Working toward a quality education for all.

Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all

by Elizabeth Cadwallader, 

by Elizabeth Cadwallader

a picture of the complete panel on stage at the GEM Report launchJust over a year on from the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its associated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Brookings Center for Universal Education, the Global Campaign for Education-US and the  Global Education Monitoring Report team hosted the launch of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report)  and Gender Review. The GEM report – hosted and published by UNESCO – provides an analysis of SDG 4 targets and respective indicators (inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities) as well as a consideration of the interaction of SDG 4 with all other SDGs on the sustainable development agenda.

The launch commenced with a presentation by Aaron Benavot, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, outlining some of the major challenges we currently face in achieving the global goals, based on recent data.

In 2014, there were 263 million youths and adolescents out of school, with vast disparities within countries (particularly between the richest and poorest within low income countries). With a continuation of the ‘business as usual’ scenario, GEM Report Director Aaron Benavot presents the report current projections show we will be 54 years later in achieving universal primary education with even starker predictions for some regions including Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, there is a critical need for new approaches and funding, along with a focus on long term (sustainable) commitment and changes that recognize education as central to global development.

Aaron then offered a synopsis of the key priorities for both global and national monitoring of education:

  • Monitor inequalities through a range of data sources (including household surveys)
  • Examine a wide range of learning outcomes
  • Monitor quality through curricula, teacher education programs and text books
  • Monitor lifelong learning
  • Use regional systems for information exchange and sharing of best practice
  • Consider adopting the national education accounts approach to monitoring
  • On a global scale, develop a consistent approach to monitoring learning outcomes

In presenting a summary of the Gender Review, Aaron emphasized the major transformations needed in all sectors of society (schools, politics, governance, health and the home) in order to achieve gender equality in education. He also recognized that achieving universal education involves addressing the challenges that face boys as well as girls, especially at the secondary school level.

In response to the two reports, a discussion was then hosted by Rebecca Winthrop (Senior Fellow and Director for the Center for Universal Education at Brookings) with panelists Ellen Chigwanda (Echidna Global Scholar with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings); Yolande Miller-Grandvaux (Senior Education Officer at USAID); Juliet Wajega-Sasagah (Deputy General Secretary and Head of Programs at the Uganda National Teachers’ Union) and Lisa Schechtman (Director of Policy and Advocacy at WaterAid America).

Yolande emphasized the centrality of gender equality to all that USAID does including the seventeen programs across USAID that focus on adolescent girls. In addressing the challenges that girls face, the Let Girls Learn initiative has shifted its discourse from primary to post primary education as well as supporting girls in a more holistic way.

Continuing with the focus on gender, Lisa discussed WaterAid America’s work in removing barriers to education through water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming and advocacy, including the challenges at school that girls and young women face during times of menstruation as a result of local culture norms, lack of facilities and supplies at school, as well as availability of resources.

This was an issue that was echoed by Juliet’s experience in Uganda and the number of girls missing school through a lack of access to sanitary products. In response to the GEM report, Juliet stressed the need for motivated and qualified teachers, increased budgets for public school systems, and the importance of free education to ensure access for all as well as the integral role that civil society-led advocacy will play in achieving SDG 4.

Ellen shared her research on the barriers that climate change can create for girls’ education – specifically the impact of drought on girls’ education outcomes. She highlighted tools used by CARE International in its work on youth empowerment: the Youth Leadership Index and Girls Leadership Index and Toolkit.

In Aaron’s closing remarks, he reiterated the critical importance of measuring, monitoring and addressing inequality by collaborating across sectors and involving all partners (including civil society organizations advocating to hold governments to account) to accelerate educational progress and achieve the SDGs.

Elizabeth Cadwallader is a volunteer with the Global Campaign for Education-US

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