Why hasn’t education got a seat at the table for urban policy discussions?

pic-1For too long, education has been missing from urban policy and planning discussions. As the New Urban Agenda is finalized, those going to the Habitat III Conference should take heed of the benefits that including education, training and lifelong learning into city governance can bring, which are highlighted in the PLACE chapter in the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report.

Inequalities, unemployment, discrimination, violence, crime and economic stagnation are challenges faced by many cities the world over. These challenges are on the rise as urbanisation quickens, with migration from rural areas, the arrival of refugees, and overall population growth. Vast slums spreading through urban areas, back to back with high risers, and marked by a lack of access to basic services including education, are no longer shocking; they have become the norm. In education’s case for instance, the lack of equal access to quality schools with quality teachers in cities is not uncommon. Many children in slums, including those in Lagos, Nairobi, and in Mumbai, India, are more likely to be found in private schools, than in public ones, for the simple reason that there are no public schools in the vicinity. Continue reading

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Target 4.6 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on adult literacy and numeracy?


4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy

4-6While the indicator for measuring adult literacy and numeracy skills is effective, many countries have yet to adopt the necessary tools to make monitoring it possible.

Target 4.6 is poorly formulated: it views literacy as something to be ‘achieved’, similar to the old belief that illiteracy was something to be ‘eradicated’.

However, the global indicator, which refers instead to the percentage of those achieving at least a ‘level of proficiency’ in functional literacy and numeracy skills, makes up for this deficiency. It comes closer to the view of literacy as not just a set of skills but also their application. It also recognizes recent advances in the direct assessments of skills.

One useful source of data for this indicator is the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC). This assessment establishes a reporting framework of six proficiency levels describing tasks that individuals can typically undertake.

For example, individuals at literacy level 2 ‘can integrate two or more pieces of information based on criteria, compare and contrast or reason about information and make low-level inferences’. In the first round of PIAAC in 2011, which was administered in high income countries, 15% of adults fell below this basic proficiency standard, ranging from less than 5% in Japan to almost 28% in Italy. Continue reading

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Target 4.7 – What is at stake for monitoring progress on education for global citizenship and sustainable development?


4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.


4-7Target 4.7 explicitly links education to the broad Sustainable Development agenda and captures the transformative aspirations of education in relation to other SDGs.  It calls for key themes to be mainstreamed in curricular contents, teaching practices and assessment and be given greater importance in policy planning, even if these aims present a monitoring challenge.

The global indicator to monitor this target looks at the extent to which global citizenship education, education for sustainable development and gender equality are mainstreamed in national education policies, curricula content, teacher education and student assessment. The global indicator reflects the fact that the international community has recognised the importance of monitoring the content of education. This is positive, as it will encourage countries to reflect on what is taught in classrooms, and how, not just on numbers enrolling in or finishing a cycle of education. Continue reading

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Target 4a – What is at stake for monitoring progress on effective learning environments?




4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all


4-aThe concept of effective learning environments is minimally captured by the proposed indicators – but even supposedly measurable aspects of the target present major challenges for global comparisons.

The roots of target 4.a can be traced back to the concept of child-friendly schools promoted by UNICEF. Such schools should be child-centred, encourage democratic participation and promote inclusiveness.

However, it is expensive to carry out the observations needed to monitor whether these principles are followed. This makes it a difficult target for global comparisons.

Attention has therefore shifted to look at specific aspects, which are more easily measured, although perhaps less likely to capture the spirit of an ‘effective learning environment’. Yet even these aspects pose more monitoring challenges than is understood. Two examples demonstrate that.

1. In terms of water and sanitation infrastructure, only about 70% of primary schools had adequate water supply and sanitation in 2013 according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. The corresponding figure was around 50% in the least developed countries. Continue reading

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Target 4b – What is at stake for monitoring progress on scholarships?


 4.b By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

4-bThere is no mechanism yet in place to monitor the number of scholarships available, and the proposed global indicator that focuses on aid for scholarships only gives a very partial picture of the volume and type of such scholarships.

The roots of the target on scholarships can be traced back to a commitment made in the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020. However, the target sits uneasily with two of the core principles of the sustainable development agenda: universality and equity.

Moreover, even the wording in the target fails in several practical respects. For example, by stating that scholarships must be ‘available to developing countries’, the target excludes large programmes where developing countries fund their own citizens to study abroad. And by stating that enrolment must take place ‘in developed countries and other developing countries’ it excludes cases where donors fund citizens of a developing country to study at home. Continue reading

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Vivian Onano: We each have a role to play in achieving gender equality

By Vivian Onano, for International Day of the Girl Child

1My name is Vivian Onano, partnerships Manager at SEED Project, Global Youth Ambassador at WaterAid and Women Deliver Young Leader.  I was honored and delighted to be a part of the launch of the 2016 GEM Report in Kigali, Rwanda, and the launch of the GEM Report Gender Review on education and gender equality last week. Many thanks to UNESCO for inviting me to be part of this important launch and discussion. Achieving education and gender equality are issues I am very passionate about.

I firmly believe that without access to quality and safe education, we will not achieve gender equality. Without gender equality, our goal of having a world of inclusive, peaceful and prosperous communities will not be realized. Ensuring every child gets a good education is the basic foundation for a successful future.

Access to education should never be determined by one’s sex or social status. I believe beyond doubt that education is a fundamental human right. However, the reality that faces us is that there are many young girls who have been denied an opportunity at having a better life because of their gender. Although huge strides have been made towards achieving gender parity in primary education, there is significant work to be done to close the gap in secondary and tertiary education.

Continue reading

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Target 4c – What is at stake for monitoring progress on teachers?




4.c By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States


4-cTarget 4.c focuses on the supply of qualified teachers. But what it means to be a trained teacher varies per country and the relevant standards are not documented. This means that data are not really comparable, making the job of monitoring the target hard.

A distinct target relating to the teaching profession is considered a welcome addition, as it had been missing from the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals agendas. However, there is also dissatisfaction with the narrow focus on the ‘supply of qualified teachers’.

The 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report goes beyond these relatively narrow confines and discusses the monitoring implications of the more general commitment, expressed in the Education 2030 Framework for Action, to ‘ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported’ – the theme of this week’s World Teachers’ Day.

Even an established indicator may not be adequate and informative

The global indicator is the proportion of teachers who “have received at least the minimum organized teacher training (e.g. pedagogical) pre-service or in-service required for teaching” at each education level. This seems well-established and suitable to monitor the target. However, there are two important caveats. Continue reading

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