Milestone meeting on new education agenda highlights equity and inclusion
“We must stay the course to leave no one behind,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, opening a high-level event on strategies to advance the Education 2030 Agenda at the United Nations in New York on 19 July 2016.
The event, “SDG 4 – Education 2030: What policies and data to ensure that no one is left behind?”, organized by UNESCO and UNICEF on the sidelines of the first High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), brought together the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council Ambassador Oh Joon and high-ranking representatives from government, UN agencies and the Global Partnership for Education. It was sponsored by the Republic of Korea, Morocco and Norway.
“We need political commitment, coordinated action and resources to match the magnitude of this task,” said Ms Bokova. New figures released by the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEMR) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show that 263 million children and youth aged between 6 and 17 are still not in school and most of them are girls. Poorest children are four times more likely to be out of school and five times more likely not to complete primary education than the richest.
Ms Bokova pointed to positive signs of engagement with the 2030 Agenda, citing the integration of SDGs into national policy, the case of donor countries such as Norway and the Republic of Korea setting strong examples, the launch of the Education Cannot Wait Fund at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and the establishment of the SDG4-Education 2030 Steering Committee convened by UNESCO as a key mechanism for global coordination.
Highlighting Norway’s increased development assistance to education, in particular for girls and emergency situations, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: "Equity in education is the key to unlocking opportunities for everybody to enjoy a better life, across the globe, no matter in which country".
She also flagged the forthcoming report of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, initiated by Norway and co-convened with UNESCO, to make the case for priority investment in education, expressing "high hopes that this report will mobilise greater political will and more financial resources".
Mr Oh Joon, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UN and President of ECOSOC underscored the centrality of inclusive education for development, and drew attention to his country’s ‘Better Life for Girls Initiative” to combat gender inequality through education and skills. He also underlined the strong relevance of the education agenda to the topic of the ongoing session of the High-Level Political Forum of ECOSOC of "leaving no one behind".
The importance of skills training for youth to eradicate poverty was emphasized by Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization. Mr Ryder also highlighted the power of inclusive and equitable free education as one of the most effective means to end child labor, and the key relevance of education to the achievement of all SDGs.
Jo Bourne, UNICEF’s Associate Director for Education said: “In order for SDG 4 to be translated into meaningful and sustainable change, those left behind by business as usual – children with disabilities, children affected by crisis, migrants and ethnic minorities, children living in poverty and girls – need urgent and targeted efforts to enter and stay in schools, and learn.”
The Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the UN, Mr Tuvako Manongi, stated the high priority given by Tanzania to inclusive and equitable education, including technical vocational education and training, and outlined his country’s policy on the matter.
Shedding light on national policy, Roberto Iván Aguilar Gómez, Minister of Education of Bolivia and Vice Chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, described his country’s strategies for advancing equity, inclusion and gender equality. In his capacity as Vice Chair of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, he underlined the Steering Committee's key task to provide strategic guidance to Member States to support the implementation of SDG 4 and education-related targets of other goals, based on the Education 2030 Framework for Action.
To fulfil the promise of SDG4, participants stressed the urgency of increased aid, including through new sources. “Ensuring that every child has access to a quality education requires more than money - It requires spending existing resources better and a stronger focus on the most marginalized”, said Alice Albright, the CEO of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
They also emphasized the importance of quality data to address inequality and shape effective policies. “Everyone agrees on the urgency to reach the millions of children and adults who remain excluded from education and lack the most basic skills needed throughout life” affirmed the Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics Silvia Montoya. “But we will never reach these people without the data to show precisely who they are, where they are and why they are unable to get a quality education”.
The panel further highlighted UNESCO’s mandated role to lead and coordinate SDG4-Education 2030.
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