In her presentation at the 4th Session of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development, held in New York 17-19 June, EI coordinator Antonia Wulff argued for equity and quality in education as preconditions for a successful sustainable development framework.
Emphasising education as a fundamental human right and a public good, she called for a rights-based approach to education and a renewed commitment to free education.
“ The financial burden on households still forms a major barrier to equitable participation in quality education. In part, this is due to tuition fees, but also to the indirect costs of education, such as textbooks and materials, school uniforms and transportation,” she said.
Furthermore, she underlined the importance of a broad notion of quality that looks at inputs, processes as well as outcomes. It is through quality education that the foundations for sustainable development are laid, and that we learn to use and apply knowledge in ways that transform societies.
Limiting the expected outcomes of education to one or two easily measurable indicators may lead to a narrowing of the curriculum and to teachers feeling obliged to teach to the test rather than contributing to holistic quality outcomes
Finally, she called for renewed commitments to education financing within the new development framework, and reminded the meeting of the role of the state in ensuring universal quality education.
The 4th Session of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development was devoted to employment and decent work for all, social protection, education, youth and culture.
The meeting discussed the role of education in a sustainable development framework and a large majority of the member states present expressed their support for a standalone goal on education. Many of them also highlighted equity and quality as priorities in the field of education.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in June 2012, agreed to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), and an Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly is charged with preparing a proposal on such SDGs. The OWG is expected to report to the UN General Assembly in September 2014.
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