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10 Nov 2014

Situating Post-2015: the Global Architecture of EFA, GCE, ESD and the World Education Forum By Bong-gun Chung

By Bong-gun Chung, Seoul National University.

upeIt is not certain whether those who designed the Education for All (EFA) Goals and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over a decade ago intentionally – and in a close collaboration – set the same target year of 2015 on purpose. Intended or not, the coincidence of these two great global endeavours now commencing a new set of post-2015 global development goals is a hopeful sign for those who have not been not so happy about what has been achieved so far in the EFA and the education MDGs. This time, they believe, things could be done differently with more preparation, cooperation and commitment. Indeed, from Jomtien to Dakar to the UN Millennium Summit until now we have learned by doing that global development goals are by no means easily obtainable. International Organisations and national governments have dozens of reasons and excuses for the unmet goals of EFA and MDG. That was a sheer reality vis-à-vis the dream for the new millennium.

At any rate, we should learn from our experiences and do it right this time around. Encouragingly this time the UN HQ, with an emphasis from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has been actively assuming a leading role in setting the development goals for coming decades. By May 2013, the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda had already suggested twelve goals, including the provision of quality education and lifelong learning, to pursue beyond 2015 along with other related targets. On the other side of the theatre, contrastingly, UNESCO seemed to be a little late in consulting on the post-2015 agendas at country level; this, and the general lack of southern discussions at the time, led NORRAG to talk about a “northern tsunami, southern ripple” in an April 2013 working paper. Lately, to our relief, we see the tide begin rising in a series of meetings of UNESCO such as the EFA Steering Committee in Paris, the Global EFA Meeting (GEM) in Muscat, Oman, and the Asia-Pacific Regional Education Conference (APREC) in Bangkok, Thailand.

From these gathering clouds some swirling shapes of EFA, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), and Global Citizenship Education (GCE)[i] debate seem to be appearing. The gist is something like this: EFA has not been accomplished yet so it needs more and continued attention; meanwhile, ESD should be carried on to the next decade through the Global Action Program; and, the GCE should be the ethos and practice of the global community beyond 2015. So the scene is the usual countervailing of concentration versus divergence so common in the rooms of any international organization. In the past decade, while there have been concrete discussions about how EFA and ESD are related in theory and practice, the discussion on links between ESD and GCE and between EFA and GCE have just begun. Even some EFA supporters suspiciously look at GCE as a strange bed fellow. So, of the three sides of the triangle, one line is still missing making the tripartite architecture weak and fragile.

The GCE as a post-2015 agenda is rather a late comer pushed by Korea, perhaps encouraged by the UN. As a new player in the court of international development cooperation little is known about Korea’s skills and resources in educational agenda setting. Frankly speaking, so far other than technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and some higher education, Korea’s involvement in EFA, ESD, and GCE has been quite limited. It might be suggested that global volunteers should come to join Korea to design the tripartite structure of EFA, ESD, and GCE in the World Education Forum 2015.

Bong-gun Chung is a Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University. Email:

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.

[i] Education for Global Citizenship is a key pillar of the Global Education First Initiative.

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