Today’s forum featured Commissioner Theo Sowa (CEO, African Women’s Development Fund) alongside Commission Director Justin W. van Fleet in a conversation moderated by Edith Asibey, the Commission’s Senior Advisor – Communication. In all, approximately two hundred participants from civil society, development banks, aid agencies, research partners and more dialed in to discuss achieving the Learning Generation vision. Here are five takeaways from the forum:

  1. There is a clear path to fully financing SDG 4

The fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) calls for an “inclusive and quality education for all” to be delivered by the 2030 deadline. As Commission report findings show, if present trends hold, then by 2030 more than 800 million children – half a generation – will lack the basic secondary skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow. So while achieving our global education goal is not guaranteed, it is achievable. This depends on an upward spiral of funding, both domestically and at the international level through multilateral efforts, taking root. It is necessary that education receives 15% of official development assistance; that the Global Partnership for Education is fully replenished and that Education Cannot Wait, a new global fund to transform the delivery of education in emergencies, receives full support.  But a financing gap will still persist, which is where the proposed International Finance Facility for Education will engage. It is vital to remember that achieving our education SDG is not just about more money, but also better results.

  1. Educational leadership must come from countries

When it comes to ensuring an education for all, Theo Sowa made clear that “ultimate accountability needs to lie within countries, but among the different stakeholders.” In particular, “civil society from the Global South must also stand up and have a voice for ‪education.” For educational leadership to be meaningful at the international level, it must first be strong and sincere within countries. In other words, a compact between sovereign governments and the international community is presupposed by one between governments and their citizens. This is not to diminish the role of the international community, but for global education financing to stand a chance, countries must take the lead as education champions. Ghana, Commissioner Sowa’s home country, was cited as a country committed to accelerating educational progress and unlocking opportunity – conclusions supported by a recent Pioneer Country delegation visit Ms. Sowa joined.

  1. Girls’ schooling highlights the need for an inclusive and quality education

The Commission report identified four transformations with respect to performance, innovation, inclusion and finance around which recommendations were made. Drawing on her experience as the head of the African Women’s Development Fund, Ms. Sowa noted progress made on girls’ access to education which has been tempered by a focus on enrollment numbers rather than quality. This speaks to the Commission’s calls for greater inclusion and performance – concomitant ingredients necessary if we are to achieve the education SDG. And so retention, achievement, an expanded education workforce and lessened teacher absenteeism can help insure a quality education is provided. Closing, Ms. Sowa made clear that “until we put girls’ rights at the heart of education systems, we will continue to fail them.”

  1. What led to the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) proposal?

The Commission is often asked where the proposed International Finance Facility came from. The answer: a cross-sector groundswell of actors recognized financial innovation is needed if we are to close the education funding gap, particularly in lower-middle-income countries. But increased domestic resources and international investment are not enough. A fully funded education SDG requires more and better financing. Recipient countries, particularly lower-middle-income countries, conveyed the urgent need to close an ever-worsening gap. Multilateral Development Banks agreed expanded education financing was possible through an innovation in the use of guarantees. Donor countries sought to multiply their funding for education and ensure more effective investments in young people resulted. And at every turn, civil society was consulted and contributed to shaping the Facility. Commenting on civil society engagement, van Fleet said “There is a real commitment to investment and reform and a hunger to see how better education can be delivered.”

  1. Everyone can – and must – have a role in achieving our education goals

Closing the webinar, van Fleet stressed “There is a role for every single player. There is no effort too small and no ambition too big.” Whether it’s helping countries close education gaps by boosting performance and expanding the teacher workforce; backing the proposed International Finance Facility for Education or the GPE replenishment and Education Cannot Wait funding call; or joining with Commissioner Shakira in calling on G20 leaders to put education on the agenda – there’s room for everybody to take action. Only by working together can we achieve the Learning Generation.