November 5, 2012

Education for All: Looking Back, Looking Forward (Part 2 of 2)

A report back from the UNESCO Collective Consultation with NGOs on Education for All. 
Looking ahead: 2015 and beyond

There are common threads in the discussions about what will/should replace the EFA and MDG goals in 2015, not least of which is that this is an opportunity for us to reframe our assumptions. We need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the purpose of education and about education’s role in creating the world we want.

Recognizing the risks of keeping two separate agendas, the education community is forging ahead with articulating a vision for EFA beyond 2015, while hoping to continue to influence the broader development agenda. We know that we want to put human rights and social justice at the core of whatever frameworks are to come, and that we cannot succumb to a reductionist agenda.

That being said, our greatest collective impact may be felt if we can articulate a broad, comprehensive goal that the education community can stand behind and advocate for inclusion in the post-MDG framework. I was disappointed that we did not make much progress on this as a sector at CCNGO, but threads of this are starting to emerge.

The common demands across all aspects and levels of education include the need to address equity, quality and financing issues in education. As in other sectors, we cannot achieve our goals without targeted interventions to address and include the most marginalized among us, including those with disabilities, ethnic and linguistic minorities, those affected by conflict, etc.

We must address quality moving forward, ensuring learning for all with concrete and measurable indicators that do not distill achievement to learning outcomes in literacy only. We must also ensure that adequate numbers of qualified teachers who are regarded as professionals and partners are seen to be at the core of the quality agenda.

Finally, we need an actionable agenda on financing a holistic education framework. At the national level we need to ensure that past pledges to spend 20% of budgets, or 6% of GDP on basic education are met. This means integrating the education sector more fully into national planning, advocating for progressive taxation, and ensuring that profits from resource extraction are spent on the social sector. It also means donors stepping up to fill the financing gap and ensure that “no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources” (Dakar Framework for Action).

Civil society has never been more organized or more influential, especially in the education sector. We’ve learned a lot about what works and what needs to be done to achieve these goals. After a thought-provoking and energizing week in Paris, I am hopeful that we can work with our national and multilateral partners to articulate a vision for education and for development that embraces the spirit of the EFA framework and ensures the realization of human rights around the world.

Natalie Poulson is the National Coordinator for the Canadian Global Campaign for Education. The views expressed are her own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.
The first part of this blog was published on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

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