26 September 2017
Leaders Commit to Education Financing; UNESCO Report Warns of ‘Learning Crisis’
UN Photo/Mark Garten
story highlights

A high-level event titled, ‘Financing the Future: Education 2030,' discussed the importance of financing for education to ensure education for all and to achieve the SDGs.

During the event, world leaders and others made commitments to increase support for education.

Data released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics find that there is a “learning crisis', with 617 million children not achieving proficiency in reading and mathematics.

21 September 2017: Heads of State and Government and UN leaders committed to increase financing for education as part of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during a high-level event titled, ‘Financing the Future: Education 2030.’ The event took place on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) annual General Debate.

The Governments of Norway, France and Malawi co-hosted the event in partnership with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Education Commission, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Malala Fund and the ONE campaign. The event aimed to increase political commitment and investment in quality early childhood, primary and secondary education. The GPE, which was established in 2002, is a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that works to strengthen education systems in developing countries with the aim of dramatically increasing the number of children who are in school and learning. The GPE is the only global fund solely dedicated to education in developing countries.

Speakers called for supporting the GPE and its replenishment target (US$2 billion by 2020) and establishing an International Finance Facility for Education for longer-term financing, including Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg; President of France, Emmanuel Macron; and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown. Solberg said Norway has doubled its financial support for education over the past four years and will continue its efforts to tackle financing gaps in education, including through GPE replenishment. Macron said education will be the “top priority of French development and foreign policy.” He committed to increase global commitments to education at the GPE Financing Conference in Dakar, Senegal, in February 2018.

Several underscored education as the most important investment in securing sustainable development. Solberg described education, particularly for girls, as the “single most effective investment in sustainable development.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres described financing education as “the best investment we can make for a better world and a better future.” A former teacher, Guterres emphasized investing in education is the “most cost effective way” to drive economic development, improve young people’s skills and opportunities, prevent conflict and sustain peace and “unlock progress on all 17 SDGs.” GPE Chair Julia Gillard emphasized the benefits of investing in education, stressing that improved education outcomes, particularly for girls and women, “reduce poverty and boost economic prosperity, strengthen health and promote peace and security.” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova reminded participants that, “every development success story starts with education.”

Several speakers underscored the importance of ensuring education for all in their remarks, including Guterres. Brown observed that refugee children risk being left out of education and left behind unless the world secures funding to provide an education for all children. Brown said education receives less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid, describing delivering education for all as “the civil rights struggle of our time.” UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai stressed educating girls critical to achieving the SDGs.

Commitments made during the event include:

  • The GPE is committed to raising better and more finance and to provide and leverage US$2 billion annually to support 870 million children in 89 countries by 2020.
  • The EU will dedicate 8 percent of its humanitarian budget to education in emergencies in 2018.
  • The EU pledged an additional US$13.1 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund. Denmark pledged US$16.1 million to the Fund. Dubai Cares committed US$500,000 to the Fund.
  • Malala Fund will increase its investments by US$3 million.
  • Hewlett Packard committed to reach one million learners by 2020, working with Intel to support 1,700 School Clouds and with Education Cannot Wait to explore the use of technology in countries affected by crisis.

Also on education, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) released a report on progress towards SDG target 4.1 on relevant and effective learning outcomes. The data find that 387 million primary age children and 230 million adolescents around the world are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. The largest number of these children live in Sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly nine out of ten children between the ages of 6 and 14 will not meet minimum reading and math proficiency levels. Two-thirds of children who are not learning are in school but unable to meet minimum proficiency levels, which UNICEF suggests represents a “learning crisis”.

UIS Director Silvia Montoya Director described the data on SDG target 4.1 as “a wake-up call for greater investment in the quality of education.”

UIS identified three common problems that contribute to these statistics: lack of access, with children who are out of school having no to little chance of reaching minimum proficiency levels; failure to retain every child in school and ensure he or she remains on track; and a lack of quality education. UIS Director Silvia Montoya Director described the data as “a wake-up call for greater investment in the quality of education.” [UN Press Release] [UNICEF Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNESCO Press Release on UIS Data] [GPE Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on SDG 4 Action Event]

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