By Shin Mee
SEOUL (IDN) - In run-up to the UN High-Level Summit in September in New York, a milestone United Nations conference in South Korea has highlighted the need for a new vision for education, which it aims to realise by 2030 with a view to fostering global citizenship by inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.
The Incheon Declaration emerging from the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF 2015) – organised by UNESCO, in close collaboration with other UN Agencies as co-conveners – has been welcomed by the global education community, including government ministers from more than 100 countries, non-governmental organizations and youth groups.
“This Declaration is a huge step forward,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova closing the May 19-22 conference.
“It reflects our determination to ensure that all children and young people gain the knowledge and skills they need to live in dignity, to reach their potential and contribute to their societies as responsible global citizens. It encourages governments to provide learning opportunities through life, so that people can continue to grow and develop. It affirms that education is the key to global peace and sustainable development.”
The Declaration builds on the global Education for All (EFA) movement that was initiated in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and reiterated in Dakar, Senegal in 2000. EFA – and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on Education – resulted in significant progress, but many of its targets, including universal access to primary education, remain unfulfilled.
Presently, 58 million children remain out of school – most of them girls. In addition 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The Incheon Declaration must finish the ambitious EFA and MDG agendas, according to observers.
“If this generation of children is to someday reduce the inequalities and injustices that afflict the world today, we must give all our children a fair chance to learn. This must be our collective vision and commitment,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.
The Incheon Declaration will be implemented through the Education 2030 Framework for Action, a roadmap for governments to be adopted by the end of the year. It will provide guidance on effective legal and policy frameworks for education, based on the principles of accountability, transparency and participatory governance.
According to UNESCO sources, effective implementation of the Education 2030 Framework for Action will require strong regional coordination and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the education agenda. It will also need more funding, especially for the countries furthest from providing inclusive, quality education.
The Incheon Declaration points out that the aspirations encompassed in the proposed SDG 4 cannot be realized without a significant and well-targeted increase in financing, particularly in those countries furthest from achieving quality education for all at all levels.
“We therefore are determined to increase public spending on education in accordance with country context, and urge adherence to the international and regional benchmarks of allocating efficiently at least 4 - 6% of Gross Domestic Product and/or at least 15 - 20% of total public expenditure to education,” says the Incheon Declaration.
Noting the importance of development cooperation in complementing investments by governments, the Declaration calls upon developed countries, traditional and emerging donors, middle income countries and international financing mechanisms to increase funding to education and to support the implementation of the agenda according to countries’ needs and priorities.
The Declaration refers to a critical issue when it stresses that “the fulfilment of all commitments related to official development assistance (ODA) is crucial, including the commitments by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for ODA to developing countries”.
In accordance with their commitments, WEF 2015 urges developed countries that have not yet done so to make additional concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA to developing countries. The global gathering also commits to increase support to the least developed countries.
The Incheon Declaration further recognizes the importance of unlocking all potential resources to support the right to education. It recommends improving aid effectiveness through better coordination and harmonization, and prioritizing financing and aid to neglected sub-sectors and low-income countries.
The fact that South Korea hosted the conference was far from a surprise. The country is one of the 20 members of UNESCO's Education for All Steering Committee, has extended its global reach over the past few years by joining global education campaigns, including the UN's Global Education First Initiative and Global Partnership for Education.
Ahead of the WEF from May 19 to 22 in Incheon, South Korea’s Vice Education Minister Kim Jae-choon stressed the importance of the gathering: "In the world, where everything is interrelated, those who can think and act globally will get more opportunities to succeed,” adding: "Nurturing such talent is our vision for the next 15 years."
Having a global mindset did not mean that people should love their countries any less, but focusing too much on nationalistic education as a means of uniting people was perhaps a thing of the past, he told the Korean Times.
Emphasising that view, the WEF 2015’s Incheon Declaration says: “Our vision is to transform lives through education, recognizing the important role of education as a main driver of development and in achieving the other proposed SDGs (sustainable development goals).”
WEF 2015 also recognizes the importance of gender equality in achieving the right to education for all. “We are therefore committed to supporting gender-sensitive policies, planning and learning environments; mainstreaming gender issues in teacher training and curricula; and eliminating gender-based discrimination and violence in schools,” says the Declaration.
The Incheon Declaration clearly stresses the need for fostering global citizenship, when it notes “with serious concern that, today, a large proportion of the world’s out-of-school population lives in conflict-affected areas, and that crises, violence and attacks on education institutions, natural disasters and pandemics continue to disrupt education and development globally”.
WEF 2015 participants, therefore, commit to developing more inclusive, responsive and resilient education systems to meet the needs of children, youth and adults in these contexts, including internally displaced persons and refugees.
They highlight the need for education to be delivered in safe, supportive and secure learning environments free from violence. They recommend a sufficient crisis response, from emergency response through to recovery and rebuilding; better coordinated national, regional and global responses; and capacity development for comprehensive risk reduction and mitigation to ensure that education is maintained during situations of conflict, emergency, post-conflict and early recovery.
It also recommends significantly increasing support for education in humanitarian and protracted crises. “We welcome the Oslo Summit on Education for Development (July 2015) and call on the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa to support the proposed SDG 4,” says the Declaration. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 May 2015]
Photo credit: UNESCO World Education Forum 2015