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23 Sep 2013

Education, Skills and the Post-2015 Window: Synching Post-MDGs, SDGs and Post-EFA for the Final Countdown

By Robert Palmer, NORRAG NEWSBite.

The countdown as of 21st September 2013

The countdown as of 21st September 2013

This is NORRAG’s 100th blog. It is also about 100 days since the Post-2015 High Level Panel (HLP) Report. And it’s 2 years and 100 days to the MDG/EFA deadline. This may seem long enough, but the post-2015 window is closing fast. Where are we at with post-2015 education and skills planning? Will the education and skills communities get their acts together for the final countdown before the UN door closes, or at least while the window stays open?

This week the UN General Assembly will meet in New York. On 25th September, there will be the special event towards achieving the MDGs, and the UN Secretary General (UNSG) will present his report, A Life of Dignity for All. There will also be a bunch of other side events, many connected to education.

We know that some of the key reports – the HLP report, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) main and thematic reports, and the UNSG’s report – as well as MyWorld survey, and interim report of the intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all flag up education as being of key importance to post-2015. Moreover, they generally agree that a post-2015 education goal should address access, equity, lifelong learning, quality and – of course – learning.

This is positive… but this convergence in top-line goal content is not matched yet with either a convergence in overall process or with a convergence in target-level content.   

A tripartite process

As of September 2013, there remains a tripartite process of determining the position of education and skills in the post-2015 agenda:

  • The post-MDG process – represented by the UN High Level Panel Report, the UN-facilitated global consultation, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Report and the UN Secretary-General’s Report on MDGs/Post-2015.
  • The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) process – represented by the intergovernmental OWG on SDGs – which will give their final report by September 2014.
  • The post-EFA process – represented by UNESCO-UNICEF involvement in the global education thematic consultation (and report), and the EFA assessment process 2013-2015. The timeline of the latter is national assessment process to June 2014, followed by regional conferences June-September 2014 and a Global Education Conference in Korea in May 2015.

Convergence… ?

With three main strands of the post-2015 education process, when will we see convergence? And will we see it at the right time?

The most immediate opportunity for some kind of initial convergence in thinking (if not yet in process) is the September 25th 2013 Special Event on the MDGs during the UNGA week in New York. Regarding process, it is at least hoped that there will be more clarity following this 25th September meeting.

The final report of the OWG will be negotiated and drafted between February and September 2014, so will be ready by the UNGA that year. In addition to these intergovernmental negotiations, as a high level UN official on post-2015 development planning noted at the start of September 2013:  Post-2015 ‘negotiations with 193 countries will probably start in February 2014… and the door will close then. But we hope the window will remain open at country level’.

There appears to be a problem with the timing of the post-EFA assessment. The UNGA in September 2014 will be a milestone in the convergence of process, but intergovernmental inputs to this process will close much sooner than this as the above quotation suggests. By September 2014 the national EFA assessments and regional EFA conferences will have been held, so input from those to UNGA 2014 itself is expected; but this may come too late to influence the intergovernmental process during 2014 and – moreover – the final outcome of the EFA assessment exercise will not be until May 2015.

How can the education community ensure that: a) the post-EFA assessment does feed into the wider post-2015 process at the right time; and, that b) this assessment is not as edu-centric as the one that fed into Dakar in 2000?

Moreover, how do the education and skills communities come to a better convergence in target-level content in time before the intergovernmental door or, at least, window closes?

We need to better align the education and skills communities for the final post-2015 countdown before it’s too late.

Further reading

King, K. and Palmer, R. (2013) Post-2015 Agendas: Northern Tsunami, Southern Ripple? the Case of Education and Skills. International Journal of Education and Development 33(5): 409-425. An earlier version appeared as NORRAG Working Paper #4 (April 2013).

Palmer, R. (2013) ‘Education and Skills in the Post-2015 Jigsaw: Post-MDGs, SDGs and Post-EFA’, in Education and Development in the Post-2015 Landscapes? NORRAG NEWS 49, available end September at

Robert Palmer supports the Editor of NORRAG News and runs NORRAG NEWSBite. Email:

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