By Pauline Rose, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report
The just-released Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda is to be commended for putting forward a clear roadmap for the way ahead. Feeding into the on-going processes, the EFA Global Monitoring Report team made recommendations for post-2015 education goals. Here is my assessment on how close the high-level panel’s report comes to meeting our expectations, using a red/amber/green rating (off track/at risk/on track):
Addressing equity in education: green/amber
On track: The report clearly identifies equity as a guiding principle, and it is mentioned specifically in some education targets.
At risk: The overarching goal and all education targets need to include equity explicitly, and equity needs to be put at the heart of the rationale for the education goals.
A strong thread running through the report is the need to ensure no one is left behind this time. It is reassuring to see this reflected in two of the four proposed targets for education – that every child, regardless of circumstance, completes primary school able to read, write and count well enough to meet minimum standards, and that every child, regardless of circumstance, has access to lower secondary education.
However, two of the targets fall short of specifying equity –access to pre-school, and skills for young and adult women and men. The document does pay attention to marginalized groups throughout, and the annex on targets and indicators clearly specifies that it is not enough just to measure average trends, but that indicators need to be disaggregated. But we need to remember the lesson learnt from 2000: the Millennium Declaration mentioned equity as a principle but it was subsequently sidelined because it wasn’t incorporated in the wording of goals, targets and indicators.
This limitation is further reflected in the discussion that accompanies the goals. “Equity must be a core principle of education” should be at the forefront and cut across the entire rationale, rather than almost hidden at the end of the text. And while it is no doubt the case that some countries have made significant gains in the last decade in reducing disparities based on disability, ethnicity, language and belonging to a religious minority or being displaced, as the report concludes, the gains have been far from sufficient, as data in our World Inequality Database on Education shows.
Making goals, targets and indicators simple, clear and measurable: amber
On track: The report is on the right path for precise indicators to be developed.
Off track: The overarching education goal is too vague and lacks a sense of urgency; getting to zero for all needs to be a guiding principle.
The overarching goal of providing “quality education and lifelong learning” is a cause for concern because it does not specify the need to prioritize the most disadvantaged and because the wording is too vague. The divide in the education community at present between those who want an education goal to focus on the process of quality versus the outcomes of learning is unhelpfully reflected here. The wording also does not get across the urgency of the learning crisis – 250 million children not learning the basics, some because they don’t make it to grade 4 and others because they are in school but hardly learning. As I argued in an earlier blog post, the word “lifelong” is a problem as it can be interpreted in different ways. It would be better to frame the goal as “all children, young people and adults learn the basics, regardless of circumstance”.
The targets offered are too imprecise and need to be more ambitious to ensure we not only make progress, but also ensure no one is left behind. “Meeting minimum learning standards” is open to many interpretations, and likely to let countries off the hook. Leaving standards to be set by countries is likely to perpetuate national and global inequalities. Rather, a global minimum standard is needed, even if countries then set their own higher ambitions.
An important feature of the high-level panel’s report is the recommendation that “any new goals should be accompanied by an independent and rigorous monitoring system, with regular opportunities to report on the progress and shortcomings at a high political level.” We very much welcome this call for the kind of independent monitoring that the EFA Global Monitoring Report has championed for education over the past decade.
Financing Education for All: amber/red
At risk: The report includes a financing goal, but only specifies that developed countries should make concrete efforts to bring their aid level up to 0.7% of gross national income.
Off track: There are no targets to hold governments and donors to account for ensuring that no country is left behind in education due to lack of resources.
The inclusion of a goal aimed at creating “a global enabling environment” to “catalyze long-term finance” includes a commitment to ensure that all developed countries “make concrete efforts” to spend 0.7% of gross national production on aid. This is very welcome. However, concrete efforts are not enough. Issues of finance appear to have been skirted around in the report overall, and are not mentioned at all in relation to the proposed education goal.
The report includes a call for developed countries to keep their aid promises and developing countries to raise more revenue (including through better management of natural resources, which we called for in a recent policy paper). It also calls for better transparency and accountability among all finance actors. While these aims are important, the report does not go far enough in specifying goals and targets so that governments and donors have to back their promises with resources. By our calculations, $26 billion in additional funding is needed to achieve universal primary school and $38 billion to achieve universal lower secondary school, both of which are targets included in the proposed goals.
Insufficient finance is a key reason for the unfinished business with the current MDGs, as our forthcoming joint paper with UNESCO Institute of Statistics will show. Without targets for finance, it will be difficult to motivate – and monitor – the financial commitments needed to achieve our goals.
Addressing education as a catalyst to all goals: amber
On track: Education is recognized as a catalyst for reaching other goals.
Off track: Education does not appear as a target in other goals, including in the gender goal.
It is encouraging that the report specifically mentions how education supports health, environmental sustainability, participation in democracy, and more, within its overarching focus on eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development. But some of the evidence is dated and does not fully cover all the angles on education’s pivotal role. We are undertaking new analysis of education’s power to accelerate progress towards other development goals, which we will present at the UN General Assembly in September and in the 2013-2014 EFA Global Monitoring Report.
Education’s cross-cutting importance should be more clearly reflected in targets for other goals. It is worrying to see that the goal to “Empower girls and women and achieve gender equality” no longer specifies an education target, unlike the MDG gender goal. It is not enough to compartmentalize gender disaggregation of data for education under an education goal. As Naila Kabeer’s important work has clearly shown, education is at the heart of ensuring women’s empowerment.
Overall, my assessment of the proposed goals is green/amber. It is encouraging to see that the High-Level Panel’s report has picked up on so many of our key recommendations for post-2015 education goals, and the report sets out a clear roadmap for work that remains be done, allowing time for the identified gaps and shortcomings to be filled.
Here is a comparison of Education Post-2015 goals: