Reflections as a new education era dawns

CaptureThis blog marks the start of a series in the run up to the UN Sustainable Development Summit to be held on 25-27 September.  We have some 25 days until the new goal and targets for education from now until 2030 are set in stone. Our series asks some key players and thinkers to reflect on what has been accomplished thus far, as well as their concerns as the new agenda takes hold. Here, we present some initial thoughts about the beginning of a new era for education, nationally and globally.

Scaling down ambitions

Thanks to the final outcome document already approved by Member States, we can safely say we know what to expect from the UN Summit. The broad ambition of the new education agenda is clearly apparent: for example, completing free quality primary and secondary education, universal access to quality early childhood care and preprimary education, an emphasis on learning and skill acquisition. And yet, taking a closer look at the final version, we see that final negotiations resulted in countries downscaling their ambitions in important respects.

In target 4.4, for instance, where it once called on governments to equip ‘all’ youth and adults with skills, it now asks for just ‘significant increasesA similar change has been made in 4.6, where now only a ‘substantial proportion’ rather than ‘all’ adults should have literacy and numeracy by 2030. And in target 4.c, the number of qualified teachers now should be ‘substantially increased’ rather than ensuring they are accessible to ‘all learners’. Who precisely will define whether an increase is ‘substantial’ or ‘significant’? If each and every country advances a different definition, then the basis for holding countries to account will be slippery slope of missed opportunity.

Perhaps more substantial, however, is the fact that the ambition of ‘lifelong learning’, anchoring the entire SDG on education, is being squandered. The term is not mentioned in any target or means of implementation. How can countries be expected to develop effective ‘infant to adult’ education policies when no target seriously links formal and non-formal education opportunities across the life course? An earlier formulation of the adult literacy target (4.6) referred to ‘a proficiency level in literacy and numeracy sufficient to fully participate in society’, but this has now been reduced to just calling for ‘literacy and numeracy’: an outdated conception of learning carrying less ambition. Continue reading

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New statement on framing and measuring inequalities in education

By Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

POST2015_equity_borderAs reported in a previous series on this blog site, a two day workshop with 40 attendees was organized by the EFA GMR and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) last December on ‘Framing and measuring inequalities in post 2015 education targets’. Today, participants are publishing a short consensus outcome statement summarizing key points made during the workshop, which aims to contribute to on-going discussions on measuring and monitoring inequalities in education in the coming decade and beyond.

The statement presents the following key findings:

  • Education systems are neither inherently equal, nor designed to create an egalitarian society. Even as education expands, enabling all children and youth to exercise their right to education, better resourced groups will continue to enjoy an advantage. Indeed, patterns of education inequality persist from one generation to the next. Circumstances of birth and the household are still the major determinants of inequalities in school performance and attainment. Nevertheless, while education systems cannot serve as the ultimate solution to inequalities, they should not augment them. Education systems should be designed to lay the foundations towards greater equity.
  • In a rights-based agenda, there is value in measuring whether everyone achieves minimum thresholds of education attainment regardless of their endowments.

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A People’s Global Network on Learning is Born

By Baela Raza Jamil, Founding Member PAL Network and Director of Programs Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and the Institute for Professional Learning, as well as Coordinator of the South Asian Forum for Education Development. 

While Kenya and Nairobi were at a standstill preparing for the US President Barack Obama’s Airforce I to land on July 24 for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit,  in another beautiful scenic setting, a global network on learning was born! The network will help hold countries accountable for ensuring their children are not just in school, but also learning. Committed to transparently conducting citizen-led household based assessments on learning, the network will increasingly enable communities to hold their leaders to account; it will support the call for lifelong learning for all – central to the new SDG on education.

The PAL Network Steering Committee

The PAL Network Steering Committee

The People’s Action for Learning (PAL), Network was formally established last week by nine passionate country groups who came together at Lake Naivasha Kongoni, Kenya last week. The PAL Network  is a unique brand, aspiring to become a universal movement where learning is at the centre of all education endeavours. Led by ordinary citizens, it is committed to household based assessments for each child.

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Inside the figures: How the finance gap for Education-2030 was calculated

You may have seen the recent GMR estimates that there is an annual $39 billion finance gap for achieving new education targets by 2030. They have appeared in the working paper about financing by the Sustainable Development Solution Network, the report by the Overseas Development Institute on a global social compact, the background paper by Brookings for the Oslo Summit, and the recent Malala Fund report on twelve years of education. They were widely discussed in the side-event at Addis during the Financing for Development Conference.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report would like its estimates to be used more extensively in the coming months and years as existing mechanisms are strengthened or new mechanisms are being established. The more we can publicise the extent of the finance gap, and the thorough methodology behind its calculation, the more traditional and new donors may take note of it. For that reason, we are making the tools available to enable those interested in education financing to check for themselves how different assumptions made by our team affect the cost implications. With the support of a short guide, users can go through the model and consult the data sources.

Comments and suggestions on how the model can be improved will be welcome on this blog.

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Addis – Can we break out of Groundhog Day?

ffdI hesitated about putting pen to paper on this blog. It seems so obvious that we won’t achieve the vision of sustainable development unless we see tangible commitments emerging from the Third Financing for Development taking place in Addis Ababa this week. Why labour the point?  I thought.

And yet for some people this point is not obvious. Many political leaders and decision makers are not convinced. And that’s what has driven this blog, and must drive all our efforts until we see real change for education.

An inconvenient truth is that money matters to finance sustainable development, not least in the area of education. Huge amounts – vast even – are needed to make real progress on the ambitious education goal. The EFA GMR has calculated the cost of ensuring all children and youth access a basic cycle of quality education (from one year of pre-school up to upper secondary education). After accounting for domestic resources and current international aid there remains an annual finance gap of $39 billion. This is, without doubt, a scary sounding price-tag.

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What role for Citizen Led Learning Assessments? – Moving beyond Measurement

By Colin Bangay, Senior Education Adviser for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in India. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official position or policies.

The contribution of citizen led learning assessments (CLLA) in which community organisations conduct simple reading and/or math evaluations has rightly been celebrated. A new Results for Development Report (R4D) provides insight into their strengths, limitations and most importantly makes practical pointers on how they can be improved.


Credit: Rene Edde / EFA Report UNESCO

The report has a lot to praise. CLLAs have mobilised civil society. They provide large scale reporting on skill proficiencies among children and adolescents both in and out of school. They have set the bar high in their adept communication of findings — presenting results in ways that are glaringly easy to understand – and as a consequence have impact.

But herein lies the weakness: how often can you report dire results in learning before the shock value of the reports no longer shocks? The R4D report finds that to date none of the CLLAs have succeeded in raising learning levels. This is largely because assumptions  about how CLLAs should work haven’t held. Principal amongst these is that reporting on woeful learning levels will automatically galvanise action.

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The Impossible, by Malala Yousafzai

The EFA GMR recently updated it’s costing analysis for the price of education targets from 2015-2030. The updated costing paper shows that there is an annual finance gap of $39 billion to provide pre-primary through to upper secondary education. This new paper has helped feed into an online campaign, and a report with the Malala Fund on “Making 12 years of education a reality for girls global“. This blog is written by Malala Yousafzai and first appeared yesterday on The Telegraph


Malala shows why she chose #booksnotbullets

Tomorrow, I return to Oslo where last year I received the Nobel Peace Prize with child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. When I heard I would receive this great honour, I felt this was a call to action. I went to Oslo and challenged world leaders to act, to make sure that no child is denied the right to get an education.

Now I return to ensure that we keep that promise at the Oslo Education Summit. Many people tell me that I am special. However, it leads me to ask myself: am I unique because I’m a girl who was stopped from getting an education? Because that is also true for over 60 million other girls around the world.

I know there are other brave and talented girls I’ve met who have gone through the same circumstances. Is it because the enemies of education attacked me? Unfortunately thousands of girls and boys are unsafe at school every day and many have been attacked, the most tragic one was the massive killing of more than one hundred and thirty school children in Peshawar, Pakistan. The reality is I am one of these  girls who has been denied an education.  But there is something significant which makes my story special: You. Continue reading

Posted in Adult education, Africa, Aid, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Child soldiers, Conflict, Developing countries, Donors, Early childhood care and education, Economic growth, Finance, Gender, Latin America, Learning, Legislation, Literacy, Marginalization, Nutrition, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Quality of education, Rural areas, sdgs, Secondary school, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments