Post-2015 Development Agenda: Make Quality Education a Priority!



Both the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals should be met in 2015, but by now we know that none of the goals will be met by their deadline if current trends continue.

With 2015 around the corner, the discussions about what should come next have started, and the United Nations is leading the process of agreeing on a new development agenda.

What will the new development priorities be? Will there be a global goal on education in the new agenda? And what can teachers and educators do to influence the process? Join Education International’s call for universal free, quality education to be at the core of the global post-2015 development strategy. Teachers and educators should be at the centre of the formulation of a new global goal on education.




In 1990, the world’s nations committed themselves to achieve universal primary education (UPE) and reduce illiteracy by the year 2000 at the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien, Thailand.  As the new millennium approached, it was clear that many countries were still very far from reaching these targets, so the international community met again at the World Education Forum (WEF) in 2000 in Dakar, Senegal, and committed themselves to achieving EFA by 2015. The Dakar Framework for Action pledges to expand learning opportunities for every child, youth and adult through six key goals:

  • Expand early childhood care and education
  • Provide free and compulsory primary education for all
  • Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults
  • Increase adult literacy by 50%
  • Achieve gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015
  • Improve the quality of education


Later the same year, in September 2000, world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets - the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - with a deadline of 2015. Two of the 8 MDGs directly deal with education:

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.

Target: Ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls will be able to complete a full course of good quality primary schooling.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women.

Target: eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels of education no later than 2015.

Although considerable progress has been made towards the achievement of EFA and MDGs, evidence shows that none of these goals will be reached. In fact, if recent trends continue, the poorest girls will not have universal primary education before 2086. Globally, over 57 million children of primary school age (53% of them girls) and 69 million adolescents are still out of school, while 774 million adults, two-thirds of them women, remain illiterate. This means that EFA and MDGs remain an unfinished agenda.

The post-2015 agenda

With considerable progress that remains to be made and the deadline around the corner, the international community has shifted its focus towards a post-2015 development agenda. The MDGs are expected to be replaced by a new and universal agenda for poverty eradication and sustainable development. The process is coordinated by the United Nations (UN) but the new agenda will ultimately be designed and decided upon by the UN member states at the UN General Assembly in 2015.

Over the past year, a number of different processes have informed these debates, such as surveys and global consultations, expert committees and the UN High-Level Panel.  The report of the High-Level Panel outlines a vision of a new global framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development, and EI’s response to the report can be found here.

Currently the main processes are the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. Both these processes come out of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, held in 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and are expected to report to the 2014 UN General Assembly.

The Open Working Group (OWG) consists of 70 UN member states and will propose a set of Sustainable Development Goals to the 2014 UN General Assembly. These goals are expected to form the basis for a new global framework for environmental protection and sustainable development. However, there is a growing international consensus on merging the MDG and SDG agendas into one common global post-2015 framework that would integrate poverty eradication as well as sustainable development.

The Open Working Group (OWG) started its work in the beginning of 2013 and the first year has been devoted to exploring the different elements of a sustainable development agenda through so called thematic sessions. The actual negotiations started in March 2014.

Whether there will be a successor to the Education for All (EFA) goals is less clear at the moment. UNESCO is finalising its position on education beyond 2015, following thematic consultations that they have carried out with UNICEF. The position will be discussed at the 2014 Global EFA Meeting and new EFA goals as well as a Framework for Action will be decided upon at the World Education Forum in Seoul, South Korea, in 2015.

Education International’s priorities for education

Human rights in general and the right to education in particular must be at the core of a credible development and education framework. All states must guarantee the right and access to quality education for all. EI is promoting Ten Principles for a Post-2015 Education and Development Framework, and is proposing the following goal for education beyond 2015:


Target 1a: By 2030, every child completes a full cycle of continuous, free quality early childhood, primary, lower and upper secondary education. 

Target 1b: By 2030, all young people and adults have equitable access to quality post-secondary education and lifelong learning.  


  • Percentage of children and young people who participate in and complete early childhood, primary, lower and upper secondary education and who demonstrate learning achievement broadly- defined, determined through multiple measures consistent with appropriate national standards, disaggregated by at least disability, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status;
  • Percentage of children and young people taught by trained and qualified teachers with an appropriate student to qualified teacher ratio;
  • Percentage of educational institutions that have safe and adequate infrastructure, accessible facilities, resources and learning materials for all students;
  • Percentage of educational institutions that have adequate numbers of qualified education support personnel, as well as food, transport, health and psychological services;
  • Breadth of curriculum, including gender-sensitive, non-discriminatory content, teaching resources and materials reaching beyond literacy and numeracy to include global citizenship and life skills content;
  • Percentage of literate young people and adults, disaggregated by at least disability, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, among others;


Target 2: By 2030, sustained and sufficient financing is in place to guarantee free quality education for all.


  • At least 6 % of GDP, 20 % of national budgets and 10 % of official development assistance is invested in education;
  • Percentage of publicly financed and regulated educational institutions that do not charge fees and are not for profit;
  • Existence and financing of mechanisms to enable teacher, student and civil society participation in education policy-making.


In addition to an education goal, EI wants to see a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s rights and empowerment. EI also supports the priorities of the trade union movement:i)full employment and decent work for alland ii) universal social protection. More information about the decent work agenda in the post-2015 process can be found here.

Moreover, EI has been insisting that EFA remains an unfinished agenda and must thus be continued after 2015. It is inconceivable that the breadth and depth of EFA and the ambition of a new education framework would be accommodated in the post-2015 development agenda, which will include also all other developmental goals.

Opportunities for union engagement in the Post-2015 Process

The new development agenda must be based on the people’s needs, experiences and aspirations, and informed by the achievements and failures of the past decades. The priorities must be formulated in dialogue with civil society and trade unions, giving an opportunity to education unions to share their experiences and expertise, and shape the education agenda.

There are a range of opportunities for influencing the new development agenda:


  • Join EI’s EFA assessment! The teachers and educators are telling our version of the EFA story, drawing lessons from the past to make concrete recommendations for the future. This is a broad consultation to assess the progress made not only as far as the EFA goals are concerned, but also in terms of policy dialogue, funding for the education sector, transparency and accountability in educational governance and management, and enhancement of teachers’ status. The survey will be available here on 1 April. Find out more information here.


  • Join EI’s campaign Unite for Quality Education that aims to remind governments of their commitments to ensure quality education for all. Join the campaign here.
  • Explore possible cooperation with other civil society actors and networks in your country. Even if not sharing all their priorities, it might be good to work with allies that support a particular action or demand. The student movement is an example of a possible ally.
  • The UN is carrying out a range of consultations at both national and global level that will inform the process. Check if there is a national consultation organised in your country. If yes, mobilise your members to participate and share views and priorities in the field of education. More information on the thematic consultations and the global conversation is available on The World We Want website.



  • Advocate for a stand-alone goal on education in the sustainable development framework by initiating a dialogue with the policy-makers in your country. Request meetings with your Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education and Development in order to hear more about their positions and strategies in relation to the post-2015 process and influence the national priorities.
  • At the UN, the member states are represented by their Permanent Missions to the UN, i.e. the Ambassador in New York, and therefore it is important to contact them to advocate for a stand-alone goal, including targets and indicators.
  • There are concerted efforts by made by a number of donor agencies and others to narrow the post-2015 education strategy to only focus on very basic skills, such reading, writing and counting and measuring these. In your advocacy insist on a broad approach to education that enables every learner to achieve their full potential and contribute positively to society.

Share this page