Looking forward and backward: From Jomtien through Dakar and the MDGs to the post-2015 agenda

sheldonThis is the sixth in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the EFA agenda and its implementation. This blog looks back to Jomtien through Dakar and the MDGs, then to the future and post-2015 agenda. It is written by Sheldon Shaeffer, former Director of UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education, Bangkok.

Few people would have guessed in 1989 when plans were being laid for the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien that it would help set in motion a process which, by 2014, has led to dozens of conferences, organised by dozens of institutions (academic, multilateral, bilateral, INGO, and private sector), and produced hundreds of recommendations for goals and targets for the post-2015 international development agenda.

The Jomtien Conference did not, by itself, create the notion of international goals.  But its expanded vision for education, and the ultimate influence of its six suggested “dimensions” (which later became national targets) resulted in many national action plans and new monitoring processes.  These in turn led to the Dakar World Education Forum of 2000, its Framework for Action, and a set of even more explicit international education goals.  This then added to the process that led to the Millennium Development Declaration endorsed by the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, and eventually (derived from an earlier OECD publication, “Shaping the 21st Century”), to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Photo: Akash/UNESCO

Photo: Akash/UNESCO

This historical process was not necessarily a seamless one.  The MDGs, unlike the broader, more visionary Declaration, were not developed in a systematic and consultative manner. This, plus the need to include goals from many different sectors, led to a document which left out most of the Dakar EFA goals  and focused only on universal primary education and gender equality.

The differences between the Dakar EFA goals and the MDGs led to some confusion at the national level.  Ministries of Education were asked to develop EFA action plans and reporting processes based on the broader range of Dakar goals. But at the same time they were required to contribute to national MDG programmes, based on the two MDGs education goals, and to multi-sectoral reports on the progress toward the MDGs.  In many countries, given their long association with EFA and their participation at the Dakar Forum, Ministries of Education devoted more of their attention to the EFA process and did not feel particular ownership of the larger MDG agenda.

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BRICS: A new force on the international education stage

This blog by Elizabeth Fordham, Education Specialist, UNESCO, lays out the key findings of a new report looking at the changing balance of education power in the world as a result of the growing influence of the five major emerging economies – the BRICS.

BRICS_Report2BRICS nations – Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa – are changing the balance of education power in the world today. In the first comparative study of education trends and challenges across the five countries, a new Report by UNESCO, BRICS: Building Education for the Future, looks at how these major emerging economies are getting more children and adults educated, improving the quality of education available to them,  and developing the skills base needed to reach high-income status.  The report draws five broad conclusions from the analysis of BRICS.

Changing the face of education

Education progress in BRICS, which are home to over 40% of the world’s population, has had a major impact on the global distribution of human talent. India’s success in expanding access to education has created the world’s largest primary school system and brought 42.7 million more pupils into secondary education in just over a decade. In 2004, China outstripped the USA as the country with the world’s largest tertiary population and all BRICS are witnessing remarkable rates of growth in higher education.  Today, BRICS account for over one in three of university students worldwide.

© Wang Ying/China Education Daily

Free textbooks at a rural school in China. © Wang Ying/China Education Daily

The five countries are determined to transform this quantitative advantage into a qualitative one by raising student achievement. Parts of China already top international rankings at secondary level and all BRICS have ambitious learning goals. BRICS’ universities figure prominently in emerging economy ratings, and the countries have bold plans to compete with the top global education performers.  China’s National Education Plan expresses this ambition, promising that by 2020 the country will have world class universities and become ‘a power to be reckoned with in the global higher education landscape’.

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Posted in Africa, Economic growth, Employment, Finance, Latin America, Quality of education, Skills, technology | 3 Comments

Photostory: The power of education

Sustainable development begins with an education as demonstrated by the following people from around the world. Download our booklet, released yesterday to coincide with the UN General Assembly, to show how education is a catalyst for lasting development.

Click on a photo to read their stories.

Posted in Africa, Asia, Basic education, Economic growth, Employment, Equality, Gender, Health, Human rights, Latin America, Learning, Literacy, Nutrition, Post-secondary education, Primary school, Quality of education, Teachers, Youth | 3 Comments

New GMR booklet: Sustainable development begins with education

As the General Assembly kicks off in New York, the GMR has produced a new widely-supported booklet showing that education is a catalyst for each of the proposed post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

blog_sgEducation is positively intertwined with each of the proposed sustainable development targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. That’s the key point of a new booklet that we are releasing today in New York at the start of the UN General Assembly. For the new global development agenda to succeed and last, it is critically important that we approach the future with holistic strategies and cross-sectoral collaborations.

The booklet’s arguments and findings have received far-reaching support from across the development world, as the quotes in this blog make clear. They will be discussed today in New York at an event chaired by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 development planning, and including speakers from Women Deliver, the World Food Programme and UNICEF.

The need to provide quality education to the greatest number of people is interwoven through all the proposed new goals:

Goal 1: Poverty reduction: The booklet shows that education is critical to escape chronic poverty and to prevent the transmission of poverty between generations. Education also enables those working in the formal labour market to earn higher wages: One year of education is associated with a 10% increase in wages.

quote_wfpGoal 2: Nutrition improvement:
The devastating impact of malnutrition on children’s lives is preventable with the help of education. If all women had a secondary education, they would know the nutrients that children need, the hygiene rules they should follow and they would have a stronger voice in the home to ensure proper care. Improved nutrition would save more than 12 million children from being stunted – a sign of early childhood malnutrition.

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Posted in Basic education, Climate change, Conflict, Democracy, Developed countries, Developing countries, Disaster preparedness, Economic growth, Employment, Environment, Equality, Famine, Gender, Governance, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human rights, Millennium Development Goals, Nutrition, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Reproductive health, Skills, Sustainable development | 1 Comment

The role of civil society in the Dakar World Education Forum

david_archer_87411This is the fifth in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the EFA agenda and its implementation. This blog looks back to the World Education Conference in Dakar in 2000 from the perspective of David Archer, Head of Programme Development at ActionAid. David joined ActionAid in 1990, the year of the original EFA meeting in Jomtien. He was closely involved in strengthening civil society engagement on Education for All, and helped co-found the Global Campaign for Education in the build up to the World Education Forum in Dakar.

The World Education Forum in Dakar in April 2000 was a momentous occasion for NGOs and teacher unions, who coordinated more effectively than ever before to advance a common agenda on education. The previous September had seen the formation of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), bringing together key actors who all demanded an urgent response to the global crisis in education. When GCE first declared that there was a crisis, the response from the UN system was more or less to say “Crisis? What crisis?” Yet despite the promises made a decade earlier in Jomtien, over 100 million children were not in school and there were major concerns about quality and equity. It can be argued that the Dakar Framework for Action would have been much weaker had it not been for these concerted civil society efforts.

GCE_LOGOThe Global Campaign for Education (GCE) initially brought together four key actors. ActionAid was already running the “Elimu” campaign which focused on democratising education decision making – supporting stronger citizen oversight locally and forming inclusive national education coalitions to review and influence progress on education. Meanwhile Oxfam had launched their “Education Now!” Campaign, putting a human face on their work on structural adjustment and debt by focusing on education financing and demanding a global action plan.  At the same time Education International, the global federation of teachers unions, with 23 million members (at the time), launched a campaign called “Quality Public Education for All”, challenging the neo-liberal agenda and the creeping privatisation of education. Finally the Global March Against Child Labour, a broad alliance based on mass mobilisation in the Global South (formed in 1997) came to see universalising education as key to ending child labour. National coalitions on education from Brazil, Bangladesh and Kenya also joined the founding meeting of GCE.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Post-2015 development framework | 11 Comments

Improving literacy for sustainable development

South SudanCredit:  © BRAC

South SudanCredit: © BRAC

Today is International Literacy Day. The theme for this year is Literacy and Sustainable Development. The day will be “an opportunity to remember a simple truth: literacy not only changes lives, it saves them,” says the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in her message for the Day. It will be an opportune moment for the education community to remind the Open Working Group of the importance of literacy for achieving a whole range of sustainable development priorities.

And it is a truth that literacy saves lives. As showed by our Education Transforms booklet last year, providing all women with a primary education would reduce child mortality by a sixth, and maternal deaths by two-thirds. It enables children to live their lives too: if all women had primary education, there would be 15% fewer children married under the age 15. This evidence must be recognised by those working on the international post-2015 development agenda.

CaptureThe links between education and development will be further explored in a new booklet by the EFA Global Monitoring Report being released on September 18th, just before the United Nations General Assembly. The undeniable evidence of the links between education and reducing hunger, preventing disease, and escaping poverty in the 2013/14 GMR–reinforced in our new research–have led us to promote a public campaign action calling on all development actors to support the need for closer cross-sectoral collaboration. Join us in pledging you will work together with others for development that lasts. Your signature will join others in being presented to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and his advisors as discussions over sustainable development post-2015 take center stage.

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Posted in Adult education, Basic education, Employment, Literacy | 4 Comments

A personal perspective on the follow up after Dakar

Clinton RobinsonThis is the fourth in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation. This blog is by Clinton Robinson, who was an independent consultant working for UNESCO at the start of the Millennium and rapporteur for the EFA working group and EFA high level group after Dakar. He was subsequently on staff in the UNESCO EFA Coordination Unit. Here, he reflects on the coordination mechanisms set up after Dakar to help follow up on the EFA Agenda.

dakarHow do you take the outcomes of a meeting of 164 countries, organised by five different international agencies, and turn them into a 15-year collective commitment? Putting it that way shows how complex the follow-up to the Dakar Conference in 2000 would prove to be. The Dakar Framework for Action written in 2000 foresaw two mechanisms: a small, flexible high-level group to drive political commitment, and six working groups, one for each goal. UNESCO, as the designated coordinating agency, convened the EFA High-Level Group, which met each year from 2001 to 2011. In place of the six working groups, a single working group was established at the technical level, which also met annually.

The EFA High-Level Group brought together a selected, rotating group of ministers of education from the ‘south’ and ministers of development cooperation from the ‘north’, thus structuring the dialogue to a large extent around aid. The EFA challenges in ‘northern’ countries were not on the agenda, and this stifled what might have been interesting exchanges of experience from widely differing contexts. The aims of the working group, meanwhile, were less well defined, but the group did provide a platform for discussion of substance, including some cutting edge issues such as EFA and HIV/AIDS, private sector engagement, and education for rural people.

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Posted in Aid, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework | 4 Comments