Education for All – an international concern

Pupils at a school in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic

Today, education is recognised as a public good that must be provided by the state. The international community agrees that human development is not possible without education. Promoting education is therefore an internationally recognised development goal – even if it is still considered to be a core task of each individual state.

1990 World Conference on Education for All

In March 1990, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organised the first World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand. Participating countries adopted the World Declaration on Education for All and the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. They pledged, among other things, to provide universal access to primary schools by the year 2000, to improve the quality of basic education and to reduce adult illiteracy rates by around 50 per cent compared to 1990 figures. These targets follow on directly from what had been agreed in the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

World Education Forum in Dakar and Millennium Summit in 2000

Class room at a school in Tienfala in Mali. There are only two desks and an old locker.

In April 2000 – 10 years after the Jomtien conference – a World Education Forum took place in Dakar, Senegal. The international community was forced to admit that it was a long way off from achieving the goal of "Education for All". The 164 participating countries adopted an action plan (Dakar Framework for Action), which essentially took over the goals that had been formulated in Jomtien back in 1990. 2015 was set as the deadline for their achievement.

Two of the eight Millennium Development Goals formulated in 2000 were also aimed at the education sector. However, experts have criticised the fact that the education goals were purely quantity-based: Goal 2 (achieving universal primary education) was based on numbers enrolling in school and completing their education, but did not set any standards for education quality. Under Goal 3 (promoting gender equality), gender quality applied only to access to education and not, for example, to whether women who have finished school also have equal opportunities in the labour market.

These qualitative aspects have played a larger role in the debate about the new post-2015 global development goals.

2015 World Education Forum: Incheon Declaration

In May 2015, UNESCO convened the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea). A new vision for education for the period up to 2030 was drawn up. The Incheon Declaration says: "We commit with a sense of urgency to a single, renewed education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no one behind".

This vision was spelled out in full detail just a few months later, in the form of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) says: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." Ten targets were defined for SDG 4, most of which are to be achieved by 2030.

It is not only in the context of SDG 4 that the 2030 Agenda stresses the huge importance of promoting education when it comes to achieving sustainable development. A well-educated population is a fundamental prerequisite for successful poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth and social development. Education has a positive impact on family health, helps empower women and enables each and every individual to participate in social and economic life.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action

The global Education 2030 Framework for Action was adopted in November 2015 with a view to identifying ways of achieving the education goals. It envisages, for instance, offering all children and young people a minimum of one year of free pre-primary education and 12 years of free, publicly funded, inclusive and equitable quality primary and secondary education. Compulsory education should last at least nine years.

Every year, UNESCO publishes a Global Education Monitoring Report which presents the progress made on implementing the education goals and highlights areas where more action is required.

Global Partnership for Education

Pupil in a school of the Dreyer Foundation in Dano, Burkina Faso

The Education for All – Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) was launched in 2002 to accelerate progress towards universal primary education in countries that are committed to pursuing an active education policy but lack the resources to implement it. In the decade that followed, the Initiative was expanded to create a comprehensive multilateral education partnership. Since 2011, it has been known as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

More than 60 developing countries and more than 20 donor countries, international and regional development organisations, non-governmental organisations, private foundations and private sector entities have joined the initiative. The aim of the GPE is not only to improve funding for basic and secondary education in developing countries but also to improve the coordination and implementation of development cooperation measures promoting education.

Germany was a co-founder of the GPE and has been involved in defining its direction. So far, from 2008 to 2018, the BMZ has contributed a total of 67.75 million euros to the GPE Fund.

The Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development

UNESCO launched the global action programme Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in 2015. The five-year programme (for the period 2015 to 2019) is aimed at achieving two objectives: Reorienting learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills that empower them to contribute to making societies fairer, more peaceful and sustainable (see target 4.7 of the 2030 Agenda). And strengthen education and learning in all agendas, programmes and activities that promote sustainable development

The global action programme builds on the achievements of the UN Decade "Education for Sustainable Development" (2005 to 2014).

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