Operationalization of SDG4 and role of capacity development in education

08 November 2017

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova hosted a Ministerial Breakfast meeting of the Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme on 2 November 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The side-event of the 39th Session of the General Conference brought together the Prime Minister of Madagascar and some 20 Education Ministers, including the Ministers of the three donor countries Finland, Norway and Sweden, to discuss the operationalization of SDG4 and the role of capacity development in education to make progress towards the Education 2030 Agenda.

The CapED Programme is a delivery platform, supporting Least Developed Countries to achieve key national priorities in the context of SDG4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  To this end, it focuses on three priority areas: education policies and plans, skills for life and work, and teachers. As Ministers took the floor, UNESCO’s work through CapED provided the guiding thread for common challenges and best practices to be shared.

Ms Bokova opened the meeting by describing CapED as a trusted programme that supports capacity development in 25 countries, responding to national needs and priorities, hailing it as “implementation in action”. The Prime Minister of Madagascar, H.E. Mahafaly Olivier Solonanadrasana, explained in his keynote speech how the CapED Programme has supported the development of a new Education Sector Plan with a stronger focus on SDG4 targets and corresponding monitoring tools with the technical assistance of UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS). He also discussed the Programme’s support in strengthening the Technical and Vocaitional Education and Training (TVET) system and programmes for out-of-school youth in rural areas. He spoke of concrete results arising from these developments, for instance, that 81% of young people found employment or launched their own businesses after taking part in the CapED-supported training programmes.

Strengthening capacity development

Through UNESCO’s CapED SDG4 Pilot Programme, capacity development has been strengthened in 10 countries to look at how policies, plans, legislation, data and monitoring systems can better embrace the Education 2030 Agenda. In this context, the Minister of Cambodia shared with participants how UNESCO has supported the development of an SDG4 roadmap, which will guide their next education strategic plan “to ensure that we are moving to reach those goals by 2030.”  While the Minister of Mozambique focused her intervention on how CapED is providing key elements to strengthen the right to education, in particular in relation to SDG4 targets 1, 4 and 5, as the country prepares a new education law.  Improving data collection and monitoring of progress towards national education priorities and SDG4 targets is another critical area that many countries seek capacity development. The Minister of Myanmar mentioned CapED’s support in developing data and announced that the country’s first-ever education statistical yearbook would be published in 2018.

Sustained domestic and international financing is needed to accomplish SDG4. CapED, through technical support from IIEP, has supported Senegal to finalize its National Education Accounts. The Minister of Senegal broached this topic, declaring that this work allowed Senegal to analyse the financing of Education and to make projections with an improved allocation of financial resources. Similarly, the Norwegian Minister also discussed funding, expressing his country’s belief that education is central to achieving all the SDGs and of the concerning decrease in donor support in education over the last 6 years. He explained that this was partly why the Norwegian government has placed education at the top of their development agenda.

The issue of gender equality was also discussed. The Minister of Niger shared some highlights from the CapED Programme in his country, which trains teachers to approach STEM subjects with gender-sensitivity, promoting girls to pursue these scientific subjects. While the Minister of Sweden presented good examples in gender equality in education and stated that, “CapED is a vital tool for strengthening the education systems in the countries where it is most needed and I know it makes a real difference on the ground.” Since two-thirds of all non-literate adults worldwide are women, Chad’s Minister discussed the question of literacy. He underscored the importance of partnerships if we are to make headway on target 4.6 and how Chad has used literacy materials produced with CapED support and funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to make 32,000 youth and adult learners literate. Alice Albright, the Chief Executive Officer of GPE was also present. She stated that we “look forward to continuing to work with all of you on furthering the goals of CapED and in general SDG4.”

Supporting teacher training

Teachers constitute one of the key means to implement SDG4 and one of CapED’s three priority areas. The Programme focuses on three intervention areas for this priority: teacher policy development, training and gender-sensitive approaches. Lao PDR discussed how CapED supported enhancing teacher capacities by training 2,000 primary school teachers across the country to teach basic literacy skills. Teachers are also invaluable when crises and emergencies become a major barrier to education. In Syria, CapED has supported teacher training through a ‘catch-up’ programme for children who missed 4 years of schooling and a second chance programme for children who did not pass final exams in primary to decrease repetition rates.

The SDG4-Education 2030 Agenda has given increased emphasis to skills for work and CapED has worked in this area for a number of years. Finland’s Minister emphasized the importance of TVET declaring that it should be viewed as an equal alternative to standard education. She also discussed the significance and development of TVET in Finland and outlined current Finnish TVET reform. Liberia is also undertaking a major reform of its TVET system. Its Minister noted the establishment of an Inter-ministerial Task Force for TVET and CapED’s support leading to major improvements in TVET governance in the country.  

The Assistant Director-General for Education, Mr Qian Tang reflected on his personal involvement in CapED and welcomed the Ministerial Meeting as a facilitator of a face-to-face dialogue between donor and beneficiary countries. Mr Tang also discussed CapED’s role as a delivery platform, pulling together many sources of funding and different entities such as headquarters, field offices and institutes around the globe to deliver as one.