18.04.2013 - ODG

Statement by UNESCO Director-General on the occasion of the Learning for All Ministerial Roundtable

Today’s meetings represent a vital step forward in international efforts to accelerate progress towards the 2015 education goals.

In September last year, we joined the UN Secretary-General in launching the Global Education First Initiative to spur a renewed push to achieve education for all. Today, we see this aspiration in action, with education ministers, finance ministers and development partners gathered at the same table. This is more than symbolic. It testifies to our shared belief in education as a fundamental human right and the number one driver for securing growth, social justice, peace and sustainable development.

Millions of children are represented around this table. A large number come from three dynamic nations belonging to UNESCO’s network of nine high population countries currently chaired by India. Others live in post-conflict, post-disaster situations where education is the place to start for rebuilding torn lives, acquiring skills for life and learning how to live together again in trust. It is for these children that we are speaking today.

We have heard about a record of commitment and concrete actions to go the extra mile.

One size doesn’t fit all but common concerns emerge.

First, the breakthrough actions we promote must deliver benefits for the most marginalized. Despite indisputable progress, girls are still held back. We cannot let growing inequality further increase marginalization. Reaching poor and vulnerable groups – girls, children in rural areas, ethnic minorities, the disabled – must be put front and centre of any policy to expand access and improve learning. This requires specifically tailored approaches that meet learners where they are and offer accessible pathways to education, including through non-formal.

The connected causes of exclusion - extreme poverty, gender, geographical isolation, socio-cultural discrimination - call for a joined up response – a common front to fight for the right to education. It means starting young because early childhood care and education has a paramount influence, especially for the most marginalized. Joined-up responses call for stronger synergies across government ministries – from education to social affairs to health and labour - with civil society, the private sector and other key players. This is how policies will be truly inclusive.

In every context teachers are the strongest influence on learning. They are the single most powerful force for equity, access and quality. New technologies can help teachers but they cannot replace them. Some 6.8 million teachers are needed to achieve universal primary education. Investing in teachers, in their training and professional development is the only way to make a dent into the learning crisis. Teachers are game changers.

Finally, top-level political leadership is the driving force for progress. We see that leadership here today. But the international community has a responsibility to support governments firmly committed to education in realizing their goals. We need a renewed partnership 1,000 days short of the 2015 target date.

UNESCO’s commitment is steadfast. We will continue to accompany countries in translating the policy priorities identified here today into robust plans that deliver results on the ground. Building effective, responsive and relevant systems requires strong capacities – capacities to plan and manage inclusive systems, to develop relevant curricula, to assess learning and to ensure that a real culture of learning exists at all levels, through formal and non-formal pathways.

This is our responsibility to the millions of children we are representing today.

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