Workshop on education and skills in post-2015 MDGs and EFA: Actors, Agendas and Architecture - Geneva



Based on the success of the 1st June 2012 NORRAG-UNDP workshop on "Post-2015 Politics and Foresight: What Room for Education?" that was attended by 15 international, governmental and non-governmental, organisations and by SDC (see the NORRAG blog), a follow-up meeting will be held in Geneva on 12th September 2012. This meeting will present to the participants the issues and directions that NORRAG is going to focus on for the post-2015 component of its forthcoming Programme on International Education and Training Policies. The following four points are the ones around which the discussion will be articulated.

1. NORRAG’s briefing paper on education and training beyond 2015

NORRAG is currently preparing a critical backgrounder on the position of education and skills development in post-2015 debates, including the position of education in any future MDGs, and the future of the EFA goals. This is already a highly contested and competitive field with a multitude of think pieces, position papers, briefing notes, and seminars staking out locations in an increasingly crowded landscape. This has happened even before the High Level Panel of 26 Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Agenda, named by the Secretary General in late July 2012, has been able to meet with its three co-chairs. The NORRAG state of the art review will primarily review critically the position of education and skills development in this beyond 2015 architecture, with a brief look back at the lessons learned from the earlier target setting of Jomtien and Dakar. It will also note how, thus far, the process has been dominated by debates, meetings, consultations and papers initiated by Northern actors, even if some of these processes have physically been located in the South.

2. Connecting post-2015 futures with a glance at the past

The meeting will comment critically on the post-2015 debates on global/sustainable development issues as well as on the place and role of education and training in any international agenda. It will need to refer to the different perspectives that have been used since the early 90s to define and implement socio-economic as well as education development models. If there is to be an in-depth contextualisation of today and tomorrow's post-2015 debates, a pre-condition must be effectively to capture the conceptual and experiential knowledge accumulated since Jomtien in March 1990.

Accordingly, experts will present the evolution, over the last three decades, of the employment, economic and social development frameworks in which international education and training policies have developed, and tease out their implications for post-2015 futures. Education experts from NGOs, foundations, multi-laterals, bilaterals, think tanks and research centres will be invited to react based on their active involvement in the post-2015 ‘industry’.

3. Critically assessing post-2015 inputs and processes with a special angle on the South

It is still too early to see whether the contextualization of the debates on post-2015, as proposed above, will lead to a continuation or a revision of the existing goals or to some new and innovative targets both for Development in general and for Education and Skills. This will depend on the quality of the inputs made by the stakeholders involved at the global level of the debates, as well as on the nature of the negotiation processes being followed, and on the coalescence of opinions. A critical analysis of these three components – stakeholders, inputs and processes - is necessary to assess the sustainability potential of the decisions to be made before 2015. As far as processes are concerned, some particular attention should be paid to the difference – if any - between today's Southern participation in the debates, and the top-down approach that has been often criticised in the previous MDG decision-making process. Furthermore, there appears to be a limited interest in post-2015 by many major countries in the South as opposed to the emphasis they seem to give to their own national mid-term objectives and perspectives, largely independently of the new global development and education targets under construction. This apparent difference has to be carefully addressed.

Therefore, a first round of case studies in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia will be launched after the workshop, illustrating the nature and relevance of the content, consultation processes and participation of national stakeholders concerning the post-2015 and national targets, in general and more specifically on education and skills development.

4. Maintaining the connection between education and skills development

It is essential to keep strong and explicit the vital importance of the mutual dependency of good quality basic education and skills development. One tendency in the post-2015 discussions might lead to a re-balancing in favour of skills development from the importance currently being given to basic education. The new emphasis, in the discourse at least, being granted to skills development by many multi- and bilateral development agencies seems to be difficult to contest in front of the urgency of dealing with youth unemployment, low productivity and weak growth. But we are aware of the limitations of the emphasis on skills development in contexts marked by weak economic development. That is why a new balance has to be found between targeting the economic and employment related dimensions of skills development, on the one hand, and the social and inclusive objectives of education, on the other, since formal and non-formal basic education is a key instrument of social and individual development in a human rights perspective as well as a crucial factor for training efficiency. The renewed interest for lifelong learning (LLL) (for all) expressed today by many education and training stakeholders has to be re-assessed in that context, even if LLL is logically not amenable to time-bound goals.

Accordingly, experts will tease out the post-2015 and beyond dimensions of this on-going debate. (The mutual interdependence of Education and Skills Development will be demonstrated again during the launching, organized by NORRAG and Swiss Development Cooperation in Geneva on 24th October, of the new EFA-GMR 2012, with the participation of the UNESCO TVET Section, ILO and ETF.)