Last week, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) focused on the “Decade of Action for Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” With only 10 years until the 2030 deadline and 260 million children still out of school, a decade of action is truly needed for education!

The good news: This year, UNGA produced a number of promising initiatives accelerating progress toward SDG 4, some of which we highlight in this newsletter.

Setting a Target

A goal to end learning poverty

The  World Bank called on the global community to “End Learning Poverty,” by focusing on the percentage of children unable to read by the age of 10. New data – jointly produced with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics – indicates that 51 percent of ten-year-old children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a short story. In the poorest countries, the number is often close to 80 percent. The World Bank will launch a campaign at its upcoming Annual Meeting to address barriers to basic literacy

Workforce readiness scorecard

The Global Business Coalition for Education and the Education Commission released a new regional skills scorecard, which projects the share of youth that will attain the necessary skills to enter the workforce. The new data compares the average rates of baseline secondary skills attainment for today and in 2030 in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, East Asia & Pacific, and the Middle East & North Africa.

Innovating for rapid change

The Education Commission launched the Transforming the Education Workforce report. Drawing on 18 months of research and analysis of education systems and other sectors, the report presents the latest evidence on recruitment, training, and development of the workforce. It takes a team to educate a child, and the report highlights how “learning teams” will allow for better collaboration among the many education workforce professionals.

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The report details the following visions for reform that will greatly improve teacher impact and student learning:

  1. Strengthening the existing workforce,
  2. Developing learning teams, and
  3. Transforming learning systems.

Turning the report into action, the Commission is now working on the ground in GhanaVietnam, and Sierra Leone to implement the report’s recommendations and develop new ways to strengthen the education workforce.

Looking toward 2050

UNESCO launched the “Futures of Education” project to mobilize leaders and education experts to reimagine how education can evolve in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and precarity. This initiative aims at looking beyond the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The project will prepare a report for 2021 which will provide an agenda for policy debate.

Ideas that “leapfrog” the status quo

The Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution released the Learning to Leapfrog report, which calls for “widespread educational innovation” to tackle the learning crisis through transformative shifts rather than incremental evolution. In addition to the use of innovative pedagogy, the report suggests widening the profile of who can be considered educators and highlights the importance of professional networks.

Forging funding breakthroughs

New investments in key global funds

In a sign of hope for global education, two education funds – the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – received significant contributions. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom gave an unprecedented $600 million to IFFEd. This support will help unlock more than $2 billion in new affordable funding for education once IFFEd becomes operational in early 2020. An additional $216 million was also pledged for ECW’s operations.
Rycroft at UNGA

“The United Kingdom is committed to ensuring that no child is left behind.” –Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development

High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development

At the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders that “Financing is the test of our seriousness, without resources we will simply not deliver for people or planet.” The forum – which followed the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – looked at a number of ways to increase financing for the SDGs and education, including combating illicit financial flows and improving tax collection systems.

Forum to accelerate progress

The first meeting of the Global Education Forum meeting was convened during UNGA. Co-chaired by former Minister of Education of Mozambique Ms. Graça Machel, former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and Chair of the G20 Eminent Person Group Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Director-General of UNESCO Ms. Audrey Azoulay, and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Rt Hon Gordon Brown, the Forum aims to accelerate progress on SDG 4 by strengthening coordination and collaboration between global education actors. Attendees discussed a number of critical challenges in the education financing architecture and considered areas where greater collaboration could be developed. Proposals for this will be considered at the next Forum meeting planned for April 2020.

Measuring better

Education data for decision making

The heads of multilateral agencies pledged to work together to develop better data on learning through the UNESCO-led Global Coalition for Education Data. The Global Partnership for Education shared results of the Education Data Solutions Roundtable, a public-private initiative convened to leverage government, civil society, private sector, and development partner expertise to improve the availability and use of accurate education data. Recommendations include encouraging data integration and compatibility between systems