As the 2015 Education For All (EFA) target year draws near, more than 190 Member States have gathered at UNESCO Headquarters on the occasion of the 37th Session of the General Conference to debate the future of the education - its content, scope and articulation with the post 2015 development agenda.
One of the main conclusions of the exchange is that Member States are committed to promoting a single overarching goal on education in the future development agenda, based on the principles of access, equity, and quality, in the perspective of lifelong learning for all.
During the panel-debate that kicked off the discussion, Ministers of Education and NGO leaders further agreed that education is at the core of sustainable development and should be put centre stage.
As Pakistan’s Federal Minister of State for Education, Trainings & Standards in Higher Education, Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman, stated: “education quality and equity remain top concerns, especially when disparities between public and private education services grow and therefore widen the gap between the haves and have nots”.
“Committing to education as a public good is an excellent start, but only the beginning”, said Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education. The challenge for many countries is to integrate these ideals into national legislation, policies and programmes, so they are a reality for all girls and boys, women and men.
“To create equal opportunities for all “, said Souad Abdelrazig, Minister of Education of the Republic of Sudan, “we need to deliver relevant educational services, especially to the most marginalized for whom education can be an enabling experience if it responds to real needs. This means that we need to foster greater complementarity between education and other sectors such as health and culture, which have benefited from progress in education.”
Several panellists agreed that this was only possible with a sufficient number of well-trained teachers, equipped to address the multiple learning needs of all, especially of youth. In countries such as Costa Rica and Canada, also represented on the panel, this issue has become a priority in order to reverse growing drop-out rates – notably among young men.
“Education must help youth find gainful employment,” said Professor Jacob Thurania Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology for Kenya. Many Member States echoed this concern, which underlines the importance of providing technical and vocational skills.
But education cannot be limited to the development of skills for work. Many agreed that skills for life are equally important. “The ability to read, to understand and analyse, to form one’s own opinion, speak out and act, are the kinds of benefits we should expect from education”, said David Edwards, Deputy General Secretary of Education International.
After a review of priorities by the panellists, delegates took stock of achievements towards the EFA goals and appraised the conclusions of the various education-related consultations on the post-2015 development agenda led by the UN.
Finally, Member States discussed UNESCO’s proposed position on the future agenda, which seeks to bring together the and global development agendas in a coordinated framework for action, that can be relevant to both developing and developed nations alike.
As the Chair of the Board of the Global Campaign for Education, Monique Fouilhoux, observed, “despite the diversity of situations among countries, we are facing many common challenges, which highlight the continued relevance of the EFA vision and the need to expand its scope to include dimensions of education that have been left out of the Dakar Framework...”
“UNESCO is not suggesting ending the EFA agenda. Quite the contrary”, said Qian Tang, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education. “UNESCO is supporting a broadened EFA vision within the international development framework”.
Countries requested UNESCO to continue to facilitate the global debate and to consult Member States and other stakeholders in the development of the global objectives and targets, as well as its related “framework for action” through the existing global and regional EFA and MDG coordination mechanisms.
It was also agreed that the new education agenda should build on what has been achieved in EFA since 2000, complete what remains to be done and integrate the lessons learned from national assessments of EFA and the education-related MDG experience.
The process will culminate in a Global Education Conference to be hosted by the Republic of Korea in spring 2015, which will produce a common position on education to be integrated in the global development agenda post-2015 that will be adopted by the New York Heads of State and Governments (HoSG) Summit in September 2015.
Finally, UNESCO will continue to support the stocktaking of the EFA experiences through national EFA 2015 reviews.
“Members States are in the driver’s seat of this process. UNESCO will facilitate the consultations and debates, provide the evidence that can inform policy discussions but the decisions are with you, Member States. …You have the power to put education on top of the future development agenda” he continued. “ concluded Qian Tang.
The panel included a series of key note addresses by the following personalities:
- Mr Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman, Federal Minister of State for Education Trainings & Standards in Higher Education Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Ms Dyalah Calderon, Vice Minister of Education of the Republic of Costa Rica
- Ms Souad Abdelrazig, Minister of Education of the Republic of Sudan
- Ms Marie Malavoy, Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports et Porte-parole du Conseil des ministres de l’éducation du Canada
- Professor Jacob Thurania Kaimenyi, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology, Kenya
- Mr David Edwards, Deputy General Secretary of Education International
- Ms Monique Fouilhoux, Chair of the Global Campaign for Education