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World Leaders Back Bold New Effort to Improve Education

Flickr: World Bank Photo Collection

In 2016, over a quarter of a billion children and young people are out of school.  Only half of primary school children and slightly more than a quarter of secondary school children in low- and middle-income countries are learning basic skills.

Yesterday, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (Education Commission) released its Learning Generation Report. The report details the organization's vision of an excellent education for all children and outlines a plan to achieve this goal.

The Education Commission is comprised of many leaders ranging from heads of state and Nobel laureates, to leaders in fields such as education, economics, and health. Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg, Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, Former Prime Minister of Tanzania, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Julia Gillard and Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake are just a few of the highly influential commissioners.

Shakira is one of the Commissioners for The Learning Generation. Watch her discuss the movement below: 

The Launch

The launch of the Learning Generation Report was hosted by Gordon Brown, the chairman of the Commission, and began with the inspiring words of World Poetry Slam Champion Emi Mahmoud who had to fight for her education as a child from the war-torn region of Darfur. She believes in the “generation that dares” as she powerfully conveyed in her poem,“I don't know when it became naive to believe that people are inherently good, but I believe in the generation that dares to prove it, so prove it.” The event also included special remarks from the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who detailed his personal story of fleeing war torn Korea as a child, struggling to access fundamental education and persevering against all odds.

Ban Ki-moon.jpgSecretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses audience at the launch of The Learning Generation report.
Image: Paul Abernethy

The case for change

The Commission believes that increasing access to quality education is a key step to eliminating extreme poverty. The Commission highlights in the report that If the current trends continue and the world fails to invest in the education of our children, by the year 2050 more than one-quarter of the population in low-income countries will be living in extreme poverty.

As the report shows, investing in education is cost effective. For every dollar invested in a getting students one additional year of schooling, $10 is earned. On the other hand, if current education patterns continue, it is projected that GDP per capita in low-income countries will be almost 70% lower and low-income countries alone will lose $1.8 trillion by 2050.

What is the Learning Generation

The commission's goal is to create what they have named the Learning Generation. The objective is to have all children in school within a generation. In one generation the commission believes the world can can make the changes necessary to provide an excellent education to all children. Achieving this goal would mean that a child in a lower middle-income country starting preschool in 2017 could expect to earn almost five times as much as their parents over his or her lifetime.

Global Citizen Action and Impact on the report

Throughout this year as part of our education campaigns, Global Citizens have taken nearly 50,000 actions toward the Commission, including sending commissioners emails, video messages, photos, and creating a new hashtag: #ListenCommission as part of our festival action journeys. You asked the Commission to prioritise girls, emergencies and young voices in decision making. And commissioners listened.

One extract from the report reads: “education — especially the education of girls — is a catalyst for cutting child and maternal deaths, and lifting people out of poverty.” Yet, according to the report, twice as many girls as boys will never start school.

To address this disparity the report lists various actions that need to be taken in order to ensure the ongoing education of girls. Such actions include; investing in gender-sensitive curriculum, targeting financing to girls and making school affordable, ensuring the safety of girls in school, and supporting the re-admission of girls whose education is disrupted. Taking action will not only benefit each individual girl on a global scale but it can benefit their families and the generations to come.

Education in Emergencies

Approximately 75 million children are impacted by crises such as conflict, natural disasters and public health crises each year. The need for funding of education in emergencies has increased by 21 percent since 2010, yet funding has declined by 41 percent during the same time period. The Education Cannot Wait fund presents an opportunity for the public and private funding of education in emergencies. The goal of the fund is to support education for the 75 million children affected each year by raising $3.85 billion by 2020. The fund would deliver more predictable and constant multi-year financing for education in emergencies.

Youth Voices in Decision Making

The report promotes community action and advocacy in order to support local change. This includes youth voices in decision making surrounding education reform. The commission suggests mentoring programs, school clubs, health education and outreach to encourage students and empower students.

What we need

In order to create the Learning Generation we must close the gap between the $1.2 trillion spent annually on education and the $3 trillion that is needed in low- and middle-income countries by 2030.

Countries’ domestic expenditures on education will also need to increase from an estimated $1 trillion per year today to $3 trillion by 2030. Along with increased financing, countries must improve the performance of their education systems, promote innovation, and ensure the inclusion of all children. By motivating nations to increase investment in education, the Commission hopes that the next generation of children will all have greater access.

The more countries invest in their own education systems, the more support they will receive from the international community, the report predicts. The finance compact would create a cycle of prosperity in which investment in education leads to reform and results, and reform and results lead to new investment.

The Commission’s report also calls for a much higher share of development funds to go through multilateral institutions, including the multilateral banks, UNICEF, the Education Cannot Wait fund and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the largest multilateral institution for education.The Commission has made specific reference to GPE and has recommended that its financing should go up to $2 billion per year by 2020 and $4 billion per year by 2030.This could mean as much as $6 billion is sought by GPE for its replenishment between 2017 and 2030.

The case for increased investment in global education is clear. It leads to healthier communities, increased economic growth for individuals and countries, and strengthened security and stability in fragile states. The Commission’s proposal would be the largest expansion of educational opportunity in modern history and they are calling on people everywhere to join their bold mission. #learninggeneration #educationcannotwait