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29 Dec 2014

From Education Post-2014 to Post-2015: That Was the Year That Was! By Kenneth King

By Kenneth King, NORRAG News Editor.

goals-running1Only a few more days before it will be post-2014! But it still seems a long way to go before we shall get any conclusion to the continuing post-2015 debates around education and skills.

Are we any clearer now about outcomes than we were at the end of 2013? Last year (2013), we ended the year with a post-2015 Working Paper (#6, December 2013) which stated in its final paragraphs:

If education beyond 2015 is to figure prominently and authoritatively in the world’s development agenda, then it is high time that a coherent, evidence-based statement on education and skills was available to all those taking decisions in other fora such as the OWG [Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals] in the next few weeks and months. It is particularly unfortunate, in addition, that the position of the education constituency on skills for work and for life has not been confirmed. UNESCO’s World TVET Report has not yet been released, almost two years after the Shanghai 3rd Congress on TVET where it was previewed.

There is, therefore, right at the end of 2013, a very great deal still to do if the case for education is to be presented with authority and conviction in the early months of 2014 to the key development decision-makers who are not themselves education specialists. (King and Palmer, December 2013: 43)

Now, a full year later, are we still any clearer about what the state of education might be in the forthcoming UN General Assembly in September 2015? Of course in 2014 we have had the valuable Muscat Agreement in May and the Open Working Group’s (OWG) final outcome statement in July. And we were looking forward to the Secretary General’s Synthesis in early December 2014 (the draft copy was released 4th December 2014). That didn’t take us any further, however, as we noted in the most recent NORRAG News and post-2015 Working Paper (#7, December 2014):

There is only a single short paragraph of four sentences on education in this Synthesis, and they will be a disappointment to the communities of education and skills development who have striven to secure, very precisely, particular dimensions of education and skills in the target statements of Muscat and the OWG. The skills development people will regret the reappearance of ‘life skills’ which made the treatment of Dakar Goal 3 such a methodological challenge to the EFA GMR [Education For All Global Monitoring Report] team over 10 years. And the many voices from different countries which helped to secure global citizenship education (GCED) and education for sustainable development (ESD) in the Muscat targets will be sad to see no reference to these, when the SG [UN Secretary General] does manage to pick out ‘science, sports and culture’. (King and Palmer, December 2014: 43)

So there is still a long way to go, and there is nothing yet remotely resembling the excellent and detailed document prepared for Jomtien:

…in association with the preliminary meetings before Jomtien there were available early drafts of Meeting basic learning needs: A vision for the 1990s (UNESCO, 1990). This 167-page document was published within a month of Jomtien, and it remains an invaluable base of evidence and of research for the Articles and Framework for Action of the Jomtien Conference. By contrast, there does not appear to be anything beyond a four-page list of contents available at the moment for what is currently called ‘Framework for Action on Education Post-2015’ (UNESCO, 2014). (King in NN51, December 2014: 21 – free registration/login needed)

What could go wrong with the Current Education Goal and its Targets?

But surely, despite this, Education is secure? In the Muscat Agreement there is an overarching Education Goal and no less than 7 Targets. And there are 10 education Targets in the Open Working Group proposal. But there is not at all complete overlap in focus.  So what might happen if there was a really serious attempt to do what the Secretary General expressed in his Synthesis of early December 2014? What if there was action on the 17 Goals to ‘rearrange them in a focused and concise manner that enables the necessary global awareness and implementation at the country level’?  Is it not still possible that a very complex Target statement such as 4.7 of the OWG could be dramatically edited and shortened. Here it is in the original:

…by 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development (OWG, 2014)

A Lot Could Happen to the Targets of Muscat and of the OWG Before September 2015

First, we must recall that there is a crucially important last issue of the current Global Monitoring Report (GMR) series, to be published in April 2015. Its perspective on the Goal and the Targets for Education and Skills will be vital. It can be expected that the GMR will take a rather ambitious approach to targets. It will doubtless comment thoughtfully on the proposed Muscat and OWG Targets for education, particularly from a monitoring perspective. But it may well seek also to make the case that Education can make a direct contribution to many if not most of the other 16 Goals of the OWG, and that some of these other Goals may reinforce the contribution of Education. The result of such an analysis may be somewhat greater complexity around the Education Goal and Targets.

A Further Milestone will be the World Education Forum in May 2015

This too will be an opportunity to apply to the Education Goal and Targets the leverage of one of the last World Education Conferences before September 2015. But, as we have suggested above, the influence of that Forum will be even greater if there can be a powerful evidence based documentation for the proposed Goal and Targets, through a well-argued Framework for Action.

What Could go Right with the Case for Education and Skills?

One of the most positive things about the case for Education is that the MyWorld Citizens’ Survey, which has been collecting individual views about development priorities worldwide over the last year and more, has now in December 2014 reached the impressive figure of over 7 million respondents. No less than 4.7 million of these voted for Education! This figure placed ‘A Good Education’ ahead of any other development priority. The second priority was ‘Better Healthcare’ at 3.9 million, ‘Better Job Opportunities’ at 3.8 million, and ‘Honest and Responsive Government’ at 3.2 million. We do not know how many of the 4.7 million voting for Education as a first priority actually looked up the definition of Education. It was very easy to access this and it reads as follows; it can be seen that it covers many of the Muscat and OWG targets:

This means that all children should have a high quality primary and secondary education that equips them for employment and an enjoyable life. Governments and the private sector should work together to provide opportunities for lifelong learning and skills development for adults.

Citizens Worldwide versus Key Policymakers and Advisors in New York

Of course, it is brilliant that Education has emerged in this forum as the top priority for development worldwide. But that will only be one small element in any of the high level agenda-setting around post-2015, taking place in New York over the next nine crucial months.

NORRAG will Maintain a Watching Brief on this Process Right up to the Last Moment!

In NORRAG, we have tried to keep you up to date with these Education-post-2015 debates, and you may have noticed that we have had no less than 100 blogs on some dimension of this post-2015 process! For your benefit, we have synthesized these into just five summary blogs in December 2014. And we have carried about 100 articles on post-2015 in NN51 and NN49.  Unlike much post-2015 reporting, we are not promoting any single goal such as Early Childhood Education, or the importance of Teachers. Rather, we are looking critically across this whole extraordinary process, and trying to capture and summarise some of the key directions – for the benefit of the many readers who just can’t keep up with the tsunami of activity around Post-2015.

So this is the last blog about education post-2015 in 2014. But you’ll be hearing from us again, very soon, in 2015!


Kenneth King is the Editor of NORRAG News. He is an Emeritus Professor at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,200 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

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