Education unlocks human potential, enabling children to become healthy, productive adults. It is the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – from ending poverty to promoting peace. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure that all children have access to quality education.
Building a Learning Generation will be hard work but we know that it’s achievable. Here are five things that happened in 2017 that make us optimistic.
More evidence shows that success is possible. Over the past decade, evidence has mounted that strategic reforms and investments can get more children in school and learning; we’ve seen this with countries that continue to improve their results like Vietnam, Tanzania, and Chile. This year showed that progress is even possible under the most difficult circumstances. Around the world, a record number of children – 65 million of them – have fled from their homes and are refugees or displaced in their own countries. For a long time, education was all but forgotten in humanitarian aid appeals. And while there is still much more to do, thanks to the strong efforts from countries like Uganda, as well as organizations including UNICEF and the Education Cannot Wait fund, an increasing number of children living in emergencies can access education. For example, one million children affected by the crisis in Syria are now enrolled in schools or non-formal education programs.
Countries are stepping up to the plate to make education a priority. A number of countries elected new leaders this year who put education at the center of their reform agendas. For example, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo campaigned on a platform of improving learning outcomes and making secondary education free for all students, which became a reality this past September. To help more countries implement vital reforms, the Commission launched our Pioneer Country Initiative. More than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been introduced to the initiative and expressed a desire to participate. In the coming year. Several plan to start an intense process to define goals for reform, create consensus, and deliver quality education. The Pioneer Countries are eager to focus on achieving real learning results for their children and youth.
There are bold new ideas to invest in education. It remains difficult for low- and middle-income countries to fully fund their education budgets. It is clear that international finance for education needs to increase. The recently proposed International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) is a game-changing solution. IFFEd will pool donor resources to multiply their impact and make it possible for lower-middle-income countries to have new financing made available at favorable rates through development banks. IFFEd could create up to US$10 billion in additional annual funding by 2020. Check out Commissioner Amel Karboul’s recent TED talk about this and other big ideas.
Donor countries are showing increased commitment to education. Even in this time of tightening foreign aid budgets, donor countries are making education a priority. A recent report from the British Parliament’s International Development Committee recommended increased spending on global education. The Norwegian government has kept its pledge to double its international assistance to education, and the European Union recently announced an impressive early pledge of EUR 287.5 million (US$350 million) to the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment for 2018-2020. In addition, the upcoming 2018 G20 Summit in Argentina will focus on the future of employment, linked to education and building skills relevant to our ever-evolving digital world.
The movement for global education is gaining momentum. The Education Commission was in the middle of conversations at several major gatherings of multilateral funders this year: the World Bank Spring Meetings, the G20 summit in Germany, and the UN General Assembly. At every turn, there was strong support for creating a Learning Generation. In another exciting development, this year’s World Bank World Development Report 2018 was the first-ever dedicated entirely to education and improving outcomes for learners.
The movement is building at the grassroots level as well. Everyday citizens from across the world – 145,000 of them – signed a petition supported by education campaigning organizations such as Theirworld and Global Citizen to affirm education as a basic right for children. The petition was delivered to world leaders by superstar singer and education advocate Shakira and Education Commission Chair Gordon Brown on the eve of the G20 Summit. G20 leaders then took up the cause by promising to take forward the IFFEd proposal in the coming year.
Great progress has been made in 2017. We’re optimistic about the future, but there is lots of work ahead of us in 2018. Funding for global education – especially for children living in emergencies – remains woefully lacking, and more countries need to be serious about their efforts to get all children in school and learning.
It’s time for everyone – policymakers, educators, business, and nonprofit leaders – to come together and make education an absolute priority on their local and global agendas. The world’s children – and our collective future – depend on it.