Education International
Education International

UN report outlines challenges in achieving education for all

published 6 September 2016 updated 8 September 2016

Education needs to fundamentally change if society is to reach its global development goals. That’s according to the new Global Education Monitoring Report published by UNESCO.

The r eport shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). It also highlights that education needs a major transformation to fulfil that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.

Formerly known as the EFA Global Education Monitoring Report (GMR), this year’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report discusses the SDGs adopted by the UN in September 2015, including SDG4 on quality education, and the critical role of education in the achievement of all SDGs. The Report is the first of a new 15-year series in the new era marked by the adoption of the SDGs, that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals which guided international development policy between 2000 and 2015.

Education can foster inclusive social development

In line with EI’s long standing view, the GEM Report argues that education is strongly linked to sustainable development. It helps combat climate change and has a positive impact on conflict prevention and resolution. According to the report, education has a key role to play in transforming economies and fostering inclusive social development. It urges governments to address the structural causes of exclusion. “To change discriminatory norms and empower women and men, education and the knowledge it conveys can be improved to influence values and attitudes,” it says.

New goals, new monitoring mechanisms

One of the key questions the GEM Report addresses is the challenge of monitoring education in the new SDG framework. Access to primary and secondary education remains a serious issue, with 263 million children and young people of primary and secondary school age still out of school. The GEM Report also stresses the importance of access and participation in all other levels of education, from early childhood to adult education.

Access, outcomes and skills

The GEM Report shows that shifting from access and inputs to learning outcomes, as proposed by some, would leave millions of young people without an education. EI has also been calling for a more balanced and holistic view of quality education, focusing on a wide range of inputs, teaching and learning processes and broadly defined learning outcomes.

The GEM Report also examines what – and how - skills for sustainable development and global citizenship are taught. It notes that three out of four countries included sustainable development in their national curricula, but only six per cent integrated sustainable development into their teacher education programmes. This disconnect between teacher education and school curricula means teachers are not prepared to implement the sustainable development curriculum in schools.

Safe schools

Regarding education facilities and learning environments, the GEM Report also notes that improving water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in education institutions has significant positive effects on health and education. However, only 52 per cent of primary schools in the least developed countries had adequate water supply in 2013. Violence and attacks are prevalent in schools, with four out of 10 students reporting that they had been involved in physical fights.

Lagging 50 years behind

The GEM Report’s global education attainment projections give a stark warning to governments: On current trends, universal primary completion will be achieved in 2042; universal lower secondary completion in 2059; and universal upper secondary completion in 2084. The poorest countries will achieve universal primary education over 100 years later than the richest. This is a wake-up call to all governments to demonstrate political will and commitment by investing in education and teachers.

The report is available for download by clicking here.