United Nations High Level post-2015 Panel must prioritise equity in education

By Pauline Rose, Director of the Global Monitoring Report.

PAKISTAN LOW FEES SCHOOLS KARACHIStudying at school, Karachi, Pakistan. © UNESCO/A. Soomro

Unlike hurricanes and health epidemics, education emergencies rarely hit the news headlines. The tragic shooting of Malala in Pakistan has brought the world’s attention to the plight that 5 million children face in the country who are denied their basic right to an education. What will it take to fully open the eyes of the media and politicians to the additional 56 million in the rest of the world also out of school?

As our recently-published Education for All Global Monitoring Report identifies, we are facing a global education emergency even now. Numbers of children not able to go to school have stalled in recent years and even increased in sub-Saharan Africa. This has left those marginalized due to their poverty, ethnicity, gender or where they live, most likely  to be denied the chance of an education. Getting children into school is not the only problem – once there, many children are not even achieving the basics. The Report shows that this education emergency is leaving as many as 250 million children unable to read or count whether they are in school or not.

This is why I am very pleased to see that human development is on the agenda of the United Nations High Level Panel that meets this week in London to discuss the post-2015 development agenda. To address the problems identified in our Report, it is vital that the High Level Panel putsinequalities in education at the heart of their deliberations.

The failure of the MDGs to place sufficient attention to the marginalized has left behind those who are hardest to reach – often poorest girls living either in remote rural areas or urban slums cannot make it through school. In at least 68 countries, poorest girls are in school for a shorter period of time than other groups in their country.

Denying the right to education to the most disadvantaged has left a legacy of one in five 15- to 24-year-olds who has not even completed primary school in developing countries – 58% of whom are young women and the majority of whom are in poverty. This not only means that these young people cannot find work that allows them to feed themselves and break free from that poverty, but is also damaging for social justice, and for their country’s prosperity, peace and security.

In order to facilitate equity-based monitoring in education the EFA Global Monitoring Report team has recently developed a user-friendly website – the World Inequality Database on Education – that provides vivid visualizations of education inequalities. The site shows how multiple forms of disadvantage, such as gender, poverty and location, hold back education opportunities; it exposes the reality of the disparities which have, in some countries, remained static over time, and need concrete equity targets to bring global attention on closing the gaps.

A previous blog reporting on WIDE, our new website, highlighted that as many as 80% of poorest young women in Pakistan experience extreme education poverty – having spent less than two years in school – whether they live in Balochistan or even the wealthier province of the Punjab. We cannot – and neither can those meeting in London this week – afford to ignore the education of girls and young women that Malala and others like her have bravely stood up for.

As we move towards the post-2015 agenda, it is also crucial that more emphasis be placed on ensuring that children learn once they are in school. The goals set in 2000 brought real vigour to increasing primary enrolment between 1999 and 2004. This same vigour is now needed to ensure that there are enough teachers in classrooms, and also that these teachers are equipped with the right training to give children the best start in life, regardless of their background. This year’s Global Monitoring Report clearly shows how low socio-economic status has a huge impact on a children’s learning in school, even in rich countries. And the 2013 Global Monitoring Report will take up these issues in more detail.

The evidence on the global education emergency in both access to education, and learning once in school, points to the urgent need for the UN High Level Panel to place equity at the centre of any post-2015 discussions. We cannot risk failing another generation of children and young people who need our help the most.

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This entry was posted in Basic education, Out-of-school children, Poverty. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to United Nations High Level post-2015 Panel must prioritise equity in education

  1. Barbara MacDonald says:


    While I am pleased to see this blog on prioritizing equity in education, I am also concerned that we pay comprehensive attention to the school communities which would be accessible to girls, and both physically and emotionally healthy for both boys and girls.

    The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) has successfully piloted “TAG” (Teachers’ Action for Girls), in Uganda and is now ready to extend the program to other African partner countries, as funds become available. This is a project based approach that empowers teachers to remove barriers to a safe and nurturing educational environment, particularly for girls. Schools in marginalized and remote communities often lack latrines and clean water and other amenities that promote basic hygiene. Sexual harassment, sexual favours for academic success and violence including rape can be common, unreported and tolerated. Unsafe routes to and from schools, corporal punishment and lack of counselling or support can deter the most eager of girls, especially when gender roles and cultural myths about limitations for girls are endemic. These situations do not promote achievement.

    Where such is the case, the case for increasing access to schools for girls is weakened.

    Sensitizing teachers to the barriers that girls face, and training to equip them with strategies to become part of the solution is the key response. Girl-friendly schools are child-friendly schools. Access to hygiene and the promotion of physical and psychological well-being should be a basic right for all students and teachers. Child-friendly schools draw community centres of support. Non-violent schools model non-violent communities. Teacher training in clusters of communities supported by shared manuals, mentoring and counselling resources are also part of a comprehensive and sustainable solution.

    Join the global campaign for girl’s education. Support Teacher Action for Girls in school. TAG, you’re it!!


    Barbara MacDonald Moore

    Director of International Programs/

    Directrice des Programmes internationaux

    Canadian Teachers’ Federation/Fédération canadienne des enseignantes et des enseignants

    2490 prom. Don Reid Drive

    Ottawa, Ontario

    K1H 1E1



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  2. SH says:

    Thanks guys — Thought provoking article.


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