Given the great challenges Puerto Rico faces, education in its broadest sense can positively impact individual, family and community needs. Education is a tool for informed and intelligent decision-making throughout the life of individuals and societies.

Last Thursday, in commemorating the International Education Day, the United Nations (UN) reaffirmed that education is a pillar of human well-being and sustainable development.

The UN also stressed that education represents a tool to better solve conflicts.

Education can play a key role in fostering peace and reconciliation. “Education initiatives have a proven potential to help marginalized populations gain access to justice that contributes to peaceful societies,” according to the UN.

In the case of Puerto Rico - faced with the challenge of recovering following the impact of severe natural phenomena and this year's elections - individual and collective efforts to educate on crucial issues should open the gateway to positive horizons.

Recent earthquakes must give way to safer school spaces that foster education initiatives seeking to strengthen younger generations.

In the digital age, when information is available to more citizens, accessing accurate and uplifting information is key to discerning truth from fiction. Therefore, it is important that each home, and institution serving as socializing entities, including educational institutions, work for everyone to have the opportunity to access diverse information that allows them to exercise critical thinking in order to reach constructive conclusions.

In face of the island's complex problems, many of them involving basic human needs, protecting the people from disinformation and initiatives that go precisely against education is essential because they involve spreading half-truths and proposals based on easy solutions or uncertain alternatives. In this sense, education comes as a shield to fight myths, lies, and demagogy that only contribute to the destabilization of individuals and communities.

Education is also a tool against that populist rhetoric promoting extreme and discriminatory solutions, or that include elements that don´t seek the common good or that are based on manipulation or other practices far from honesty. It is then important to encourage the study of ideas to meet diverse needs in order to discern, on the basis of knowledge and informed evaluation, which one is most convenient for the island.

To this end, a reform of the public education system must seek to provide inclusive and egalitarian education while promoting innovative lifelong learning options for the youth and adults. By improving our education system, we can more effectively fight the crisis of moral values. Furthermore, it will help discourage damaging practices in our society, while also encouraging the protection of the environment.

Comprehensive education, key to developing professional skills, will also be decisive in increasing the level of labor competitiveness of technical schools and university graduates, improving job and income opportunities.

Learning can empower people and is key to fight poverty and inequality. It is a tool for people to live healthy lives and make informed decisions for themselves, their families and their communities.

For this reason, educators who work in public and private schools, community leaders, professionals, technicians, and academics from different disciplines, are called upon to promote that more people have access to knowledge product of the logical and transparent presentation of ideas. This way, Puerto Rico will forge a growing group of citizens who are more educated and empowered to face present and future challenges.

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