Education in fragile states a key priority

Article, 04.11.2015

A round table discussion on the challenge presented by education in fragile states, organised by the SDC, opens in Bern on 6 November. This is a priority topic of the new Education 2030 Framework for Action approved two days earlier at UNESCO headquarters. Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education is participating in the event.

Julia Gillard, Board Chair of GPE, visited Rwanda in February 2015 and participated in school visits. © Marielle Smith

Despite the fact that access to education is a fundamental right of every individual, education remains inaccessible to millions of children and adolescents throughout the world. The situation is particularly worrying in fragile countries affected by conflict or other forms of violence. Today there are 40 such countries where nearly four out of 10 young people have no access to schooling. And paradoxically, since 2010 international development aid for education has fallen by 10%.

A priority for Switzerland

The round table discussion on “The challenges of education in fragile and conflict-affected states” organised by the SDC takes place in Bern on Friday, 6 November. Increasing its engagement in fragile states is a priority for the SDC, which also intends to strengthen its support for education and training, a sector to which it committed CHF 103 million in 2014. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is its principal international partner in this field. The SDC provides the GPE with annual support of CHF 7 million. 

The round table discussion is taking place almost immediately after approval of the new UNESCO Education 2030 Framework for Action. This new framework contains a number of innovative elements including the idea of life-long learning, which has the active support of Switzerland. 

The Framework for Action aims at the integration of basic education and vocational training – accessible to all, young people and adults alike – and adapted to the needs of each population. It puts the emphasis on the quality and equity of educational systems and gives priority to intervention in countries where there is an urgent need. 

The Swiss educational system has comparative advantages – decentralised governance, the possibility of bridges between training opportunities, bilingualism, dual training offered to apprentices – which can serve as an example for the implementation of educational projects, particularly in fragile states. 

The key role of the Global Partnership for Education 

The GPE, being the only multilateral and multi-actor fund in the area of education, plays a key role in the implementation of the Education 2030 Framework for Action. The GPE’s current strategy focuses on the financing of basic education. With its new strategy due to be adopted in December 2015, the Global Partnership will align its impact and financing to the Education 2030 Framework for Action over the five-year period of the new Strategic Plan (2016 to 2020). The GPE currently supports 61 developing countries, of which 28 are fragile states.

An interview with Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the GPE and former Prime Minister of Australia. 

What are the biggest challenges that the Global Partnership is facing related to the 2030 Agenda?

The Global Partnership for Education is seen as a central platform through which the 2030 education agenda can be achieved. As implementing partner of SDG4, we will support the UN and its member states, including national, regional, and global-level processes to better align aid efforts and track progress against the education targets. In a sequenced approach, the Global Partnership will also align the impact and financing of the partnership over the five-year period of our new Strategic Plan (2016 to 2020) in support of the new global education goal. This expanded vision, however, can only be achieved if sufficient resources are available.

Looking at the ambitious new global education goal, I see three big challenges that we, as an international community, need to address:

1. financing and the effective use of funds
2. equity in learning
3. data collection

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development…

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by the international community in September in New York. It is the product of much effort by a UN working group which included Switzerland. The aim of the agenda, comprising 17 goals, is to promote global development and the well-being of humanity, without overexploiting and destroying natural resources. The 2030 Agenda replaces the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is considered to be universal, which means that all states are called upon to implement the goals. 

… and the new Education 2030 Framework for Action

The fourth goal of the 2030 Agenda is dedicated to education. It stipulates that each country must “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.” The implementation of this goal is in accordance with the Education 2030 Framework for Action. This document takes into account the achievements since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But it goes further, putting the stress on improved access to education for all, life-long learning, prioritisation of action for countries in urgent need, and the instrumental role of education for achieving the 16 other goals of the 2030 Agenda.