World Education Forum Day Two: exploring themes and issues

The second day of the World Education Forum was devoted to thematic debates in the morning and a series of parallel sessions in the afternoon - allowing participants to engage in a wide range of educational topics and issues. The debates included the following sessions:

Equity and Inclusion - organized by UNICEF

"Investing in the most disadvantaged children is key to overcoming inequalities", said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF  at the session on Equity and Inclusion. This debate focused on the major challenges and opportunities to the creation of a robust, inclusive social agenda.

The other panelists included 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi; and Nepalise Minister of Education Chitralekha.  "My heart and mind is with the children and schools of Nepal," the minister said in her opening remarks , referring to the recent earthquake that devastated parts of the country , including many schools.

"Children are sold for $50 in some countries and education is the key in changing this," said Mr Satyarthi. "I will continue fighting for education for children".

Placing Education at the Centre of Lifelong Learning- organized by UNESCO

 There is growing consensus that more focus is needed on improving the quality of education over the next 15 years. Assessments are a critical pillar in ensuring quality stated Ma Mmantseta Marope, Director of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, at this session on quality education in lifelong learning.

Chaired by David Edwards, Deputy Secretary General of Education International,  the six panelists examined key strategies to advance the quality of education  and improve learning outcomes.

"We need assessments which are relevant to all: teachers, leaners and governments," said Baela Jamil,  Coordinator of South Asia Forum for Education Development.

Education in Conflict and Crisis - organized by UNHCR

Education in crisis situations is deeply underfunded, said Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). "Those children all over the world affected by crisis and conflict break our hearts, but we shouldn't let this break our will too," she stated. Other panelists included Ministers from South Sudan and Iraq, and  representatives from UNICEF, the Global Education First Initiative and the Phillipines. Speakers described how conflict and crises have hampered progress towards the Education for All goals and how crises may affect the achievement of the 2030 education targets.  Jesus Lorenzo R. Mateo, from the Department of Education in the Philippines, emphasized that ‘love’ is the spirit of education in his country.  To show how love has acted in real life, he described the devastating typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines last year.  Education officials stayed with citizens and used schools as shelters while teaching and classes still went on.

In the afternoon, WEF participants could choose between 10 different sessions that ran concurrently.  Highlights included:

Expanding the Vision: youth and adult literacy within a lifelong learning perspective

This session on literacy drew together Education Ministers from Egypt, Mongolia and Niger; as well as representatives from UNESCO, and International Council of Adult Education. It looked at the issues that determine low literacy - a global concern that includes middle and high income countries.  Worldwide, some 781 million adults, two-thirds of whom are women, are unable to read and write. UNESCO Director, Anne-Therese Ndong-Jatta, said that literacy was the most important component of the Sustainable Development Goals. “The literacy we are talking about isn’t just reading and writing. A person needs to be able to use that literacy to access ICT and mobile phones.”

Healthy Bodies, Bright Minds: health, HIV and sexuality education

Healthy learners learn better, and better educated learners have the knowledge and skills to be healthy - that was a key message from this discussion.  Speakers included Ministers of Education from Argentina and Nepal, and the Deputy Minister of Education of Zambia.  He described education as a ‘social vaccine’ against infectious diseases such as HIV, adding that effective life-skills based sexuality education must include cognitive skills. A youth advocate from the Global Education First Initiative, Anna Susarenko, said that young people must be armed with knowledge from sexuality education, especially knowledge about sexual rights. When young people are armed with this knowledge, she added, they will behave more responsibly.