By Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report
Leaders at the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland this week made progress on many important issues including international trade agreements, tax systems, transparency and terrorism. It is extremely worrying, however, that education was not mentioned at all in the 24-page communiqué from the meeting. As a vital component of tackling global poverty, education should be central to the G8’s goals.
The communiqué highlighted growth and jobs as the G8’s top priority. However, there was no mention of education’s role in solving the youth unemployment problem, despite the fact that one in five young people in developing countries have not completed primary school and lack the skills needed for work.
The meeting pledged US$1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria, which will help to provide education along with other necessities including food and medical care, according to the UK government’s website. But education’s absence from the communiqué does not offer hope that much of this amount will go to schooling, which typically gets a bad deal in emergencies: as the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report found, only 2% of humanitarian aid is spent on education. As a result, millions of children in conflict-affected zones are denied their right to learn.
Although education is not mentioned explicitly, there are two announcements in the communiqué that should have a beneficial effect on children who are out of school, provided appropriate action is taken. First is the G8’s pledge to “be more transparent in reporting the aid we provide, and work with developing countries, especially the poorest, to ensure that resources are better matched to needs”. This is welcome news for education: transparency in extraction deals can help direct natural resource revenue to where it is most needed, including education, to ensure that natural resources provide a long-term, sustainable benefit to communities.
Second, the group’s commitment to sustainable global food and nutrition security is also, implicitly at least, good news for education. Early nutrition is vital to a child’s development and ability to learn. It is not possible to end the hunger crisis permanently, however, without also providing quality basic education, which helps break the cycle of the poverty that causes hunger and malnutrition to begin with.
Given that targets for education in previous G8 agreements were already weak, the lack of attention to education in the G8’s discussion is cause for serious concern. G8 leaders seem to have ignored education’s core role in achieving other goals, such as reducing poverty, improving nutrition and boosting employment, and they don’t seem to have listened to the public’s vote putting education as their top priority for development after 2015.
With the 2015 deadline for achieving Education for All fast approaching and the funding gap widening, a renewed commitment to education from G8 countries is vital. Making sure this message gets through to world leaders and policy makers now, and in the run-up to their next big gathering – the UN summit this summer – has never been more important.