Not even a short power cut, which plunged the ballroom of Maputo’s Gloria Hotel into temporary darkness, could stifle the anticipation of those gathered to mark the global launch of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report- Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments. UNESCO’s Deputy-Director General Mr Getachew Engida was joined by Ministers of Education from across the continent as he officially launched the 2017/8 GEM Report with H.E. Ms Conceita Sortane, Mozambique’s Minister of Education and Human Development, in front of over two hundred civil society representatives, teachers, policy makers, academics and donors.
“Minsters present should consider themselves the guardians of education,” said Mr Engida as he opened the event, calling upon all governments to establish, monitor and enforce regulations to ensure the world meets the aspirations of the global education goal. A keynote address delivered by Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister H. E. Dr Demeke Mekonnen referenced some of the challenges facing the continent: for example, only one in four youth complete secondary school. “I confirm my country’s commitment to addressing these challenges, increasing expenditure on school construction and maintenance, and hiring and training thousands of new teachers, administrators and officials,” he said.
Speaking at the event, the GEM Report’s Director Mr Manos Antoninis described education as, “a shared responsibility between us all – governments, schools, teachers, parents and private actors.” He went on to say that, “the 2017/8 GEM Report focuses on accountability in education – showing who is responsible for what in education, and how to fix problems. At the heart of the Report is a focus on the role of governments as the primary duty bearers to uphold the right to education.” He also noted the need for governments to set an example for all education providers, and introduce clear regulations to uphold standards for infrastructure, instruction materials and teacher qualifications. The Report’s strong recommendations set the stage for a lively ministerial debate, with participants including H.E. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education, Ghana; H.E. Dr Papias Musafiri, Minister of Education, Rwanda; and H.E. Mr Mohamed Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Education, South Africa, along with the host Minister H.E. Ms Sortane.
“We are witnessing the launch of a very important document and every country should make it a point to read, understand and adopt the [recommendations of the] Report,” stated Minister Opoku Prempeh. “This Report helps me improve the services I am rendering to my nation.”
Across the Atlantic, a second global launch event was taking place in Brasilia at the Tribunal de Contas da União, the national supreme audit institution and a most fitting venue for the launch of a global report on accountability.
Brazil’s interim Minister of Education, H.E. Ms Maria Helena Guimarães de Castro, was joined by the Honduran Minister of Education, H.E. Ms Rutilia Calderón, to discuss Latin America’s innovative reforms and pioneering policies to improve enrolment, attendance and retention rates for the most marginalized. H.E. Ms Guimarães de Castro focused on national strategies to deal with Brazil’s out of school population, a challenge that extends to the entire region with 15.3% of secondary school aged youth in Latin America out of school.
Innovative ways of improving accountability for education’s promises were cited. The critical role of parents and communities in monitoring teacher attendance, for instance, and the establishment of community-managed schools which have significantly lowered rates of student and teacher absenteeism were also discussed. “We have introduced laws to strengthen the quality of public education and community participation that stems from recognizing that we cannot achieve quality education without the participation of other actors,” stated Minister Calderón.
Zama Neff, Director of the Child Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, pivoted the conversation to the right to education. “Although nearly all countries recognize the right to education through international and national law, the fulfilment of the right to education is far for being a reality,” said Ms Neff. “Within this context, an active, informed and engaged civil society and the presence of free and independent media is crucial to help advocate for the right to education and hold governments to account for their legal obligations.”
“We need to ensure the presence of a strong independent judiciary and well-resourced national reporting and monitoring institutions crucial to hold governments to account for slow education progress,” said Naércio Menezes, Coordinator of the Public Policies Centre at INSPER, a Brazilian higher education institution, who also spoke on the panel.
Additional launch events organized by GEM Report partners and UNESCO regional and national offices took place in London, New York and Washington D.C. These events are the forerunners of over 100 national launches organized by UNESCO country offices and GEM Report partners worldwide. Such events provide forums for policy makers, parents, teachers, students, and civil society organizations to debate and discuss the key findings and recommendations from the 2017/8 GEM Report, as well as how these can be adopted to strengthen accountability in education at the local, national and international level.