by Julia Gillard
26 June 2015
The Third International Conference on Financing for Development hosted by the Government of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa in mid-July is not only the penultimate gathering of the global education community in its quest for consensus on the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is also a moment of truth for the purpose we profess to share, and whether we will rise to the ambition behind the goals we deeply want to set.
Throughout this year – from the World Education Forum in Korea in May, to the upcoming Education for Development Summit in Oslo, and finally to the conference in Addis Ababa – I have been impressed with the clear and strong consensus on the challenges we face –and the opportunities we must seize.
The global education world is united. It is speaking with a clear voice.
First, we know that education is essential to fighting poverty around the world, and that it is a significant driver of economic prosperity. Without investment in quality education, progress on all other development indicators will stagnate.
Second, we know what has been achieved since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. Since 1999, 48 million more children have been able to go to primary school. And more children are going to secondary school. The number of children not enrolled in primary or lower secondary school dropped by almost 40 percent to 121 million.
Third, we know where we have not done enough. Far too many girls are not being educated – by cultural barriers and, all too often, by the willfulness of extreme forces seeking to deny girls their education through terrorism and kidnapping.
Too many children – an estimated 250 million –are in school but not learning. And a new generation of children – hit by emergencies and protracted crisis– are being deprived of an education. This is affecting 65 million children in 35 countries today.
Lastly, we know that the resources committed to overcome these education shortfalls are insufficient – an estimated $39 billion per year according to UNESCO. This despite developing countries having made massive pledges of tens of billions of dollars, to invest in their school systems.
The problem is that donor aid to basic education in developing countries has dropped by 7% between 2010 and 2013, even though overall development aid increased by more than 9% over the same period.
This makes no sense given the dividends that education pays, but we must be realistic and we know that closing a $US39 billion gap will be challenging to say the least.
It is also not enough to just get more money. We need to ensure that education funding is spent efficiently and wisely – where the greatest needs are and based on good policies and reliable data.
In assessing this education landscape, the global education community has coalesced around ambitious goals for all children to have access to quality education, and the imperative of scaling up and strengthening those who can help deliver on these objectives.
But we need more than conviction and goodwill.
More funding must be generated. Traditional donors will need to lift efforts but we must tap new sources – the private sector, the philanthropic world, entrepreneurs. We also need to develop new and innovative financial tools that will win acceptance in the market and provide a stream of investment revenue to aid our tasks.
Everyone will need to step up.
This is our moment of truth.