One year on - Europe and North America take stock of Education 2030
Representatives from countries in Europe and North America met at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris to take stock one year after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4).
The two-day Europe and North America SDG4-Education 2030 Regional Consultation is part of a series of regional meetings being held to examine progress and challenges in national education systems related to the 2030 commitments.
Refugee education, educating citizens about climate change, and future skills needed to prevent violent extremism were among the topics discussed.
Opening the meeting Mr Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant-Director for Education, said: “The purpose of this meeting is to align national education plans with the Education 2030 agenda and define regional coordination processes. Equity and quality are the issues most relevant to the region. How we tackle youth unemployment through providing flexible training and also how we help others left behind in the least developed countries, these are the defining challenges for this region."
Gabriela Ramos, Senior Counsellor to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation said that while each of the countries involved were starting from different places, all had work to do. "Whilst processes and indicators are being still being refined at an international level, each country needs to have a sense of urgency to put in place policies now," she added.
One agenda, different challenges
One dominant theme was inclusive education. Ms Anne-Marie Lepage, Assistant Deputy Minister, English-Speaking, Aboriginal and Cultural Communities, Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Quebec from Canada identified one priority as ensuring that children from the First Nations people receive quality education which promotes indigenous culture and languages. Meanwhile, for Ms Monika Rybova, Department of Secondary Vocational Schools and Conservatories, Regional Education Division, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Slovakia the inclusion of Roma children in pre-primary education is a key challenge.
Ms Florence Robine, Director-General for Schools in the French Ministry of Education, highlighted the need to better support the immigrant population who face a significant language barrier and explained that France has put in place a programme to teach vulnerable children, particularly from migrant communities, from 2 years old. Sweden pointed out that, as the country received more immigrants per capita than any country in Europe in 2015, many adults were also in need of educational support.
However, Stanislav Štech, Vice-Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Czech Republic said expanding educational opportunity meant a change in mindset as "the society that refuses or is not totally open to inclusive education, decreases the quality of education."
Beyond basic education
The Education 2030 agenda goes beyond the ambitions of previous international agendas which placed the emphasis on basic education. At the tertiary level, Veniamin Kaganov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Russian Federation highlighted the need for "overcoming barriers towards innovation development through more intensive international cooperation and strengthening links between industry and universities".
Beth Button, Executive Committee Member, European Students' Union described the agenda as: "a unique opportunity for national governments to commit to cooperate in tackling and overcoming the intersecting inequalities that still prevent access of underrepresented groups, particularly for students with disabilities."
The 2030 agenda includes greater scope for the non-formal and informal sector, particularly in Global Citizenship Education, as many countries underlined. Mr Michael Zgurovsky, Rector of the National Technical University of Ukraine highlighted the importance of education beyond the education sector, in order to make economic, environmental and social progress, particularly the linkages between science, the environment and educational for sustainable development.
The first day of the conference focused on understanding the different issues facing each country while the second day was devoted to sharing best practices on how to measure progress and also focused on how Europe and North America could fulfil their aid obligations to low- and middle-income countries.
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