To the Annual Ministerial Review Global Preparatory Meeting

Closing Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainalbe Development

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today at this preparatory meeting for the Annual Ministerial Review.

As you know, the clock is ticking down to ECOSOC’s substantive session and the AMR. The extended, multi-stakeholder consultative process, which has become a standard feature of our preparations, will soon come to a close.

Summarizing the key policy issues emerging from many months of deliberation is not easy, but I will try.

Many of the same education issues have surfaced repeatedly ― in our regional meetings, e-discussion dialogues and in the Secretary-General’s two reports for the AMR. These issues will be my focus now.

First, a straightforward, yet crucial observation: education and all other development indicators are strongly linked.

If education reform is to succeed, its horizon must duly broaden. Shifting towards a more holistic, multi-sector approach is essential.

This will, of course, be anything but easy. It requires greater policy coherence, internationally, nationally and locally.

Continued progress on the education development goals demands progress in other ways, too.

More resources need to be mobilized, nationally and internationally, and spending on basic education reprioritized.

For education spending to be effective, broad support is needed to raise more revenue in the first place, and to determine spending priorities. In this regard, governance is very important. Transparency and accountability must rise dramatically.

While education at all levels is vital, scarce resources necessitate difficult choices. Subsidizing the university education of a wealthy few, for example, makes little sense if it comes at the expense of the primary school education of the poorest children.

Business and civil society also need to maximize their special strengths, in partnership with Governments.

These points largely deal with getting kids into the classroom. What about making sure they stay enrolled and learn productively?

Schools, above all, must be safe, welcoming environments. In highly impoverished communities, education combined with support services like meals and medical checkups, typically produces lower dropout rates and better test scores.

And efforts to improve learning must be empirically-driven, free from the fashionable whims and fancies of the moment.

Prioritizing teaching ― by recruiting, training and keeping good teachers ― is one such time-tested route to better education results.

What teachers teach is no less important. While we need to make sure that children can read, write and count properly, building critical thinking skills must be part of every school curriculum.

Finally, schooling must prepare youth for the world of work.

As we have seen recently, turning out graduates – with no access to jobs – is a recipe for instability. Where youth unemployment is chronically high, the time has come for more flexible labour markets and the matching of education with job opportunities.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the key policy issues which must receive urgent consideration at the AMR.

In closing, I would like to compliment the innovative way in which we are preparing for the AMR. While listening to Governments is important, we need to hear the voices of educators and students as well. The people’s assembly that ECOSOC has helped create today will enrich the value of the outcome in Geneva.

I look forward to your continued engagement in the lead-up to ECOSOC and to your active participation in AMR in Geneva, where twelve countries will be making national voluntary presentations to share their experiences, achievements and lessons learned.

Let us work together to give our children a chance.

I thank you.