By Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report
With the 2015 deadline for the Education for All goals fast approaching, international attention is focusing on what will succeed them. It is crucial that a clear, overarching education goal within the broader global development framework is backed by a separate, detailed global education framework, that locks in commitments to measurable targets holding all governments accountable for reaching the marginalized, and for providing adequate funding.
One of the problems that has hindered education progress since 2000 is that the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals operated as parallel processes rather than reinforcing each other. As we illustrated with our proposed global and EFA goals, after 2015 the broader development framework and education framework need to be coherently linked together, to make sure they achieve the desired objectives of all children, young people, and adults having access to a good quality education.
A new global education framework would bring greater clarity to an overarching global goal. “Equitable, quality education and lifelong learning for all,” the goal that resulted from the global thematic consultation on education in the post-2015 development agenda and taken up by the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, remains too opaque. We need to spell out what we mean by equity and quality, and identify how these will be measured.
“Lifelong learning” – a word more commonly applied to adult literacy needs and which can refer to learning in formal, non-formal and informal settings – is too vague. It risks undermining holding governments to account for their responsibility to provide lifetime education opportunities, from early childhood to adulthood to all. A separate education framework is therefore needed to help unpack this broad goal.
A separate education framework can build on some of the hard lessons learned since the EFA goals were established in 2000. Concrete, globally applicable, targets are needed – more detailed than those in the broader development framework – that specify the indicators to be used. EFA goal 3, on youth and adult skills, and goal 6, on education quality, suffered from neglect because progress was not easily measurable. This must not be allowed to happen again.
Global education targets, such as ensuring all children, regardless of their circumstances, achieve foundation skills, or that all young people acquire skills needed for work, could be accompanied by more ambitious national targets. However, relying on flexible targets that governments can choose to adopt will not suffice for achieving universal progress, and ensuring no one is left behind. Rather, it is a recipe for continued, widespread inequality between and within countries.
A separate post-2015 education framework can also ensure that equity – a fair chance of education for everyone – is the focus of each detailed goal. One of the major shortcomings of the EFA goals is that a failure to make special efforts to bring education to the disadvantaged only deepened that marginalization suffered by the poor, girls, people in rural areas, ethnic minorities and other groups.
A set of separate education goals also allows for a healthy debate around how best to achieve each goal, including a more detailed examination of promising policies than a broad development framework can hope to offer. As with EFA, it will also help to bring together the support of a broad range of education stakeholders, including national governments, NGOs, teacher unions, the private sector and aid donors.
A commitment to measurability should be matched by a commitment to intensive monitoring that can be used to hold governments, donors and other education actors accountable for their commitments. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report has played that crucial role since 2002 and it is vital that this independent monitoring continues.
As a post on the NORRAG blog put it this week, “it has been the EFA Global Monitoring Report that has been largely responsible for keeping the eyes of the global international education community on EFA, as it has routinely, since 2002, reviewed progress against the Six Dakar Goals set in April 2000.” The depth of the Report’s monitoring and advocacy has galvanized the education community, year after year, and made education the envy of many other sectors, which lack such a tool to hold all parties accountable.
It is urgent that the education community work together to debate and shape the new global framework to replace Education for All. A separate set of measurable global education goals and targets, complementing an overarching development agenda, that are focused on equity and specify the financing that is needed to achieve them, will give all children, youth and adults a far greater chance of benefiting from progress in education in the future.