Build­ing the global school­house

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Brown

This is why the up­com­ing four-day World Ed­u­ca­tion Fo­rum in South Korea, the home­land of United Na­tions Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki-moon, is so i mpor­tant. Ac­cord­ing to most es­ti­mates, pro­vid­ing uni­ver­sal sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion will cost in­ter­na­tional donors an ad­di­tional $22-50 bln a year, even af­ter de­vel­op­ing coun­tries ramp up their com­mit­ments. If we fail to raise that money, the hopes and am­bi­tions of mil­lions of chil­dren are cer­tain to be crushed.

The Fo­rum will fo­cus on how to bridge the fund­ing gap. Later, on July 7, Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg and For­eign Min­is­ter Borge Brende will con­vene a sum­mit in Oslo with the aim of rais­ing ed­u­ca­tion’s pro­file among global pri­or­i­ties, re­vers­ing neg­a­tive trends in fi­nanc­ing, and iden­ti­fy­ing ways to sup­port stu­dents more ef­fec­tively. Other con­fer­ences, in­clud­ing the Ad­dis Ababa In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Fi­nanc­ing for Devel­op­ment, the Ed­u­ca­tion In­ter­na­tional World Congress, an #UpForS­chool Town Hall dur­ing the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly, and the 28th Ses­sion of the Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of UNESCO, will pro­vide fo­rums for ac­tion and dis­cus­sion.

It is fit­ting that the first of th­ese events is tak­ing place in South Korea and that Ban will be one of the key speak­ers. Ban’s per­sonal story il­lus­trates the dif­fer­ence ed­u­ca­tion can make in trans­form­ing a life.

Raised in war-torn Korea in the 1950s, Ban’s el­e­men­tary school­ing – made pos­si­ble by help from UNICEF – took place un­der a tree. UNESCO pro­vided the books, which bore an in­scrip­tion that read, “Chil­dren should work hard, and by do­ing so they will re­pay their debt to the United Na­tions.” No one could have imag­ined that one of those stu­dents would re­pay his debt by be­com­ing Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral and us­ing that po­si­tion to lead a cam­paign, the Global Ed­u­ca­tion First Ini­tia­tive, to pro­vide oth­ers with the op­por­tu­nity he re­ceived.

Ed­u­ca­tion is cen­tral to achiev­ing all of the other Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals; it un­locks gains in health, women’s em­pow­er­ment, em­ploy­ment, and over­all qual­ity of life. The trou­ble is that pro­vid­ing for a proper ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem re­quires at least 5% of a coun­try’s GDP and usu­ally about 20% of public spend­ing. Few de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have un­der­taken spend­ing on this scale.

For the time be­ing, out­side help will be es­sen­tial. There are clear lim­its to poor coun­tries’ abil­ity to mo­bilise the do­mes­tic re­sources needed to pro­vide sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion for all. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must help make up the dif­fer­ence by look­ing to pri­vate foun­da­tions, busi­nesses, char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions, and global and na­tional fund­ing.

The cause of ed­u­ca­tion still lacks a ma­jor phi­lan­thropist like Bill Gates. And, although the Global Part­ner­ship for Ed­u­ca­tion raised more than $2 bln in its re­plen­ish­ment ef­fort, health pro­grams have more fun­ders, re­flected in, for ex­am­ple, the $12 bln Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, and Malaria. Only re­cently has Nor­way as­sumed a vanguard role in mak­ing ed­u­ca­tion of all chil­dren world­wide a na­tional pri­or­ity.

Cur­rently, ed­u­ca­tion ac­counts for only 1% of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in emer­gen­cies, de­spite the fact that mil­lions of chil­dren are refugees in need of help, not just for days or weeks, but of­ten for years. Nearly half of the out-of­school pop­u­la­tion – some 28 mln chil­dren – now re­side in con­flict coun­tries, with mil­lions trapped in refugee camps or tent cities.

Among the pro­pos­als be­ing dis­cussed at this year’s meet­ings is the estab­lish­ment of a fund for ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing emer­gen­cies and a co­or­di­na­tion plat­form to help chan­nel re­sources to places like Syria, where the con­flict has left nearly three mil­lion chil­dren out of school. Like­wise, in Nepal, 25,000 class­rooms are in ur­gent need of re­con­struc­tion or retrofitting to with­stand earth­quakes.

The ef­fort to pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in emer­gen­cies is just one part of the agenda for global ed­u­ca­tion. Just as the In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Fa­cil­ity for Im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­vides front-loaded fund­ing mech­a­nisms for health, we now must con­sider in­no­va­tive fi­nanc­ing in­stru­ments, like so­cial im­pact bonds, that prom­ise not only to in­crease en­roll­ment, but also to i mprove stu­dent re­ten­tion and learn­ing.

To­day, the rich­est coun­tries in the world spend about $100,000 ed­u­cat­ing a child to the age of 16. In Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, by con­trast, an av­er­age child from a poor fam­ily will re­ceive less than four years of ed­u­ca­tion, at a cost of $150 per year – only $12 of which orig­i­nates in the rich­est coun­tries.

Our long-term aim must be to en­sure that cit­i­zens of the world’s poor­est coun­tries have not only the same ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, but also the same ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment rates as their coun­ter­parts in richer coun­tries. Only when this is ac­com­plished will we be able to say that the strug­gle for the right to ed­u­ca­tion has been won, and that we have cre­ated a world in which all chil­dren can re­alise their hopes and am­bi­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.