With the all but impossible task of deciphering global priorities – let alone goals and strategies to achieve them – the post-2015 United Nations development process got a dose of clarity recently.
A global survey for citizens
Most readily accessible as a web platform, MY World is a global survey for citizens initiated by the United Nations Development Program, the UN Millennium Campaign, the Overseas Development Institute, and the World Wide Web Foundation to allow people from across the world to voice their priorities for the post-2015 agenda. The offline version of MY World is being rolled out in 20 countries to help further capture people’s views.
The initial results are in:
- from the first comprehensive offline survey – from Liberia with over 2,000 participants;
- from people from 183 countries who responded online
|Liberia #1 response:|
|All respondents:||“A good education”|
|Young people:||“Better transport and roads” (“A good education” #2)|
|Children:||“A good education”|
|Rural:||“A good education”|
|Urban:||“A good education”|
|Global #1 response:|
|All respondents:||“A good education”|
|Women:||“A good education”|
|Men:||“A good education”|
|Low human development index countries:||“A good education”|
|Medium human development index countries:||“A good education”|
|Ages ≤ 34:||“A good education”|
|Ages 35 – 54:||“A good education”|
|Ages ≥ 55:||“A good education”|
What people want first and foremost is a good education. For those closest to education realities around the world – citizens and development practitioners alike – these results may come as no surprise. A learning crisis has unfolded in many parts of the world. Global and regional learning assessment initiatives have called attention to the reality that, far too often, the completion of a primary-level education is not resulting in expected knowledge, skills, and aptitudes. The latest estimates indicate that of the 650 million children of primary school age, 120 million (18%) do not reach grade 4. An additional 130 million (20%) are not learning the basics even though they’re in school (UNESCO).
Number of out-of-school kids rising
Meanwhile, progress on getting more kids into school has stalled since 2008, with one out of ten primary school-aged children remaining out of school worldwide. Out-of-school children are actually on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa, increasing from 29 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2010. One out of every four girls in sub-Saharan Africa is not in primary school. Additionally, 71 million teenagers are out of secondary school and are not developing the critical skills necessary for employment (UIS).
While education advocates are familiar with these numbers and communities are painfully aware of the realities behind them, the real question is: When will donors heed this call? Aid to education stagnated in 2010 and decreased in 2011. Aid to basic education in 2011 was just 2% of all Official Development Assistance (OECD). Meanwhile, five of the ten largest donors to education, namely the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, France, and Canada, are planning to cut aid to education in the years to come (UNESCO). And all of this is happening while world leaders are presumably rallying for a final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
What happens after 2015?
2015 is the target date for the Millennium Development Goals. What will happen after 2015? Did the message of MY World’s Liberia survey reach the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which happened to take place in Liberia last month? The short communiqué refers to “education” and “universal learning” but offers no more insight into any discussion on education that may have been held during the three-day meeting.
What does learning mean?
It can only be speculated what Liberians and the global respondents to the MY World survey mean when they say “a good education,” but the High-Level Panel’s language of “universal learning” may be close to it. With the possibility that the current learning crisis may be met by a post-2015 goal for learning, discussions on what learning is and how it can be assessed are livelier than ever. Naturally, traditional measures such as literacy and numeracy tend to get pushed to the foregrounds of these conversations, but “universal learning”–rather than, say, “universal literacy”–may be more reflective of the meaning of “a good education”.
While literacy and numeracy are absolutely essential to learning, primary stakeholders are calling for more. Definitions of “quality education” are often similar to that offered by HakiElimu, a Tanzanian education and democracy rights advocacy organization, which defines it as that which imparts the “knowledge, skills, and ability to solve problems for both personal and national development.”
The Commonwealth Education Ministers’ Commonwealth Recommendations for the Post-2015 Development Framework for Education prioritizes cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning outcomes for basic education. Literacy and numeracy goals are to target non-formal education and lifelong learning for those under 50 years of age.
What we need?
- Donors should commit 10% of Official Development Assistance to basic education.
- Governments should allocate a minimum of 20% of national budgets to education and ensure that at least 50% of this is dedicated to basic education.
- The High-Level Panel should ensure the formulation of a universal learning goal that seeks to promote learning as comprehensively as possible.
By Tony Baker, RESULTS