Afghan police better their lives – and others’ – with literacy

education-general-and-training-command-kabulGul Rahman, a patrolman at Paktya Province prison security unit, Afghanistan, has greatly improved his ability to serve as a policeman as a result of his literacy class. He is married and the sole breadwinner for 12 family members.

“Afghanistan has suffered nearly four decades of devastating war and insurgencies, and because of this disruption I could not achieve my aspiration of becoming literate,” he said.

When the chance came to join the prison’s LEAP class, he took it. LEAP, which is supported financially by the Government of Japan, is part of UNESCO’s wider Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan programme.

“There should be no illiterate police,” a deputy from Afghanistan’s General Education Command is quoted as saying in the closing report of the second phase the LEAP programme. “They can’t implement the law if they can’t understand it. Their behaviour toward the public will improve if they are literate; they will understand ethics and human rights.”

2The 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report shows that a functioning justice system is critical for sustaining peaceful societies. And it shows that building the capacity of judicial and law enforcement officers is essential. Insufficient training and capacity building and capacity-building can hold back justice and result in delays, flawed or insufficient evidence-gathering, lack of enforcement, and abuse. It shows that many countries have critical shortages of trained police, as well as legal and forensic staff.

The current number of police officers within Afghan National Police (ANP) is approximately 164,000, of which almost 50% are patrolmen/women. According to the 2015 Afghan Police Literacy Study, only 35% (38,000) of them are literate. This means there remain an estimated 43,000 illiterate patrolmen/women, which constitutes a major drawback to quality policing, public protection and law enforcement.

Since 2011, the LEAP programme has been launched in 19 of the 34 Afghan Provinces with funding from the government of Japan and has trained a network of 500 volunteer police literary facilitators and a team with the Minister of Interior Affairs Literacy Unit.

education-general-and-training-command-kabulGul says that being able to read, write and count as a result of the programme has “solved hundreds of problems.”

Gul, for instance learned how to deal effectively with the prisoners’ needs. “Before, illiterate prisoners were asking me to write lists to pass on to their visitors of things they needed, but I was unable to help. Now I can read even formal letters and memos. I can also support my supervisor in the preparation of patrolmens’ work schedules,” he said.

“In my private life, I am able to record my daily expenses in a notebook so I can estimate and control my expenditure on a monthly basis. And when I go to the bazaar to shop, I can read the expiry dates of goods and commodities.”

Now he plans to continue his lessons until he reaches high school graduation level and can become a police officer.

LEAP graduate Rafi-u-llah, a patrol officer in Afghanistan’s Laghman province, told UNESCO in 2014 about the shame he felt due to being unable to carry out simple duties, such as giving directions, because he was unable to read. Graduating from LEAP changed that, “I am now more confident in myself because I can help people,” he said.

3Gulghotai, a female literacy learner working at Polecharkhi Prison, says that the program has brought many changes, both personal and professional. “At home we can support our children in their learning and development. As policewomen, we improve our professional behaviour through literacy.”

UNESCO with the Ministry is now looking to implement the next phase of this programme. At a cost of 3 million USD for a 30-month period.  LEAP III will focus on 1) Access: Comprehensive literacy education for all illiterate staff; 2) Quality: Improved quality of literacy teaching and learning, and 3) Management: Ensuring the sustainability, continuity and ownership of the literacy programme.

Posted in Adult education, agricultural development, Asia, Basic education, Developing countries, Equality, legal aid, legal rights, Legislation, Literacy, Marginalization, peace, rural development, sdg, sdgs, Skills, Sustainable development, united nations | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Join us online today for our event at the UN General Assembly

Later today in New York the GEM Report is holding a high-level round table discussion with key partners and stakeholders on the fringes of the General Assembly.

Moderated by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the GEM Report Advisory Board, the event will bring together member states and many of the most influential voices from the sustainable development and education communities, including: Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO; Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education; Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA; Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD; and David Nabarro, Special Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This blog contains some of the key points I will be making in my presentation.

WATCH LIVE TODAY 1.15-2.30pm EST : webtv.un.orgunweb-tv

@GEMReport #sdg4all

The discussion will focus on the key recommendations from the GEM Report Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all, which found that at current rates of progress we won’t achieve key global education commitments until 2084. There is no alternative but to seriously step up efforts in education, which is why this event will be focused on practical suggestions that can help to quicken the progress we’re making around the world.

The GEM Report shows the value of a collaborative approach, with investments in integrated interventions having a multiplier effect for key development outcomes – across health, women’s empowerment, peace and climate change mitigation.

Comic 1It also shows that progress towards more sustainable futures involves a transformation in the design of education. Education systems must do more than just transfer knowledge. We need the right type of education in order to tackle the challenges we face: education that fosters inclusive values, builds sustainable skills, and achieves our shared vision of a more equitable, just and peaceful world.

While formal education is vital, learning must also continue outside of the classroom. In the next 15 years, most of the critical decisions for this planet will be made by people who have already left school. Their adult education opportunities are vital; we need a renewed focus on lifelong learning, including giving adults opportunities to expand their knowledge and improve their skills.

One vital focus for us all must be to improve equity, which, among many benefits, especially in terms of girls’ education, would curtail population growth, transform social norms and practices across generations, and limit the burden on the planet.

As is evident, there are large expectations hanging on effective progress in education. Monitoring this progress is therefore crucial.

iso-instagramFirstly, ministries of education are not always aware of the extent of education inequality. They should be more involved in the design of surveys collected by national statistical agencies and the use of their results. An international household survey programme dedicated to education could also help in that direction.

Secondly, to assess what skills people have to contribute towards sustainable development, countries need to monitor a range of learning outcomes over time via assessments, including among those who have left school early. A code of conduct among donors will be needed to maximize synergies and avoid overlaps.

But assessing the quality of education cannot be reduced to just monitoring learning outcomes. It should include a look at policies, curricula, textbooks and teacher education programmes, reviewing how they address tolerance, human rights, and sustainability, for instance.

Education systems need increased, predictable and equitable financing. We strongly recommend countries adopt a national education accounts approach to monitor spending not only from governments and donors but also from households so that we know if costs are being shared fairly.

Governments would also benefit from exchanging information between them, as happens in Europe and Latin America, in order to understand how others in a similar situation have responded to address education challenges. The role of regional organizations here is critical.

Education can transform the way we work, the way we use resources, the way we build cities, and the way we provide services equitably. But this transformation is not something that the education community can do alone. We hope this year’s GEM Report will be used widely. If you have ideas on how we can share the key messages from the Report with other sectors and networks, do let us know.

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Education: how to keep the peace

Today, on the International Day of Peace, we should remember one key line taken from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: “There can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development”. Stable peace, our latest Report confirms, is more likely in societies where institutions are democratic, and where people are educated in ways that help them access political information and participate in political processes. Education also makes the electorate and polity more representative of society, holds governments more effectively to account and helps enforce constitutionally guaranteed rights.


1.jpg.pngIf you weren’t able to understand the language used in official government documents and had never been shown how to register for your vote or correctly fill in a ballot paper, wouldn’t you be frustrated if a politician you didn’t want was voted into power? If you didn’t know where to access information about candidates and their policies, or weren’t able to read newspapers or analyse political broadcasts, how would you make an informed decision? Education is critical not just during elections but throughout the entire political cycle. As the GEM Report shows, more educated people are more likely to contact their political representative, more likely to request information on political processes, more likely to participate in political and community meetings, and are overall more likely to be critically minded in political activities. Continue reading

Posted in Conflict, emergencies, peace, refugees, Refugees and displaced people, sdg, syria, Uncategorized, united nations, violence | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

There is no doubt. A #learninggeneration calls for a financial upheaval

commission-reportThe International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity released their Report this weekend. It sounds the warning bell on the need for greater financing for education. Released just weeks after our latest GEM Report, it should help get donors and governments sit up and pay attention to the urgency of breaking with past trends if we’re to achieve our education ambitions.

Just over a year ago, the Outcome document from the Oslo Summit on education laid out the mandate for the Commission Report: “Its purpose will be to explore and invigorate the case for investment in education and bring about a reversal of the current underfunding. It will seek to identify means of deploying the resources available in more effective, accountable and coordinated ways.”

One of the highlighted figures of the Commission Report is that the total cost of achieving this vision is three trillion dollars. This is roughly ten times the amount the GEM Report calculated last year as the annual total cost for education targets. But the vast difference is misleading. The additional cost is accounted for by the fact that the Commission includes upper middle income countries, which have far higher cost levels per capita. The Commission also includes the cost of post-secondary education, which makes up a third of spending in low income countries and almost half of spending in low and middle income countries put together. Continue reading

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SDG4 is a universal agenda – and that includes high income countries


“Can OECD’s data guide the world towards better education systems?” asks a blog promoting yesterday’s launch of the 2016 edition of the OECD flagship publication, Education at a Glance.

The Introduction of the 2016 Education at a Glance is one of the clearest signs that this is a universal agenda, not one dictated by rich countries to poor countries. Up to 2015, for example, OECD member states considered the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All agenda irrelevant to their needs, even if they were missing targets, such as gender parity. This is certain to change. As the OECD notes, “every single country is challenged to achieve the SDGs” not least because of the inter-dependence of the goals.

Accordingly, the 2016 Education at a Glance makes an attempt to measure the distance OECD member states need to travel to reach the ten SDG 4 targets. This is built on “a synopsis of what the OECD has to offer to the international community” in terms of measurement tools. A conclusion is that “of the 35 OECD countries for which relevant data are available, only 12 have attained at least half of the targets; many still have a long way to go”. Continue reading

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In my tribe, we go to a different type of school

Blog by Mundiya Kapanga, who attended the launch of the 2016 GEM Report in London.


Mundiya Kepanga

I know that Westerners are busy and that you are always looking at your watch so I will be quick. I will only take five or six minutes of your time.

I’m called Mundiya Kepanga. I’m the chief of the Huli tribe in Papua New Guinea. I am sure lots of important people write for the blog you are reading, but I’m not a Maire, I’m not a Minister, I’m not a Prime Minister and I don’t have a Nobel Prize. I’m just a chief who doesn’t know how to read or write. I must also admit that I’ve never been to school. Now, for this text I need someone to type what I’m saying. With my friends we preferred to play in the forest and get into mischief. One day, my father asked me to dig a really deep hole. When I came back he said “if you don’t go to school, this is what you will do. You’ll spend your time digging toilettes for people to poo into!” Now, I know I should have listened to my father. Because life is very hard when you don’t know how to read and write. I don’t have a bank account. I can’t read menus in restaurants, or the panels in airports and I can’t work out how to take public transport. When I think about the advice I didn’t listen to from my father, I feel like cutting my fingers off with an axe.


Traditionally, in my tribe, to become a man, teenagers live in the forest for several months under the guidance of many of the elders. It is westerners who have invented schools with tables, chairs and boards and diplomas. We can learn how to write and read and count and all sorts of things in school. But in my tribe, we had a traditional type of school called Iba Gidja. For weeks, we grew our hair and, at the same time, learned the rules and how to respect others. We learned to live together in harmony and take care of our planet. During this period of initiation, we cut our hair to have a haircut like I still have today on my head. We found feathers to wear for big ceremonies. This haircut signifies that we are respectable people and that we understand our culture.

The 2016 GEM Report shows that Education systems must take care to protect minority cultures and their associated languages, which contain vital information about the functioning of ecosystems. But the Report shows 40% of the global population are taught in a language they don’t understand.

Culture is the foundation of everything. Without culture, without traditions and identity, men don’t have any point of reference or direction to follow that will mean they can respect the footsteps of our elders. Our cultures have taught us to take care of our communities and our environment. Education without culture teaches us selfishness and greed which destabilizes traditional structures and leads to the destruction of our planet.

The latest Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identifies indigenous and traditional knowledge as a major resource for adapting to climate change.


Mundiya meeting the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova at the global launch event for the 2016 GEM Report in London, 6 September

After I left my parents, my uncle took me under his wing. He taught me to grow sweet potatoes, to build a house, to look after pigs and to speak in public. One day he said to me ‘when you’re a man, you will have troubles to express yourself in public. You will shake and sweat will appear on your forehead. So you must train yourself when youre young. Your words should be sweet as honey”. It’s thanks to him that I learnt lots of things, and particularly to express myself as I am doing now. I think that our parents, friends and extended family are our first teachers. And that they are crucial to learn numerous fundamental lessons about life.

Before dying he said “now you’re a man. You’ve never been to school but you have all your diplomas. You know how to grow a garden, build a house and speak in public. You understand our traditions and everything that’s important for our community. You have a beard and it’s the moment to get married. Now the only thing left to learn is to teach what you have learnt to your children.”

Research has documented how formal schooling systems have resulted in the loss of significant background knowledge about nature, culture and values that indigenous children previously acquired in their communities. Examples from countries including Australia, Canada and the United States show an unquantifiable loss of indigenous knowledge from the beginning of the 20th century, when indigenous
children were sent to residential schools or put up for forced adoption in an attempt to assimilate them into the dominant society. Separating them from their families and consequently from their cultural roots caused ‘irreparable harm to the survival of indigenous cultures and societies’

Since then I have had five children and I have taught them a bit of what I know. I can’t read or write but I think that if we want for our children to live in a sustainable world, their education must be based upon three big pillars: the respect of cultures and traditional knowledge systems, the main principles that are important for our family, and the lessons that can be learnt from modern education systems. I think that these are the three legs of the chair on which our children should sit to build a better world for tomorrow.

Posted in Adult education, Asia, Language, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why have countries committed to development targets they might never reach?

It seems a strange decision for any country, let alone all, to sign up to a global commitment they know they will never reach. End Hunger? Eradicate poverty? Are these lofty goals really possible? In the next 15 years? Exactly how will countries get every boy and girl to complete primary and secondary education by 2030 when 263 million are out of school and international aid for education is on the decline?

Why indeed did countries willingly sign up to such ambitious commitments in the new global development agenda? And why does civil society applaud the new agenda, while knowing rationally and in their heart of hearts that it will likely never be achieved? Continue reading

Posted in Adult education, Africa, Arab States, Basic education, Climate change, Developed countries, Developing countries, Disaster preparedness, Equity, integrated development, Learning, Millennium Development Goals, monitoring, Post-2015 development framework, sdgs, Sustainable development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments