Inclusive higher education in South Africa: not just a policy project but also an ‘ethical project’

By Professor Ruksana Osman, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Wits 1As the recent GEM Report paper showed, equitable and affordable higher education remains elusive to the majority of students from working class backgrounds.  Any deliberation about higher education policy is at once local and global – facing the twin challenge of needing to be responsive to immediate demands for educational improvement and social transformation as well as sufficiently competitive with the edge on quality and innovation.

Working here at Wits University, where protests first began in the now-globally known #FeesMustFall campaign, I offer a South Africa perspective on the story. When the country reimagined its post-secondary system, it held out the promise of access and equity for students into a differentiated system offering mobility and opportunities previously denied to the majority by apartheid. This policy reform process has proven to be a huge task generating some success but also much disappointment in different sectors of society. Continue reading

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When will they ever learn?

BenBy Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Theirworld

Denying a child an education does not happen by accident. It is the end result of policy and funding choices made by individuals in positions of power.

It is up to national governments, and sometimes regional or local administrative authorities, to determine what percentage of expenditures should be directed toward education. It is up to donor governments to allocate aid for the poorest and most marginalised boys and girls. It is the choices of leaders to unlock the funds necessary to ensure our Sustainable Development Goal of a universal and quality education for all is met. And now it is up to us to act.

The wrong choices have been made too easily in the past. These decisions have resulted in a quarter of a billion children and young people being out-of-school today. And our decisions have only exacerbated an education crisis borne out of the Syrian Civil War – a mass of more than one million Syrian refugee children locked out of an education.

G20Make no mistake – when the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries meet in Hamburg in July for the G20, the choices they make will have consequences. This year, there is no way around the education financing question. Indeed, 2017 is different. Leaders gathering in Germany have been asked to support an education financing breakthrough – a big plan capable of tackling an even bigger education crisis. These leaders can be the foundational visionaries that lend their support to an International Financing Facility that could unlock and mobilise an additional $13 billion annually for education by 2020.  Continue reading

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And the winners of our youth photo competition are…

We’re delighted to announce the three winners of the youth photo competition we launched just over a month ago around the themes of Target 4.7 in the new global education goal. Selected from a huge amount of talented submissions, the three winners are listed in order below.

The top submission is Domyson Dulay Abuan’s photo, entitled the ‘Lens of Sustainable Education’.

Lens of Sustainable Education

Image: Domyson Dulay Abuan: ‘Lens of Sustainable Education’

The photo is taken of a Grade 6 student from an Elementary School in Laguna, Philippines, who has made recycled materials to make a make-shift camera. The photographer, Domyson Dulay Abuan explains that the students are learning ICT skills, which are “relevant to present and future times. Their access to ICT tools and its uses will serve as their portal towards globalization. It is also the window that would show them the relevant issues faced by their community and the world. This will enable them to formulate solutions and bring in positive change, not just for themselves but for future generations as well.” Continue reading

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Countries, Experts and Agencies Meet to Measure Progress toward Education 2030

montoya-cropped1By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Given the time it can take to mobilize around development goals and establish effective monitoring systems to track progress, the 2030 deadline for the achievement of the global goal on education is just around the corner. Nevertheless, there are times when it is wise to pause for a moment and take stock. With crucial meetings of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) and the Technical Coordination Group on SDG 4 (TCG) in the coming weeks, this is just such a moment.

GAML is developing the standards and methodologies needed to measure learning outcomes globally, while helping countries to produce and use the information to achieve SDG 4. The TCG builds political consensus on the SDG 4 measurement agenda by bringing together Member States, multilateral agencies and civil society groups.

SDG4Much has been achieved: the foundations to track progress on SDG 4 are now in place, most of the indicators have been set and development work is underway for those remaining indicators. The institutional mechanisms are ready to go. We now need to move forward, confident that those in power will prioritize – and act on – the robust data that are needed to track progress.

These initial stages have been arduous and time-consuming. Working in close partnership with a wide range of bodies, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has spent years developing the necessary monitoring frameworks and indicators. It’s worth reminding ourselves of two basic principles that have guided this work as the heavy lifting begins to measure education progress. Continue reading

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For Africa to achieve inclusive growth, it will need to learn how to get there

WEFThe World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa is taking place in Durban, South Africa this week under the theme ‘Achieving inclusive growth: responsive and responsible leadership’.  The current prosperity enjoyed by pockets of people around the world – Africa included – has left too many people behind. As we seek to make our economies, and the wealth they generate, more inclusive, everyone must have opportunities to continue learning throughout their lives.

The GEM Report Prosperity publication, released at the global World Economic Forum last January, shows that the world, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, is facing a massive mismatch between available skills and labour market needs leaving scores of people behind. A relevant, well-designed and good quality education system can reverse this.

Africa’s expanding youth population presents the continent with a tremendous opportunity for new growth and leadership. Responsive and responsible leaders are a-plenty among this generation, although they are in desperate need of a good quality education that confers flexible skills and competencies. Foundation skills – literacy and numeracy – are critical for higher order thinking, creativity, problem solving, and social and emotional skills. Without them, an education means very little. Continue reading

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#FeesMustFall: South Africa’s Ongoing Higher Education Crisis

By Dylan Barry, a post-grad physics student at the University of the Witwatersrand. Dylan headed up the #FeesMustFall News Media task team in 2015, and the #FeesMustFall Economic Research task team in 2016 at the University of the Witwatersrand.

feesm must fall Aya ChebbiOn October 14th, 2015, students at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, began blockading the entrances into the main campus of the university. Groups split off to disrupt lectures, laboratories, and test sessions across the campus. At around midday university management sent out a communication cancelling all further academic activity for the day.

The protest was organised and coordinated by the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) in response to a proposed 10.5% tuition fee increase for the year 2016. It followed on from a significant and well-organised protest two weeks prior against the outsourcing of workers at the university, and a year of heightening tensions around access to higher education.

The protests continued the next day, and the day after that. Students around the country rallied around the hashtag #FeesMustFall, consolidating the demand for no fee increases, an end to the practice of outsourcing, and the realisation of a fee-free higher education system in South Africa. On the Monday universities across the country began to be shut down by student protests, and by Wednesday, just a week after students first started blocking entrances at Wits, almost every university campus in the country was shut down by student protests. Continue reading

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Growing demand for higher education puts affirmative action in the spotlight

By Michaela Martin and Alexandra Waldhorn, IIEP-UNESCO and Taya Louise Owens, GEM Report UNESCO

Affirmative action in higher education is a controversial topic for many. On the one hand, some believe strongly that it is the route to equitable access in tertiary education; others believe it can amount to unfair discrimination.

coverThe latest policy paper, released last month by the GEM Report and International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO), referring to available evidence concluded that affirmative action, in contexts of deeply rooted social inequalities, is an essential tool for building more inclusive higher education systems. Results show it is a very effective policy response to ensure that students from historically disadvantaged groups gain access to higher education.

Affirmative action is not a new tool for promoting equity in higher education. Colleges and universities first began using it to diversify admissions processes in the 1950s in India. Since then, it has spread to many institutions worldwide. This approach includes a variety of methods all designed to give preferential access to education and employment to historically socio-politically, non-dominant groups, such as underprivileged ethnic groups, cultural minorities, indigenous populations, economically disadvantaged populations or sometimes women.affirmitive action

Countries as diverse as the United States, India and Brazil look at criteria beyond academic achievement to level the playing field in post-secondary education. Some techniques establish baseline or percentage quotas for the target group. Others add on bonus points for belonging to a minority group. They work because they diversify entry requirements to recognize individual circumstances. Continue reading

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