2015 could be a momentous year in human history. It could be the year that governments across the world put a deadline on their longstanding commitment to end extreme poverty, agreeing on a new global development framework to ensure that no child dies unnecessarily, every child is protected from violence, and every child realizes the right to free, quality, education that enables real learning.
Since they were agreed at the turn of the century, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education for All (EFA) goals have been important catalysts for progress in ensuring access to education. Compared to 2000, 45 million more children are now in primary school, and gender equity has improved significantly.
But, alongside growing primary-school enrollment, there is a learning crisis—with 250 million children unable to read, write, or demonstrate basic numeracy by fourth grade. It is the most marginalized—including the poorest children and those living in conflict-affected areas—who are most at risk of being out of school, or in school but learning very little.
The new post-2015 framework must therefore take the promise of Education For All to the next level, finishing the job that the MDG and EFA agendas started, but with an explicit focus on learning and equity.
It must be bold, inspiring and ambitious, galvanizing the international community to take focused and coordinated action to get all children in school and learning, across all contexts, including in conflict and emergencies. The aim must be to ensure that every single child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential in life.
New report by Save the Children
Last month, Save the Children launched a new report, Framework for the Future, presenting our vision of a framework that would be capable of bringing these aims to fruition. Our proposals include twelve concrete, integrated goals with associated targets that, if achieved, would see an end to extreme poverty within a generation.
The goals are feasible but ambitious. As we have demonstrated through previous research, they won’t be achieved unless the international community steps up to tackle persistent inequalities that are trapping children in poverty, including by boosting government accountability, building fair and robust global partnerships for development, and ensuring adequate financing across all contexts, including in emergencies.
The replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education is crucial
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) can play a valuable role in filling the education financing gap and addressing the learning crisis for all children. A robust GPE Replenishment is critical to harnessing widespread support for an ambitious post-2015 equitable learning agenda. But increased financing is not enough. The distribution and utilization of resources is equally important.
Delivering on the promise of universal quality education will require targeted action, including targeted funding to reach the poorest children, children with disabilities, girls, children from minority ethnic communities, and children who live in conflict- or emergency-affected countries.
To support international progress towards faster and more sustainable development pathways, Save the Children offers specific recommendations for tackling inequality, including:
- Disaggregating targets by gender, age, ethnicity, location, and income. The MDGs have proven that zero goals for education do not work to address inequality of educational opportunity. The post-2015 framework must address this failure.
The Global Partnership for Education is well-positioned to drive a data revolution, including by ensuring the disaggregation of data on access and learning outcomes to better understand and address the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable children.
Though important, simple disaggregation of data is not enough unless it explicitly informs education sector strategies and funding. The Global Partnership has set a goal that by 2018, 90 % of GPE developing country partners will have detailed analysis of equity issues and will report on progress, and 80% of developing country partners will have explicit policies and legislation on education and disabilities.
- Interim “stepping stone” targets to significantly reduce gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. For education, this includes targets to reduce the gaps in early child development and learning between rich and poor. Children living in poverty are consistently and substantially disadvantaged in comparison to children from wealthier families and this is pronounced when looking at actual learning. Countries should adopt stepping stone targets in their national implementation plans, based on careful and participatory analysis of the most pervasive dimensions of inequality and the barriers they pose to achievement of the post- 2015 education goal.
- The requirement that no target be considered met until it is met for all social groups and all income groups—including indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants, persons living with disabilities, children living in conflict or emergency-affected countries, and people living in poverty. This is a proposal first put forward by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Agenda last year.
As the contours of the UN Open Working Group (OWG)’s Sustainable Development Goals start to take shape, governments must commit to ensuring children in all contexts are in school and learning. The results of the GPE Replenishment, OWG negotiations, and Global Education For All Meeting in Oman could be pivotal in determining whether the new framework will be fit for purpose, capable of inspiring and uniting the international community.
Now is the time for bold and visionary leadership to build a strong framework for the future—one that is capable of realizing the universal right to learn and ending extreme poverty for good.