#WorldEducationForum: Building A Powerful New Education Agenda To Transform Lives

Posted by Lisa N. Blonder
May 19, 2015
Girls walk to school in India

Yes. While more children than ever are in primary school, a goal set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, the world needs to continue to push ahead because inequities remain. Too many children are in school, but aren’t learning. Too many children are out of school, not learning.  And, too many children -- especially marginalized groups defined by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender and disability -- are not transitioning to secondary school, much less vocational or higher education, to gain the literacy and other skills needed to be escape poverty and become global citizens.

A Global Effort that Began 25 Years Ago

Nearly a quarter century ago, the Education for All (EFA) movement was born in Jomtien, Thailand. Delegates from around the world signed the Declaration on Education for All, a historic commitment to “meet the basic learning needs of all” by universalizing primary education and slashing illiteracy rates.

Ten years later, in 2000, the six EFA goals, covering all aspects of basic education from early learning and adult literacy to education quality, were formalized at the World Education Forum in Dakar and a deadline to reach those targets of 2015 was set.  The EFA Framework for Action was a roadmap towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. 

Since then, success is mixed. In 2012, the UN Secretary General launched the Global Education First Initiative, which the United States joined as a Champion Country, to accelerate efforts to achieve these goals, and set the stage for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Now in 2015 --  the deadline for the MDGs -- UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, UN Women, UNFPA, and the World Bank will convene world leaders for a landmark World Education Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea from May 19 through 22.  This landmark event marks the transition from the MDGs and the Dakar Education for All (EFA) Agenda to the emerging Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Framework for Action Education 2030.

World Education Forum – Setting the Mark for 2030

Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director of International Affairs Maureen McLaughlin will lead a U.S. delegation, which includes senior international development and education advisors from the State Department, USAID, and USDA.  In addition, UNESCO Chair Dr. Phyllis Magrab from Georgetown University will speak on disability and inclusiveness in education.  The United States, in partnership with the UK, Norway, UNICEF, the Global Partnership for Education, and Save the Children, will also host a side event on The Global Book Fund -- a project to put more books in the hands of more children so that they are able to learn to read at an early age and setting the foundation for lifelong learning.

More than 1500 participants, including delegations and youth advocates from more than 155 countries, will discuss the draft Framework for Action Education 2030 -- a road map towards ensuring equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030.  The discussion is in advance of the United Nations General Assembly in September, when countries will adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda that is currently being negotiated among UN member states.  While at the WEF, the U.S. delegation will participate in sessions on equity, inclusiveness, quality of learning, lifelong learning, education for sustainable development, education in emergencies, among other critical issues in global education. 

Education affects and is affected by economic, political, and social spheres of a nation -- from the family, to the community, and beyond a country’s borders.  By strengthening education, we strengthen the others, creating both drivers and a solid foundation for long-term economic growth, environmental sustainability, peace, and security.  Education is a powerful tool -- if we act now, we can build upon the momentum that began with our actions almost 25 years ago and we can transform millions of lives around the world.

About the Author: Lisa N. Blonder serves as Co-Chair, U.S. Post-2015 Education Working Group and Senior Education Officer in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

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