The “post-2015” process took a major positive step forward this week as the international body charged with recommending a global development agenda identified quality education as a critical objective for every nation.
After a year of exploring and debating different areas, an appointed group of United Nations member states called the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals met this week and unveiled a draft list of focus areas that could be covered by the new development framework.
The new framework will be a successor to the Millennium Development Goals, including universal access to primary education, which reach their deadline in 2015. Despite significant progress in some areas, including education, international organizations are engaged in a “post-2015” process to continue and expand the momentum for positive change worldwide. Education International has called for a stand-alone goal on quality education and has mounted the Unite for Quality Education campaign to bring the message from EI’s more than 30 million affiliate member educators in 172 countries directly to the United Nations.
This week’s action by the Open Working Group places education as one of 19 focus areas to form the basis for a renewed global commitment to sustainable development. While there are no guarantees that these areas will be translated into goals, the section on education forms a good basis for a goal on education. For example, focus area number one is eradication of poverty, and the document states that education is “critical to achieving poverty eradication across generations.”
But challenges remain as the discussions go forward. Together with a number of other organisations, Education International welcomed the broad priorities on education, such as equity and quality, access and completion, and the inclusion of the different stages of education, from early childhood through to higher education and lifelong learning. However, we highlighted free education as a central but missing piece of the section on education: “The financial burden on households, i.e. tuition fees and indirect costs of education, still form the single greatest barrier to education. A renewed commitment to free early childhood, primary and secondary education is urgently needed; by 2030, no child should be excluded from quality education because of cost.”
Speaking on behalf of the workers and trade unions, Education international also called for a stand-alone goal on employment and decent work for all as well as gender equality.
The Open Working Group will meet again in the beginning of April to start the process of translating these focus areas into possible goals and targets. The coming month will be crucial for engaging in dialogue with member states on their visions and priorities for a new development agenda. This means that it is an ideal time for education advocates to contact their governments and share their priorities for education beyond 2015.