High Level Group 2011: Director-General calls for restored urgency to reach Education for All
“A people cannot be rich without the first of riches – an education”, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated at the opening of the 10th High-Level Group Meeting on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand on 22 March 2011.
During a ceremony presided by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and in the presence of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand, the Director-General stated that twenty years after the Education for All coalition was born in Jomtien, “the idea that education is an overarching transformative force has never been more true.”
“We must renew the spirit that drove Jomtien twenty years ago and we must restore a sense of urgency to reach our goals. High challenges remain before us. We must mobilize to overcome them and to lay the foundations for a new, sharper agenda to follow 2015.”
The world is not on track to reach Education for All, and the stakes are higher with the global economic crisis. “This year 2011 must be a new turning point,” she said, drawing attention to several “policy knots.”
The first is equity, requiring policies to reach excluded groups, with a priority on educating girls and young women. Addressing exclusion must start with early childhood care and education, the second policy knot. Quality is the third knot to be tackled: “Enhancing quality means revising approaches to teaching, learning and curriculum development.” Finally, education needs innovation to respond to the complex demands for globalization and to harness the full potential of information and communication technology.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn described several profound changes that have taken place since the 1990 Jomtien Conference on Education for All, from climate change and natural resource depletion to rapid urbanization. In this context, she said, “Education must build up conscientiousness and responsibility of all to care for the well-being of disadvantaged people. ‘All for Education’ and ‘Education for the Well-Being of All’ are important to the future of mankind.”
Prime Minister Vejjajiva highlighted Thailand’s recent measures to promote equity, including the introduction of 15-year free quality education and a focus on the quality of teachers. “What brings us together here is our shared belief in education and training as the key to alleviating poverty, enhancing human security and building longer-term resilience in the face of global change. This belief also drives our commitment to achieving the Education for All goals by 2015.”
In the face of slowing progress, Ms Bokova stated that “the High-Level Group on Education for All must become a sharper instrument – more persuasive in mobilizing political support, more effective in developing partnerships.”
Organized by UNESCO and hosted by the Government of Thailand, the 10th High-Level Group on Education for All is comprised of Ministers of Education and International Cooperation, representatives of international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector from 34 countries across six continents.
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