The future of education has a new roadmap after political leaders from around the world adopted the Framework for Action in the French capital, with hopes placed on its bold take on financing and inclusion.
The road to 2030 is taking shape in Paris, as the General Conference of UNESCO unfolds from November 3 through to the 18. World leaders have adopted unanimously the new Framework for Action (FFA) on Education, “a cornerstone within the sustainable development agenda”, in the words of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
The new text, which is the result of a long-haul process that started in Jom Tien in 2000, has been praised as being a thorough and ambitious take on the much-needed reforms to make education for all a reality. Quian Tang, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, has highlighted that the vision behind the FFA was one of leaving no one behind, putting a special focus on the notion of education as a public good, as a human right, and putting gender equality at the very front of its demands.
Tang emphasised the important role of governments in the implementation of the new framework, and stressed that it its success will also depend on solid legal frameworks that guarantee accountability and transparency. Member states, the cornerstone to make the new agenda a reality, are to be supported by institutions like the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation for assistance and advice.
From partnership to a united strong voice
Many of the speakers, from ministers to UNESCO officials and representatives from other organisations praised the drafting of the FFA as a successful collective effort that had engaged both governmental and non-governmental actors. Irina Bokova mentioned Education International (EI) as one of the partners relevant to the success of the FFA, as in her view it would not have been enough “to have just a vision, but also the support to implement it”.
Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of EI, addressed the audience stressing that “If national governments are serious about achieving Goal 4 and its 10 targets, they need to start listening to teachers. In too many countries a meaningful dialogue with the education authorities… does not exist.” He further warned political leaders that “we will only be successful if governments demonstrate a strong commitment and political courage through bold policy, solid action, and adequate funds to ensure the full implementation of this goal and targets.”
Adequate funding, according to van Leeuwen, has been one of the lacks of previous attempts at achieving education for all. This has had severe consequences on the quality of tuition: “All learners must be taught by qualified and well supported teachers, delivering a rich, engaging curriculum, not distorted by the excesses of standardized testing.”
Without funding, the education system may slide into privatisation and commercialisation, resulting in diminished access and quality. “Free means free to all,” van Leeuven reminded, adding that “In your national action plans there is no room for tuition fees, for hidden costs or for for-profit private provision.”