The ed­u­ca­tion roadmap to 2030

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

When I vis­ited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jor­dan ear­lier this year, I met with chil­dren who told me what ed­u­ca­tion means to them.

For Syr­ian youths who have been forced from their homes and have lost ev­ery­thing, ed­u­ca­tion is about more than qual­i­fi­ca­tions or test scores; it em­bod­ies their hope for the fu­ture.

Chil­dren like those in Zaatari, and mil­lions of oth­ers around the world, are cen­tral to the work of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion on Fi­nanc­ing Global Ed­u­ca­tion Op­por­tu­nity, which I joined last Septem­ber. This com­mis­sion is com­mit­ted to the fourth United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goal, which aims, by 2030, to “en­sure in­clu­sive and eq­ui­table qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and pro­mote life­long learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for all.”

This goal is still a dis­tant prospect for far too many chil­dren. With so many de­vel­op­ment is­sues de­mand­ing our at­ten­tion, pol­i­cy­mak­ers should bear in mind that ed­u­ca­tion is not just a good in it­self; it is also a cat­a­lyst for many other de­vel­op­ment gains.

As the old African proverb goes, if you ed­u­cate a girl, you ed­u­cate an en­tire na­tion. En­sur­ing ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren, es­pe­cially girls, will lead to fewer child mar­riages and less child labour and ex­ploita­tion. And ed­u­ca­tion has long-term so­ci­etal ben­e­fits: aside from in­creased po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment, ed­u­cated chil­dren con­trib­ute in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal and pur­sue en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties when they grow up, boost­ing eco­nomic growth.

Tack­ling the ed­u­ca­tion chal­lenge needs to start from two prin­ci­ples em­bed­ded in the goal.

First, “for all” means that we must fo­cus on the chil­dren who have been left be­hind. Mil­lions of chil­dren are out of school or are re­ceiv­ing a sub­stan­dard ed­u­ca­tion be­cause of who they are or where they live. Ac­cord­ing to the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees, refugee chil­dren are five times more likely to be out of school than other chil­dren in the coun­tries to which they’ve been dis­placed. And in all but two African coun­tries, girls re­main less likely than boys to com­plete a pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion. Get­ting these chil­dren into school will re­quire new ap­proaches that di­rectly ad­dress their ex­clu­sion and make school­ing gen­uinely ac­ces­si­ble and rel­e­vant.

Sec­ond, “qual­ity”: Ed­u­ca­tion must be ef­fec­tive, so that chil­dren ac­tu­ally learn. For the 61 mil­lion chil­dren who are out of pri­mary school, for­mal ed­u­ca­tion is be­yond reach. But, just as ur­gently, more than one-third of chil­dren of pri­ma­ryschool age – 250 mil­lion – are not learn­ing the ba­sics, ac­cord­ing to the UNESCO Ed­u­ca­tion for All Global Mon­i­tor­ing Re­port. Half of these chil­dren have been in school for at least four years. We must ad­dress the bar­ri­ers to learn­ing, both in the class­room and at home, by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of teach­ing and class­room con­di­tions and teach­ing par­ents how they can sup­port their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

Up­hold­ing these two prin­ci­ples will re­quire in­creased in­vest­ment. Last year, UNESCO cal­cu­lated that gov­ern­ments must dou­ble ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing as a share of na­tional in­come to achieve the 2030 goals. This will re­quire in­creased rev­enue from tax­a­tion and stronger ef­forts to col­lect what’s owed. Donors also need to live up to their aid com­mit­ments and tar­get aid more ef­fec­tively. For ex­am­ple, less than onethird of ed­u­ca­tion aid goes to Africa, even though the re­gion ac­counts for al­most two-thirds of out-of-school chil­dren. More­over, at the mo­ment, ed­u­ca­tion bud­gets are of­ten re­gres­sive, with al­most half of spend­ing in the poor­est coun­tries al­lo­cated to the most ed­u­cated 10% of the pop­u­la­tion.

Fix­ing ed­u­ca­tion in­vest­ment re­quires ac­tion in two key ar­eas.

First, we need eq­ui­table fi­nanc­ing, with more in­vest­ment in early child­hood care and de­vel­op­ment, where there is the big­gest po­ten­tial for re­turns. Bud­gets must be fo­cused on the most ex­cluded chil­dren, and pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion must be free at the point of use, so that ev­ery child can learn. We also ur­gently need more trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity, so that bud­gets are vis­i­ble and com­mu­ni­ties have a say in school gov­er­nance.

Sec­ond, we need to strengthen do­mes­tic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems so that gov­ern­ments see them­selves as the guar­an­tor of ac­ces­si­ble, qual­ity schools for their cit­i­zens, rather than ab­di­cat­ing that role to out­side de­vel­op­ment agen­cies. In par­tic­u­lar, we should push for part­ner­ships be­tween gov­ern­ment and busi­ness to boost do­mes­tic re­sources for ed­u­ca­tion, and elim­i­nate il­licit cap­i­tal flows that de­prive gov­ern­ments of the means to fund it, such as tax eva­sion and money laun­der­ing across na­tional bor­ders.

With these pri­or­i­ties in mind, the ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sion will de­liver its rec­om­men­da­tions at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Septem­ber 18, when the Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral will re­ceive and act on them.

The ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sion will have suc­ceeded if we are able to lever­age the fund­ing and po­lit­i­cal will to en­sure that ev­ery child learns, re­gard­less of their in­come, lo­ca­tion, or so­cial sta­tus. Our work will not be com­plete un­til that hap­pens.

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