By Pauline Rose, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report
As the post-2015 goal-setting process continues, education has increasingly been discussed as not only a development goal in its own right, but also a key way of reaching other development goals. And for good reason: a country that provides free access to quality education for all its citizens is far more likely to reduce poverty, promote economic growth, lower child and maternal mortality and achieve social inclusion. Two recent consultations highlight the importance of education and learning.
The recent draft Executive Summary for the United Nations World We Want Post-2015 Global Consultation on Education positions education as both a human right and the foundation for development. The summary, which is open for comments until May 27, calls for new goals to focus not just on access, but also on quality of learning. The focus on quality is welcome: as we found in the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report, education systems must address the fact that 250 million young people – including many who are in school – lack basic literacy and numeracy. The World We Want summary identifies the crucial role that teachers play in providing quality education, which will be a major topic in our upcoming 2013/2014 EFA Global Monitoring Report, on teaching and learning for development
The draft Executive Summary does an excellent job of framing the urgent need for equitable education. However, ultimately a clearer goal will need to be defined to ensure that progress toward quality Education for All is clear and measurable. The Executive Summary uses the proposed goal from the expert meeting in Dakar several months ago, “Equitable quality lifelong education and learning for all”, as its proposed overarching education goal. As I mentioned in an earlier post after the Dakar meeting, the terms “lifelong education” is open to different interpretations, and thus lacks the clarity necessary for the international community to adopt and measure progress toward this goal. We must ensure that post-2015 education goals are clearly and simply stated, measurable and have equity at their heart.
A draft report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network also proposes a framework for post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that includes goals for education, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Their proposed goal on education is to “Ensure effective learning for all children and youth for life and livelihood” with proposed targets on access to early childhood development programmes, quality primary and secondary education focused on learning, and youth unemployment. It is encouraging to see that the proposed SDGs also recognize the importance of learning in addition to access.
It is promising that education is included as an essential component of the sustainable development framework, as education supports so many other sustainable development goals, including gender equality, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. The final report could go even further by defining the links among sustainable development goals, and specifically the role that education plays in supporting other goals. Here are just a few examples:
- Education supports action toward climate change: A survey of OECD countries found that students with higher science knowledge expressed more sense of responsibility for the environment than those with lower scores in science.
- Education reduces poverty and hunger: One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10%.
- Education supports child health: A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age 5.
It is good news that both the World We Want consultation goals and the Sustainable Development Goals emphasize the importance of equitable access and learning. However, further steps must be taken to ensure that final post-2015 education goals are clear and measurable. In addition, as the recent high-level panel in Bali noted, there is a need to merge the two agendas focused on sustainable development and poverty eradication. Both agendas are mutually beneficial, and both are underpinned by education.