A Post-2015 Cry for Quality Education … But Who Hears It?

February 13, 2013
by Tony Baker, Education for All Campaign Manager

With the all but impossible task of deciphering global priorities — let alone goals and strategies to achieve them — the post-2015 United Nations development process got a dose of clarity recently.

A global survey for citizens

Most readily accessible as a web platform, MY World is a global survey for citizens initiated by the United Nations Development Program, the UN Millennium Campaign, the Overseas Development Institute, and theWorld Wide Web Foundation to allow people from across the world to voice their priorities for the post-2015 agenda. The offline version of MY World is being rolled out in 20 countries to help further capture people’s views.

The initial results are in:

All respondents:

Young people:




All respondents:



Low human development index countries:

Medium human development index countries:

Ages ≤ 34:

Ages 35 — 54:

Ages ≥ 55:


Number of out-of-school kids rising

Meanwhile, progress on getting more kids into school has stalled since 2008, with one out of ten primary school-aged children remaining out of school worldwide. Out-of-school children are actually on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa, increasing from 29 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2010. One out of every four girls in sub-Saharan Africa is not in primary school. Additionally, 71 million teenagers are out of secondary school and are not developing the critical skills necessary for employment (UIS).

While education advocates are familiar with these numbers and communities are painfully aware of the realities behind them, the real question is: When will donors heed this call? Aid to education stagnated in 2010 and decreased in 2011. Aid to basic education in 2011 was just 2 percent of all Official Development Assistance (UNESCO). And all of this is happening while world leaders are presumably rallying for a final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Source: communiqué refers to “education” and “universal learning” but offers no more insight into any discussion on education that may have been held during the three-day meeting.

What does learning mean?

It can only be speculated what Liberians and the global respondents to the MY World survey mean when they say “a good education,” but the High-Level Panel’s language of “universal learning” may be close to it. With the possibility that the current learning crisis may be met by a post-2015 goal for learning, discussions on what learning is and how it can be assessed are livelier than ever. Naturally, traditional measures such as literacy and numeracy tend to get pushed to the foregrounds of these conversations, but “universal learning” — rather than, say, “universal literacy” — may be more reflective of the meaning of “a good education.”

While literacy and numeracy are absolutely essential to learning, primary stakeholders are calling for more. Definitions of “quality education” are often similar to that offered by HakiElimu, a Tanzanian education and democracy rights advocacy organization, which defines it as that which imparts the “knowledge, skills, and ability to solve problems for both personal and national development.”

The Commonwealth Education Ministers’ Commonwealth Recommendations for the Post-2015 Development Framework for Education prioritizes cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning outcomes for basic education. Literacy and numeracy goals are to target non-formal education and lifelong learning for those under 50 years of age.

What we need?

  1. Donors should commit 10 percent of Official Development Assistance to basic education.
  2. Governments should allocate a minimum of 20 percent of national budgets to education and ensure that at least 50 percentn of this is dedicated to basic education.
  3. The High-Level Panel should ensure the formulation of a universal learning goal that seeks to promote learning as comprehensively as possible.

This blog posting originally appeared on the Global Partnership for Education blog.

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