OSLO, Norway — One hundred and twenty-four million children and teenagers worldwide are out of school. On July 6-7, 2015 leaders from all around the world convened for the Education for Development Summit to discuss solutions to this increasing problem.
In 2000 the U.N. created eight Millennium Development Goals to alleviate different facets of global poverty around the world. Two of these goals address global education. By the end of 2015 participating countries must ensure universal primary education and eliminate gender disparities in education at all levels.
The world was on track to reaching its goals until 2007 when the onset of the Global Financial Crisis saw a reversal in trends. Now the number of children and adolescents unenrolled in primary school education is increasing—from 122 million in 2011 to 124 million in 2013—and the gap between girls and boys attendance is still in the millions.
In July Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg and U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown invited experts in global education policy and statistics as well as Heads of Government from more than 40 countries to Norway’s capital for the Education for Development Summit.
After two days of presentations, testimony and debate, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende summarized the outcomes of the Summit in the Oslo Declaration.
The five main outcomes—as described below—all identify the top problems with global education and what can be done to fix them as the period for Millennium Development Goals comes to a close.
Finance reform – It is no secret that education is an investment with many long-term benefits. However current global spending on education does not reflect this consensus. To ensure “equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all—” the Summit concludes—governments must work harder to use all of the resources available to them. The Summit suggests that 39 billion dollars annually are needed to attain this goal by 2030.
Foreign Aid reform – The Summit found that there is a huge disparity in official development assistance (ODA) to education. Aid is split into two categories—development and humanitarian—with education falling under humanitarian. In countries experiencing protracted crises, 92 percent of aid goes to development while only eight percent is allocated for humanitarian purposes. Of that eight percent, education has the lowest amount of fulfilled requests—on average 36 percent—whereas coordination and support services disproportionately receives 75 percent of its requests. The Summit calls for the realignment of ODA spending with 4.8 billion dollars shifted to education.
Closing the gender gap – When a country invests in a girl’s education they are not only investing in the girl herself but her family and the community at large. Some countries lose more than one billion dollars a year by not investing in education for girls. The reasons girls drop out of school span from gender-based violence at school to childhood marriage—all of which can be solved—the Summit concludes—through increased advocacy and resources for girls. The Summit focuses on the link between education and health and stresses the need for girls to enroll in higher education—where the ratio of boys to girls is five to three.
Upgrade teaching and curriculum – The Summit has identified teachers as “the most significant in-school determinant of educational quality together with instruction materials and a positive and safe learning environment.” There is a shortage of qualified teachers and up-to-date teaching materials around the world. The Summit calls for international guidelines for both teachers and curriculum—including a global network on quality and teachers as well as encouraging private sector investments in information and communication technologies.
Data improvement – The Summit has recognized a serious flaw in the available data on education finance. This comes down to a lack of consistent data on streams of finance. Better information leads to better decisions. Improvements in data consistency, transparency and accountability are needed to reassure those involved in education from policy makers to parents.
As the Millennium Development Goal period comes to an end there is still much more work to be done. The Education for Development Summit urges leaders to bring education to the forefront of their agendas.
Prime Minister Solberg asks the world “to mobilize strong and renewed political commitment to reach all children who don’t have access to education.”
These sentiments and the outcomes of the Summit will be conveyed to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia in July as well as the U.N. meeting in September where the U.N.’s new Sustainable Development Goals will be finalized.
– Celestina Radogno
Sources: Huffington Post, Oslo Education Summit 1, Oslo Education Summit 2, Regjeringen Norway, UNESCO, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UN Girls Education Initiative 1, UN Girls Education Initiative 2