Concept Note : Education Thematic Consultation
Final Concept Note
Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Prepared by UNESCO and UNICEF
Consultation process led by: UNESCO and UNICEF
Advisory Group: CIDA, Education International, FAO, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development – BMZ, Global Campaign for Education, GPE, ILO, ODI, OECD, UNDP, UNFPA, World Bank, Youth Advisory Group
Objective: Defining the role of education in the post-2015 development agenda
Timeframe: September 2012 – March 2013
As the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, there are a growing number of processes, preparations and debates on what a post-2015 agenda and framework will look like. These are occurring both within and outside of the UN system.
In late 2011, the Secretary-General (SG) established a post-2015 UN Task Team, co-chaired by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and UNDP. The task team is comprised of senior staff from a wide variety of UN organizations and the Bretton Woods Institutions. The main output of the task team was to produce a “roadmap” on post-2015 for the Secretary General, which was delivered at the beginning of June 2012. It is expected that this paper will help to frame the work of the SG’s High Level Panel, which is being convened to guide the SG and the UN in shaping the post-2015 development agenda and prepare for discussion and debate on this topic at the 2013 UN General Assembly (GA). At the start of the 2013 GA there will be a high level summit to review progress on the MDGs and map out a forward looking agenda.
In addition to the UN system processes outlined above, UNDG (as chaired by UNDP) is leading planning efforts to catalyze a “global conversation” on post-2015 through a series of at least 50 national consultations and eleven global thematic consultations. The aim of these consultations is to bring together a broad range of stakeholders to review progress on the MDGs and to discuss the options for a new framework. The eleven thematic consultations will be based on the following topics below, which have been identified as particular issues of importance to the post-2015 debates:
- Conflict & Fragility
- Environmental Sustainability
- Food Security and Nutrition
- Growth & Employment
Each topic is expected to have a small group of UN Organizations “co-lead” the preparation and planning of the consultations in partnership with a government sponsor, who will provide some financial support. UNESCO and UNICEF have agreed to work together on the global thematic consultation on education. This draft concept note defines the objectives for this consultation, describes how it could take place and identifies the resources needed.
The Right to Education
“As a fundamental human right enshrined in a number of international normative frameworks,[i] and built into most national legislation,[ii] the right to education is to be seen as an enabling right for the realization of other economic, social and cultural rights, as well as a catalyst for positive societal change,[iii] social justice and peace.”[iv] There is ample evidence that education – for children, young people and adults - is key in reducing poverty and inequality, enhancing economic growth, improving child and maternal health, strengthening citizenship and democracy, eradicating violence and crime, and reconstructing countries emerging from crises.
Unlike other sectors, education has a longer history and experience of international goals. The Education for All (EFA) goals, launched in 1990, had a more holistic agenda and was subsequently renewed in 2000. The latter process overlapped with the articulation and the emerging focus of the MDGs on reaching universal primary education and achieving gender parity at all levels of education. The progressive strengthening of the Education for All (EFA) agenda in the past 20 years and complemented by the MDG focus in the last decade has impacted countries around the world. Progress in education has been substantial, reflecting not only improvements in the expansion of educational opportunities but also in the equity of access to education.[v] From 1999 to 2008, an additional 52 million children enrolled in primary school, and a 31 per cent increase was noted in pre-primary education enrolment benefiting 148 million children.[vi] However, progress is uneven between and within regions and countries and often too slow to meet the 2015 deadline.
The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012 estimates that at least 250 million children cannot read or count, even if they have spent four years in school.[vii] School attendance and completion remains a challenge for millions of children and youth and is strongly influenced by such socio-economic factors as age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, language, poverty and location. Furthermore, many leave school without acquiring the basic knowledge, competencies and skills, such as reading, writing, mathematics, problem solving and critical thinking, that enable them to continue to learn, grow into healthy adults and lead safe and productive lives.[viii] As a result, about half of all children in the poorest countries who have completed Grade 2 cannot read anything at all. Of the world’s adults, an estimated 16 per cent — 775 million, of whom two thirds women — still lacked basic literacy skills in 2010.[ix]
As we reach 2015, despite the progress in reaching universal primary education and gender parity at all levels, the substantive right to basic education has not been and will in all likelihood not be secured and many countries will fail to meet the EFA goals and MDGs by 2015. It is imperative that education remains on the post 2015 agenda: a focus on quality basic and post-basic education in the post-2015 development agenda that not only provides access to schools for all children but also provides boys and girls from all social groups with the opportunity to achieve valued learning outcomes, including those needed for secure and productive livelihoods and to contribute to peaceful and democratic societies[x], and one that lays to a strong foundation for sustainable human development. The proposed global and country consultations provide us with an opportunity to define the form and scope that education goals and targets should take in the post-2015 agenda through an inclusive participatory process including all stakeholders, not least the most affected populations.
Looking ahead: issues/themes to address in the consultation
The Millennium Declaration, affirming the "collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level" was the guiding context for the articulation of the MDGs and still remains relevant. However, there is a need to rethink scenarios and approaches in light of the significantly changed global political, economic and social landscape. As we gather in consultations to shape the role of education in the post-2015 agenda, we need to take into account new global realities and trends, including major macro-economic shifts, the challenge to food security and nutrition by climate change and depletion of natural resources, unsustainable lifestyles and patterns of production and consumption, crises and volatility, as well as health and well-being, disability and inclusion, population dynamics, governance issues, migration, mobility and urbanization. Growth in emerging economies has become the key driver of global growth and the GNI per capita of a few upper middle-income countries has outscored some European member states. Despite this trend, disparities within and between developing countries has increased, widening especially the main poverty gap: that between rural and urban people. New actors have emerged in the education development sphere, including a greater role for private actors. Additionally, the global agenda is shifting towards a focus on more effective and relevant learning for all.
These realities are giving rise to a number of issues relative to the relevance of, and possible shape and scope for, any post-2015 international development agenda, and the role that education may play in such an agenda. Options could either be designed following the logic of the MDG framework with new time-lines, with or without new goals, targets or indicators, or proposing a more fundamentally revised approach to development, one balancing inputs from experts and the people concerned.
Beyond issues of the scope covered by an international post-2015 agenda, there are also technical issues that have to do with the relevance of global targets to the diversity of national development challenges. Such issues include target-setting that allows for a focus on the most vulnerable, and a reconsideration of indicators for more effective monitoring of progress towards these targets in view of greater accountability and equity. The experience of global-target setting within the MDG and EFA experience since 2000 has encouraged reporting of aggregate national data, thereby masking the extent of inequality and disparity within countries. The starting point for the focus in education should therefore be equity.
Cognizant of the progress made in the field of education and of the existing challenges in identifying goals and targets, the consultative process will need to address some key thematic areas such as: access, quality and equity in reaching the most vulnerable children, youth and adults with special focus on the majority of the excluded, which are rural people; effective and relevant learning; teachers; early childhood care and education; training and skills development for youth and adults, including literacy; life-skills education in and out of school settings; citizenship education; youth and adult education and learning, including opportunities for higher education; governance and accountability; and financing (including the role of aid as well domestic financing).
The global thematic consultation on education is expected to focus on the following:
1. Review the international education and development experience since 2000, including:
- Lessons learnt from the design and implementation of the MDGs, the EFA goals (linking to the planned EFA review) and other international education-related development goals;
- National/regional experiences of goals-setting which have worked;
- Outcomes of other on-going processes such as Rio + 20, including the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals, ICPD etc.;
- The final assessment of the UN Literacy Decade and of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and the deliberations on follow-up to the Decades;
- Funding and emerging financing mechanisms for education – domestic as well as international;
- Education and peace building and its implications for attaining desired education and development goals.
2. Identify current development trends and challenges, as well as future scenarios which need to be taken into account when defining the post-2015 education framework, including:
- The realities, constraints and challenges of MICS;
- Urbanization and the persistent education and knowledge rural/ urban divide;
- Conflict, climate change and increasing disasters;
- The transformation of the world of work and implications for skills development and employment, particularly among youth;
- The role of life-skills education, including comprehensive sexuality and relational education in and out of school settings;
- Citizenship education which would build on peace, tolerance, human rights, gender equality and the right to participate meaningfully in society and decision-making processes;
- Changing demographic patterns and implications for lifelong learning;
- Changing dynamics and mechanisms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation;
- Emergence of new actors – especially public-private partnerships and foundations;
- Increasing demand for teachers and secondary general and vocational education due to success in expanding accessibility of general education.
3. Cross-cutting themes (not exclusive)
- Human rights
- Young people
- Child Labour
- Food security and food safety
4. The nature of the post 2015 agenda
- Ambition and scope;
- New education-related goals and targets of global relevance;
- The relevance of global versus national target-setting;
- Interim targets (after 5/10 years);
- Monitoring inequalities;
- Consider data availability and requirements.
The overall objective is to generate an inclusive process and discussion around the importance of increased priority and investments for quality basic and post-basic education in the post-2015 agenda.
The specific objectives of the Education thematic consultation include:
- Stimulate discussion and critical analysis on how the EFA and related architecture of MDG 2 and 3 have supported progress in education and equity, to identify remaining gaps and new issues, and to generate consensus on how best to reflect education, training and learning in the post-2015 development framework
- Examine a range of policy options and responses (at local, national and international level) and how this evidence might be deployed to inform the post-2015 development agenda
- Develop ideas about how progress towards greater education quality and equity can be measured, including how and what goals and targets need to be defined and owned and governments made accountable for them
- Call attention to the need to secure the collective commitment of governments, representatives of employers and labour, corporate leaders, civil society organizations and the public to ensure that investments in basic and post-basic education and training are predictable, sustained, adequate and efficient in terms of equipping young people with the skills needed in current and future labour markets, including through expanding quality vocational and technical education and apprenticeships, in the post -2015 agenda.
- Strengthen existing and initiate new partnerships and build consensus on exploring ways of transforming education systems to better meet the challenges and demands of the 21st century
- Foster interdisciplinary cooperation while acknowledging that educational goals can only be reached by take ling them simultaneously with other goals
Overall, it needs to be highlighted that the “process” of the consultation is as important as the outcomes. Hence, care will be taken to ensure that the created “platform” is participatory, inclusive and bottom-up, involving a diverse range of stakeholders (not solely experts and technocrats) in defining the post-2015 agenda. In addition, special efforts will be made to include the voices and opinions of the marginalized children, youth in informing the post-2015 agenda.
Considering the range of stakeholders and the cross-cutting nature of education, it is critical to engage all relevant parties throughout the process. This can be ensured through a dedicated inter-active web platform, wide use of internet-based consultations and open dialogue in face to face meetings with all stakeholder groups, including governments and local authorities; international, regional organizations and thematic platforms; the private sector; TVET institutions; NGOs, civil society and community-based organizations.
The consultation will initially undertake a mapping of the various events and deliberations key stakeholders are engaging in globally and regionally to align some of the components described above with existing events and leverage greater advocacy efforts.
The Education Consultation will have four major components:
- A series of regional meetings/consultations will examine the relevant themes outlined above, identify the regional trends, gaps and opportunities; build consensus on the role of Education in an international post-2015 development agenda and strengthen/initiate partnerships towards achieving this agenda. Wherever possible, these consultations will be integrated in already planned regional EFA or education meetings.
- Arab region: Regional EFA Forum (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 15-16 October 2012)
- Africa: Regional EFA Coordination Conference (Johannesburg, South Africa, October 16-19, 2012)
- Latin America and the Caribbean: UNESCO and ECLAC started setting up a multi-stakeholder working group to prepare the post-2015 education agenda and propose to organize a regional consultation meeting in November (involving the EFA/PRELAC Board), coupled with an online consultation in the region, if funding is provided. (Mexico, January 29-30, 2013)
- Asia and Pacific: Dates of next Regional EFA Coordination Meeting not yet set
- Europe/North America: to be further explored with EC or OECD
Recommendations should be provided for how these discussions should be integrated into the post-2015 formal negotiation process (e.g. High-level panel report, SG’s input to the intergovernmental negotiations, etc.).
- A global consultation of education NGOs during the Sixth Meeting of UNESCO’s Collective Consultation of NGOs on EFA –CCNGO/EFA (Paris, France, 24-26 October 2012). The meeting is already planned and the agenda includes the post-2015 education agenda and education in the post 2015 development agenda.
- Two global online consultations to engage 1. youth and children (to be led by UNICEF) and 2. Experts, academics, development partners and NGOs (to be led by UNESCO through its networks, including at the regional level);
- A global meeting/conference (approximately 30-50 high level participants, e.g. ministers/officials from the host government and representatives of other governments from all regions, major civil society/international NGO coalitions, key UN partners, some members of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel) to discuss the relevant themes outlined above, identify trends, gaps and opportunities, develop ideas and examine policies for greater education quality for all. A background document will be prepared for the global meeting, drawing on the CCNGO/EFA and regional meetings’ reports and the outcomes of the various online consultations, as well as a review of existing literature/documentation on education post-2015. If necessary, additional papers could be commissioned to cover identified gaps.
A Synthesis Report, building on the results of all consultations and analysis, to be submitted to the UNDG in March 2013.
Principles, lead agencies and host governments
The Education consultation(s) should be designed to 1. engender member state ownership of the outcomes and 2. promote intersectoral and inter-ministerial cooperation and ownership 3. feed the outcomes into the international fora such as the General Assembly . This will be important for the potential future role of member states in partnerships and advocacy. Some government donors to the UNDG project may wish to sponsor / be associated with some of the planned thematic meetings could be a useful mechanism to promote ownership. Therefore, it is suggested that these not be designed (or perceived) exclusively as UN consultations, but rather as partnerships between hosting (or co-hosting) governments and supporting clusters of UN agencies that are acting on behalf of the broader UNDG. The branding of the meeting and process should reflect the nature of the partnership, but with some uniformity in terms of the UNDG umbrella (i.e. each agency effort should be seen as feeding into overall UN intellectual leadership). UNICEF is also involved in co-leading “global thematic consultations” in the areas of Inequalities, Health and Education.
Who in the Education community should participate?
Education—understood as the transmission, acquisition, creation and adaptation of knowledge, skills and values—is indispensable for inclusive economic development. In this perspective, children, young people and adults are dynamic participants and contributors to the development of the post-2015 agenda.
The meetings and consultations should bring together a diverse range of individuals, on the basis of their personal knowledge and experience and for their different geographical and institutional perspectives. It should be participatory and bottom-up consultation, comprising representatives of communities, children and youth, governments, civil society, the private sector, academics, faith-based groups and trade unions. It should be balanced in geographical terms and gender. It should not be dominated by UN staff.
What are the outputs of the consultations (initial draft of options)?
The overall outcome is described above: a global Synthesis report.
For regional and online consultations, beyond a short meeting report, in a common format agreed up-front, additional outputs of the meeting could include: a participants list; photographs; short video clips, blogs, and tweets that can be posted on the web-space etc.
What is the funding available?
UNDP has set a target of $7-8 million for all the consultation meetings and has raised this amount. We understand that around $186,000 is being set aside for each of the thematic consultations; an amount currently well below our expected needs to hold comprehensive consultations. Therefore, it will be necessary for UNICEF and UNESCO to work together to raise significant additional resources and support to ensure a comprehensive and participatory consultative process. In addition further discussion on this issue will be undertaken with UNDP to see what can be pursued within the parameters of their overall funding for this consultative process.
The budget will be transferred to one of the co-lead agencies, which will then be responsible for the management of the funds; both UNESCO and UNICEF will be responsible for the delivery of the process (including human resources) and its outcomes. Cost-sharing from the agencies involved is encouraged.
 Unless specified otherwise, “post-2015 agenda” refers to the international development agenda in general
 See Annex A for a comparison of the EFA and Education MDG frameworks and goals.
 The Collective Consultation of NGOs is a global network of some 300 international, regional and national NGOs and EFA coalitions as well as women, youth and student NGOs. It has a “Coordination Group” comprising Save the children, ICAE, Education International and the four main regional EFA networks (ANCEFA, ASPBAE, CLADE and the Arab EFA Coalition).
[i] Foremost among these international normative frameworks are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 26), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 13), as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 28).
[ii] An estimated 90 percent of all countries have legally-binding regulations requiring children to attend school (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2009).
[iii] See, for example, Drèze and Sen (1995).
[iv] UNESCO (2012) “Education and skills for inclusive and sustainable development beyond 2015”. Thematic Think Piece, UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda.
[v] UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011: the hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education. UNESCO, Paris, 2011.
[vi] UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011: the hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education. UNESCO, Paris, 2011.
[vii] UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012: Youth and Skills: Putting education to work. UNESCO, Paris, 2012.
[viii] Brookings. Global Compact on Learning: Taking Action on Education in Developing Countries. Brookings Institute – Center for Universal Education, DC, 2011
[ix] UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012: Youth and Skills: Putting education to work. UNESCO, Paris, 2012.
[x] Angeline M. Barrett (2011): A Millennium Learning Goal for education post‐2015: a question of outcomes or processes, Comparative Education, 47:1, 119-133