Global experts call for lifelong learning as the cornerstone of development

Over 100 representatives from countries, UN agencies, donors, academia and civil society organizations agreed today to put quality lifelong learning at the heart of the development agenda.

Participants also mapped out ways to ensure all children, youth and adults -especially the most disadvantaged- are able to realize their right to learn.

Over the last two decades, access to education has increased with more than 50 million more children in school. Yet, 61 million children of primary-school age are still left out and many of them live in disadvantaged communities and impoverished neighbourhoods.

"Education is not only a human right, it's also an enabler for realizing other rights. We know that education is key in reducing mortality and morbidity rates; eradicating poverty and hunger; strengthening resilience to natural hazards and ending abuse, violence and armed conflict," said UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang. "Strong national ownership and leadership is vital. Education must reflect and respect cultural diversity and be relevant to national development challenges."

The gathering hosted by the Government of Senegal with support from the governments of Canada, Germany and the Hewlett Foundation was co-organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Inequalities limit education

“Inequalities limit education and learning opportunities for the most disadvantaged and excluded children. Girls, children with disabilities, children living in conflict zones, nomadic children and children forced to work to help their families make ends meet are among the key vulnerable groups,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. “We must place equity and inclusion front and centre in our post-2015 plans.”

The conference is part of the ‘global conversation’ to discuss development goals as the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches.

Education - an enabler

In Dakar, the delegates unanimously agreed that education for all remains an “unfinished agenda” and recommended further commitment from the international community, with a stronger focus on equity and quality, to shaping the development agenda beyond the 2015 deadline.

The international event in Dakar follows online discussions on the UN’s World We Want web platform and regional consultations about education with nearly 15,000 people involved around the world around the themes of equitable access to education, quality of learning, global citizenship, jobs and skills, governance and financing for education.

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