Building peace in the minds of men and women

Cooperation between emerging powerhouses can speed progress in education


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Stronger collaboration between five emerging economies that have made major strides in building better quality education systems, can accelerate progress in education, a new UNESCO report recommends.

BRICS (Brazil, Russian, India, China and South Africa): Building Education for the Future is the first in-depth analysis tracking the successes and challenges facing education in the countries. BRICS are currently providing education to over 40 percent of the world’s population.

            One of the key conclusions of the report is that BRICS have made effective use of innovative policies to improve the quality of education and for expansion of technical and vocational training and higher education. For example, Brazil has built one of the most comprehensive assessment systems in the world – where a combination of data, such as school enrollment and completion rates - is used to help set targets for improvements and drive reform. The roll-out of India’s new law requiring companies to spend 2% of their profits on corporate social responsibility activities will be of interest to all governments looking at ways to fund higher levels of education and skills development. 

            The report highlights rapid expansion of higher education, such as that seen in China, where the number of students increased more than five-fold between 1999 and 2012. In Russia, efforts to increase exchange and co-operation among students and universities, such as the BRICS Network University being spearheaded by the Russian Federation, are enriching learning. In South Africa, overcoming the inequalities of apartheid has become a central theme of the education reform, providing valuable lessons for all countries committed to tackling inequity.

Both India and China are home to the biggest education systems in the world, and with all five nations committed to scaling up efforts, BRICS have the potential to become leaders in good quality education.  In turn, millions of students will benefit from improved learning systems – giving them better skills and knowledge, so that they can help transform societies and economies.

            BRICS: Building Education for the Future concludes with 12 recommendations outlining key areas of co-operation to help improve education systems, higher education and skills development.

          “BRICS have already transformed the world map of education, bringing millions into school, establishing centres of world-class learning, driving innovation, and sharing expertise and knowledge. With stronger co-operation in education, supported by UNESCO, BRICS could have the power to go further in improving education levels and achieve long-term sustainability faster,” Irina Bokova, Director-General UNESCO.

            Despite the marked progress in BRICS challenges remain. In some countries, economic reforms, decentralization and privatization of education have resulted in deeper disparities, with the poorest children suffering the most from low-quality schooling. Despite the huge expansion of recent years, only one in five young people in India and about one in four in China attends higher education.

            Poverty and gender inequality in BRICS continue to be mirrored in the learning cycle and can inhibit children’s learning abilities. Communities struggling to feed their families are faced with the prospect of lifelong harm caused to a child’s learning abilities through the effects of malnutrition.

            At the Sixth BRICS Summit in Brazil on 15 July 2014, BRICS leaders stated that education was key to long-term success and recognized the fact that further investment was vital in education to address inequalities and to continue feeding economic growth.

            “To advance towards a knowledge economy, it will be necessary to strengthen cooperation in the field of Education to perform a horizontal linkage between BRICS countries,” Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, said during the 2014 BRICS Summit.

            BRICS are already engaged in global partnerships for education. The nations have played a strong role in the Education for All (EFA) movement coordinated by UNESCO. Brazil, China and India belong to the group of E9 high-population countries, which since 1993 has been facilitating better cooperation in pursuit of EFA.

            UNESCO has been working closely with BRICS since 2013 to support efforts to strengthen co-operation in education to help boost learning opportunities for millions of young people in the five dynamic growing economies.


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