» 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report launched with urgent call to prioritize education to reach SDGs
06.09.2016 - Education Sector

2016 Global Education Monitoring Report launched with urgent call to prioritize education to reach SDGs

© UNESCO - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova with panelists and speakers Mundiya Kepanga, Charles Hopkins, Kemi Williams, Sakena Yacoobi, Aaron Benavot, Kevin Watkins and Tarald Brautaset

The new Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) launched today (September 6, 2016) by UNESCO in London shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all the global goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but warned of the tall challenges ahead to reach the learning targets.

The 2016 GEM entitled Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all, is the first of a new 15-year series and the first official monitoring report for SDG4. It shows that education will not fulfil its potential to propel progress unless there is greater participation across sectors, learning becomes truly lifelong and education systems fully embrace sustainable development. And education itself must transform becoming a holistic solution to global challenges, which include growing urbanization and refugee populations.

The 2016 GEM shows that, on current trends, universal primary education will only be achieved in 2042; universal lower secondary completion in 2059; and universal upper secondary completion in 2084. These dates are far later than the 2030 deadline for global commitments outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the launch, which took place in London with other events in Kigali, Jakarta and Medellin, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova affirmed “The power of education is our message today. Education saves lives, education is the path sustainability. This is why we need to act in new ways, to put education first. People do not live their lives in silos -- their education is not separate from their health, environment, jobs, sense of security. We need education to be at every table, in peace-building, in urban planning, in healthcare.”

At a debate after the launch moderated by Kevin Watkins, Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute, Mundiya Kepanga, a chief from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea spoke of his regret at not having modern schooling. “Without modern education I am like a man with one leg. I have a dream that school will be free all around the world for all children because we all share the same planet,” he said.

The links between education, social justice and empowerment were highlighted by Dr Sakeena Yacoobi, CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning: "Education, health, gender equality, environment - it is like a chain, everything must go together." Drawing on more than two decades of community work, she stressed that good teacher training and participatory methodologies are key to successful learning and critical thinking.

Sharp policy focus must be placed on equity and inclusion. “One of the reasons that children aren't learning is not just because they are poor but because they are systematically discriminated against,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive of Save the Children. “Because they are girls. Because they are from certain ethnic groups. Because they are refugees. Because they live in rural areas. We have to address the systematic discrimination."

Despite the stark messages, the 2016 GEM stresses the untapped potential for education to make greater headway towards the education goals with even modest progress over the next 15 years bringing big development dividends.

Ambassador Tarald Brautaset, Special Envoy for Educaiton for Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, affirmed that: “Thanks to this Report, we have a stack of important arguments when talking to Heads of State on the importance of education in improving health, environment and equity.”

The report argues that chronic under-financing for education is holding back progress. To cover the US39 billion annual financing gap would require a six-fold increase in aid. We need a radical break, especially in low- and middle-income countries, to mobilise domestic resources, to build on education across the board, to tackle challenges urgently and holistically.

It also shows the need for education systems to step up attention to environmental concerns. Half of countries’ curricula worldwide do not explicitly mention climate change or environmental sustainability in their content.

Dr Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair on Resorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability at York University in Toronto, Canada, stressed the importance of an integrated approach: “We did research in 18 countries where school systems had addressed sustainability as a core way to deliver the curriculum. This led to a tremendous increase in quality.”

Education needs to expand beyond the school wall and throughout life with an emphasis on relevant work skills. Two-thirds of all adults lack financial literacy; 37 per cent of adults in EU countries attended adult education in 2011. Only 6 per cent of adults in the poorest countries have ever attended literacy programmes.

Inequality in education heightens the risk of violence and conflict. Across 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, regions that have very low average education had a 50 per cent chance of experiencing conflict within 21 years.

Other key findings include:

  • Even at the fastest rate of progress ever seen in the region, 1 in 10 countries in Europe and Northern America would still not achieve universal upper secondary completion by 2030
  • The world’s poorest countries are projected to achieve universal primary education more than 100 years later than the richest countries
  • In low income countries, universalising upper secondary completion by 2030 would increase per capita income by 75 per cent by 2050 and lift 60 million out of poverty
  • Universal upper secondary education completion by 2030 would prevent 200,000 disaster-related deaths in the 20 years that follow

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