SEATTLE — This February, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity met in London to discuss ways of moving forward with its mission to realize universal education. The commission will present its findings to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2016.
The creation of the commission coincided with the U.N.’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of the commission is to help the U.N. achieve its educational goal of providing free primary and secondary education for all children by 2030.
To realize this goal, the commission will need to find at least an additional $20 million every year. It plans to accomplish this by increasing global education financing and finding more effective methods to deploy resources.
The commission is the result of a Norwegian initiative led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg. It is co-convened with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
The world leaders are joined by three former finance ministers, six Nobel Prize winners and three successful business leaders in Jack Ma, Aliko Dangote and Strive Masiyiwa.
According to Project Syndicate, about 60 million primary school children have no access to formal education. Roughly 40 percent of the 590 million children in school are failing to learn the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. In addition, 60 percent of school pupils in developing nations do not meet basic math standards.
Not only are children struggling academically, but much needed funding from the public sector and international community is declining, reports Project Syndicate.
In 2002, education made up 16 percent of total domestic spending in poor nations. Today, that number is 14 percent. Some nations, like Nigeria and Pakistan, spend a meager two percent of national income on education.
To compound this, international aid for basic education dropped by eight percent between 2010 and 2013. Funding from both national governments and the international community is drying up.
Also, the little amount of funds that are available are not spent equitably among the populace. In poor nations, almost half of all funds are spent on the most educated 10 percent of students. Those that are struggling or in poor schools thus are being left behind.
Declining funding and inefficient spending seems to be insurmountable issues, but the commission can look to recently successful solutions.
GBC-Education recently raised more than $50 million from the business community to help educate displaced Syrian children. The coalition contains a diverse group of corporations that all believe in the value of getting Syrian children back into school.
The pledge from the business coalition is not merely altruistic, but also out of self-interest. Increasing education will help lower the skills gap that exists for many major corporations.
According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report, millions of children do not have access to textbooks. For example, some schools in Cameroon have 12 students sharing one reading book.
In other communities, 14 students share one math book. Schools in rural areas lack access to textbooks. Also, many schools are struggling to keep up with the increase in enrollment such as in Kenya and Namibia.
The report stated that if the procurement of textbooks became centralized, the price of a textbook would drop to $3. This would save Sub-Saharan Africa close to $1 billion. The report states this model could triple the number of textbooks available for all children.
With improved efficiency, the cost of universal education can be drastically reduced. Coupled with an increase in private sector funding, the decline in government spending might not be so devastating.
If the commission succeeds, millions of children will have the ability to escape poverty.