As the 2015 deadline for the Education for All goals fast approaches – and the global economic crisis threatens to slow progress – here are the three things we most want to happen in 2012. They offer an agenda for the kind of change that is needed to give everyone in the world an opportunity for a decent education.
Give young people the skills they need to get good jobs
Upheavals around the world in 2011, notably in Arab countries but also in parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America, turned the spotlight on the disillusionment of young people. Soaring unemployment, fed by the economic crisis and political mismanagement, has left millions of youth without opportunities to fulfill their ambitions. The International Labour Organisation estimates that as many as 1 in 10 young people are not in work. The real number of young people without worthwhile jobs is likely to be much higher, as many of the most vulnerable are forced into low-paid, informal, insecure work. Young people who already face disadvantages – because of where they live, their gender, poverty or ethnicity – have been hit the worst, largely because they lack the skills needed to compete for available jobs.
In 2012, political leaders need to listen to the voices of young people, particularly those who suffer most from poor education and job opportunities, before it is too late. The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, to be released in September, will examine how skills development programmes can improve young people’s opportunities for decent jobs and better lives. We hope that policymakers will act upon the messages in the Report. In 2011 the G20 paid insufficient attention to the vital role of education and skills in addressing barriers to employment and growth. When G20 leaders meet in Mexico in June, they need to speak out more loudly for education and skills.
Make aid count
Countries that have made the most remarkable progress towards Education for All, such as Ethiopia and Tanzania, have benefited from a combination of strong political will and sustained financial commitment, with aid donors backing nationally developed education plans. Yet funding for education remains grossly insufficient and fragile according to recent analysis by the GMR team. The Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011 highlighted the changing aid landscape, with new donors, such as Brazil, India and China, and the private sector playing a more prominent role in development financing. Despite replenishment commitments for the Global Partnership for Education in 2011, there is still a long way to go to fill the US$16 billion financing gap. The Global Partnership for Education needs to reinforce its efforts in 2012 to mobilize additional financing, including from traditional donors as well as the “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the private sector, ensuring that this funding is used to reach those most in need.
Put education at the centre of global development beyond 2015
Policymakers need to step up their efforts for the 67 million children still denied a basic education and the 796 million young people and adults without basic literacy and numeracy skills. Much more can be done in three years left before the Education for All and Millennium Development Goal deadline. But there will still be huge tasks to accomplish after 2015. Despite progress in getting more children into school over the past decade, there are still wide gaps in education opportunities between boys and girls, and rich and poor. Many children drop out of school before they have learnt how to read or write. Inequalities in access and learning will need to be given greater attention after 2015. As convening agency for Education for All, UNESCO needs to take the lead this year in guiding debates on education priorities to ensure education maintains its central position in the global development architecture beyond 2015. The United Nations General Assembly in September is one important venue for UNESCO to work together with other EFA partners to develop a consensus on education after 2015.