The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development being adopted by Heads of State and Government this week in New York contains 17 goals set out to transform the world by simultaneously addressing social, environmental and economic challenges.
A moment to celebrate
The new agenda represents a victory for Education International (EI), its affiliates and the entire education community; education is a stand-alone goal and is also an explicit priority under several other goals. Not long ago an education goal was far from guaranteed, but sustained pressure and hard work paid off. Building on the experiences of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Education For All (EFA) goals, and following calls from the education community, quality and equity are at the centre of the new education agenda.
Quality is the key
Quality is emphasised across the targets, and there are dedicated targets on equity, qualified teachers as well as gender-sensitive, safe and non-violent learning environments. Moreover, the 2030 agenda recognises that primary education is far from enough in today's world and thus covers early childhood, vocational and tertiary education as well as youth and adult literacy and numeracy. As we move towards the adoption of the new agenda, and implementation strategies are being discussed and designed, there are key priorities and challenges to keep in mind.
1. Free, equitable quality primary and secondary education
The inclusion of free primary and secondary education is one of the most transformative elements of the education goal. It builds on the positive impact of abolishing tuition fees on primary school enrolment in the past years, as well as the progressive realisation of the right to education. It is also the basis for the successful implementation of all the other education targets. Free quality primary and secondary education should be framed as the core of the education goal, and free education as a human rights obligation.
2. Qualified teachers
The 2030 Agenda rightly recognises the centrality of qualified teachers to quality education. Unfortunately, the teacher target (4.c) was modified at the very last moment, which meant that the level of ambition was decreased to “substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers”. This is far below the position taken at the World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, in May 2015 where governments committed to ensuring that all learners are taught by well-trained, professionally-qualified, motivated and supported teachers. It is inconceivable to aim for anything less than all children being taught by qualified teachers.
3. Financing the new agenda
No commitments have been made on how the new agenda will be financed. The 3rd Financing for Development conference that was held Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015 saw a remarkable absence of commitments and concrete deliverables. National governments should come up with concrete financing plans and allocate adequate financial resources to ensure successful implementation of the new goals. Development partners must step up their commitments and support for countries without adequate domestic financing. A ttention must also be paid to the growing influence and reach of global capital. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) will be central in articulating priorities and strategies for financing, and, importantly, in framing the participation of civil society and the teaching profession as key to an inclusive process.
The new education agenda will be supported by the Education 2030 Framework for Action, to be adopted by member states in Paris in November 2015, but ultimately its successful implementation depends on political will, financing and total commitment by governments.