Speaking a minority language should not mean being disadvantaged 

International Mother Language Day, observed since 1999 on 21 February, honours the world’s abundant cultural and linguistic diversity. The celebration draws attention to the significance of pluri-lingualism and the need for language preservation. For example, UNESCO’s Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger categorises more than 2000 languages along various levels of endangerment.

Photo: Zinat Rehana/ UNESCO EFA Report

Photo: Zinat Rehana/ UNESCO EFA Report

This year’s special theme is inclusion in and through education: language counts. During celebrations for the International Mother Language Day at UNESCO, yesterday, attention focused on the role of mother language as a factor of inclusion in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

While most countries are bi- or multilingual, education is generally taught in the dominant or national language. Today, minorities repeatedly become marginalised and isolated because of linguistic barriers. These communities are socially, economically, and politically excluded, and if they are able to attend school, are likely to perform poorly on assessments and often eventually drop out. Not only does this impede children’s chances of succeeding but it exacerbates social inequality and reduces citizenship participation.

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Posted in Equality, Language, Latin America, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Post-2015 development framework, Rural areas, Teachers, Training | 3 Comments

GMR highlights where the proposed post-2015 education targets fall short

Today, the EFA Global Monitoring Report releases a critical review of the post-2015 education targets in the paper, Where do the proposed education targets fall short? This paper underscores the importance of formulating feasible, specific and relevant targets to ensure more effective implementation, rigorous monitoring and greater progress in education in the future.

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, 192 member states called for a set of sustainable development goals that “address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages.” The sustainable development goals to be proposed would be “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries.”

Following Rio+20, an Open Working Group (OWG) was created and tasked with preparing a proposal for a limited number of transformative and universally applicable development goals. Each goal would be accompanied by clear targets with measurable outcomes. After a long and complex consultation process the OWG proposed seventeen sustainable development goals (SDG) in July 2014, including one dedicated to education:

SDG Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

The proposed education goal was accompanied by 7 targets and 3 means of implementation (see Figure 1 below). It reflects a broader policy agenda than the corresponding MDGs, which mainly focused on primary education completion and gender parity in education.

In December 2014 the UN Secretary General published a Synthesis Report opening a small window for discussion of how targets are formulated. It stated that ‘measurable targets and technically rigorous indicators’ were needed, and that each target should be framed ‘in language that is specific, measurable, achievable and consistent with UN standards and agreements’. The Report encouraged the conduct of a review of the targets with contributions by technical experts outside the UN System.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Improving the measurement of household wealth to better understand global inequalities in education

POST2015_equity_borderBy Jeroen Smits, Associate Professor on Inequality and Development at the Economics Department of Radboud University in the Netherlands and Director of the Global Data Lab.

Over the past few decades, household surveys have become an important source of information on educational outcomes in low and middle income countries. These surveys enable many factors associated with unequal educational outcomes within countries to be studied. The World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), established by the EFA Global Monitoring Report team, shows what is possible with survey data, revealing within-country disparities in educational outcomes between key social groups according to gender, ethnicity, religion, location, region and household wealth.

Measuring the economic situation of households in poor countries is particularly problematic. In rich countries, we tend to use income to measure a household’s economic status, but in poor countries income is difficult to measure and tends to fluctuate from year to year. For that reason, consumption expenditure is recommended as a preferable measure. However, this approach also has disadvantages, not least the cost of collecting the information.

Credit: Karel Prinsloo/ARETE/UNESCO

Many surveys measure household wealth using asset-based indices such as the characteristics of a house, a household’s possession of durables and its access to basic services. Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ARETE/UNESCO

Drawing on the pioneering work of Deon Filmer and Lant Pritchett (2001), many surveys measure household wealth using asset-based indices. These indices measure the characteristics of a house, a household’s possession of durables and its access to basic services. Households owning more expensive durables, living in a better quality house, and having access to basic services are considered to have a higher economic status than households with less expensive durables, worse housing and no access to services.

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Posted in Economic growth, Equality, Equity, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty | 5 Comments

The limits of education’s impact on equality

POST2015_equity_borderBy Herman van de Werfhorst and Yossi Shavit. Herman van de Werfhorst is a professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, and director of the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies. Yossi Shavit is the Weinberg Professor of Sociology of Inequality and Stratification at Tel Aviv University. He is also the previous President of the Israeli Sociological Society and current Director of the Educational Policy Program at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.

In most economically advanced societies attendance rates at the secondary and tertiary levels of education have increased in the decades following World War II. National governments expand educational systems due to a widespread belief that it enhances the productivity of the workforce and increases economic impact. Technological developments raise employer demand for educated workers, which in turn enhance the economic benefits of education. Families and students respond to these changes by investing more time and resources in the pursuit of education. This was especially the case for women. In most developed countries, women now attain more schooling than men and their relative share in most fields of study exceeds parity with men.

Sociologists have long studied the effects of expanding schooling on educational equity. It has been found repeatedly that simply raising the number of children that access higher-level qualifications doesn’t guarantee a reduction in educational inequality between the different social classes, ethnic/racial groups, or different localities. Education stratifies individuals in far more persistent ways than suggested by the optimistic hopes of governments and the general public. For example, in a recent paper, Shavit and Bar Haim analyzed what happened across 24 European countries to children who were born between the 1950s and the 1970s. On average, educational expansion failed to reduce inequality of educational opportunity. Evidently, the sons and daughters of the affluent social classes are better poised to take advantage of the expanding educational opportunities and are better endowed with financial and cultural resources to enhance their success in schools.

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Posted in Equality, Equity, Post-2015 development framework, Sustainable development | 10 Comments

Data is critical to achieving universal primary and secondary education

By Jo Bourne, Associate Director and Global Chief of Education, Programme Division, UNICEF, and Albert Motivans, Head of Education Statistics, UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

It is time for a dose of pragmatism: 121 million children and young adolescents are out of school and we do not stand a chance of reaching them by continuing to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

The optimism of ‘build more schools and they shall come’ will not reach refugees, children who work, children who face discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or disability. Even worse, building more schools will not help the estimated 130 million children who fail to learn basic reading and maths skills despite reaching grade 4.

Simply expanding educational systems has clearly failed to reach all children.  As the international community works to establish new development goals, it will be imperative to focus on the children who were left behind.

OOS_unicef_coverWe believe that robust data on out-of-school children can help.

A new report from UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) demonstrates how the latest data and policy analysis can help us move forward. The report, Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children, draws on data from 26 country studies and seven regional studies. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education, it serves as a roadmap to improve the data, research and policies that are needed to reach the most marginalized children.

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Posted in Basic education, Out-of-school children, Primary school, Youth | 11 Comments

Who is Minding the Gap for Post Primary Transitions for Post 2015?

By Baela Raza Jamil, who currently serves as the 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. 

The 5th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 was released on 8 January 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Report highlights continued gaps in learning, access and equity for children aged 3-16, especially in the transition to post-primary education.

Under article 25-A of the Pakistani constitution, the government is obligated to provide free compulsory education to all children aged 5-16 as a fundamental right. However, there is a growing concern among households about where children will be educated beyond the five grades of primary school. And with 1 middle school for every 8 primary schools and just 1 secondary school for every 11 primary schools, the lack of post-primary education opportunities leaves many parents frustrated and angry, sometimes resulting in a decision to withdraw their children from school, even at a primary level.

Province Ratio of Primary Schools to Middle Schools Ratio of Primary Schools to Secondary Schools
Balochistan 9:1 14:1
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 9:1 12:1
Punjab 4:1 6:1
Sindh 18:1 24:1

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Posted in Asia, Basic education, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Equity, Primary school, Rural areas, Secondary school, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2014 – a year of reflection

2014 was a year spent reflecting on past achievements in education and their implications for international policy commitments in 2015 and beyond. Our blog remained a popular online hub and the year’s most frequently read posts reflect key topics of discussion and debate emerging during this pivotal historical period:

Quality education

2014-01-29-cover_enThe year began with the launch of the 2014 Report. The report focused on the importance of ensuring quality education for all, a topic of long-standing interest that gained renewed attention in this year’s report. An overview of the report highlights can be found in the blog, “Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all”.

The issue of good quality education was further emphasized in our Teacher Tuesday blogging project which told teachers’ stories from across the globe. The teachers talked of running classes during the conflict in Syria, grappling with multilingual classrooms in Honduras, fighting to overcome gender barriers in Afghanistan, teaching in the largest urban slum in Africa, dealing with the pressure of teacher shortages in Malawi and much more. The blogs highlighted the urgent need to increase education resources, hire qualified teachers and provide in-service training opportunities once teachers are in the classroom.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Donors, Economic growth, Equality, Equity, Finance, Literacy, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Primary school, Quality of education, Skills, Teachers | 1 Comment