing down notes and advice from the older students to the younger. There will be peer tutoring initiatives, study groups, and mentorship sessions covering everything from academic topics to life skills. Across generations, these practices persist. Young people are adaptive, they’re resilient and they build solutions when the system doesn't serve them. 

I started ZNotes, a student’s notes blog, at 16. It has transformed into a community-powered learning platform that has reached the lives of five million in over 190 countries. In this year alone, over 800,000 new students and educators used it.

We are laser-focused on ensuring that every young person has an even playing field when they enter high-stakes exams. And our approach centres on empowering the learner.

Our open personalized learning platform allows any student to benefit from free, high-quality resources that align precisely with the curriculum they are completing at school or independently. But it is unique in that every single resource, from notes and videos to quizzes, is created by a high-achieving student and is peer-reviewed. The result is that 91 percent of our learners are more confident entering exams

Three students look at a laptop

ZNotes provides a peer learning community that allows students to continue improving their understanding by learning and teaching.

Photo: Samsung Mobile Press

This is combined with a global peer learning community that allows students to continue improving their understanding by learning and teaching. It is here we see more than just academic improvement, but also developing authentic connections across the world. Ninety one percent of our community members engaged with individuals from different nationalities, religions, ethnicities or races. Increasing global citizenship education has been described as a central element of peacebuilding education and needed critically in post-conflict and divided societies. 

“I had an awesome time being part of such a diverse community that has helped me with multiple aspects of my education as well as personality development. All this time, I had amazing support from my peers, as well as forming terrific friendships along the way.”

Making an impact is in the very DNA of ZNotes and the social mission pulsates in everything we do. You come across it in every way; a user on the website notices they’re learning from another student’s notes, or a community member forges a friendship across continents. This exposure transcends formal education and has proven it changes the very mindset of young people and their urge to give back to society. Eighty two percent of our contributors have engaged with more community initiatives. And one in five of our interns have launched their own or joined an initiative tackling a social problem.

“In only six months ZNotes has empowered me to make a difference on a global scale and that’s something I’m truly grateful for. It’s taught me how to interact with people from all over the world and opened my mind to different perspectives.”

ZNotes ensures every student has a level playing field when it comes to high-stakes exams. But it does much more than that. It inspires and empowers young people to become leaders and changemakers.

The challenges in achieving educational equity are daunting, but the commitment of young people fuels hope. We received 800 applications to join our volunteer programmes in 2023, surpassing all past years combined; a testament to the sheer demand of young people wanting to give back.

Online graphics

The ZNotes Impact Report is built on tens of thousands of responses, testimonials and video case studies.

Photo: ZNotes

ZNotes is one of many examples of youth-led initiatives tackling social inequalities and educating the next generations. This month, we published the 2023 ZNotes Impact Report built on tens of thousands of responses across pre- and post-surveys, testimonials, and video case studies. The report has a singular objective; to witness the scale of impact when young people are empowered.

Man in suit standing at podium

The challenges in achieving educational equity are daunting but the commitment of young people fuels hope.

Photo: ZNotes

The future of education is youth-led. Young people are central to building an equitable education system. And if we don’t invite them along, they’ll get on with it, and build it themselves. I rest my case.


Generation17 supports a group of inspiring young leaders dedicated to innovating for humanity and mobilizing global communities. To learn more about this initiative and meet the Generation17 young leaders, the visionaries, advocates and entrepreneurs building a better future, visit