As the U.S. public anxiously monitors the impending fiscal cliff, good things are quietly happening in the field of global education. Last week, at the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) meeting at UNESCO in Paris, the board decided to allow funds to be dispersed for educating children trapped in humanitarian contexts. For the first time, the world’s only global fund for education will be able to rapidly support interventions for children and youth struggling to continue their education during and immediately after emergencies. This is very good news for an organization that was founded 10 years ago to support education in good performing countries and in recent years has been heavily criticized for not supporting education in humanitarian contexts and fragile states, where almost half the world’s children who are out of school live. GPE has been slowly evolving and with this recent decision has clearly embraced its new vision of helping educate all children and youth, particularly those who are most marginalized.
This is not the only good news on the global education front. There have been a remarkable number of new developments in global education this fall. Perhaps the most visible was the launch of Education First, a new global education initiative of the United Nations secretary general. This five-year initiative aims to do three things: put every child in school; improve the quality of learning; and foster global citizenship. The initiative provides a welcome broadening of the vision of global education that had previously been championed by the secretary general. For the past 12 years, the main message coming out of the top UN leadership had been to enroll all girls and boys in primary school, as is called for in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, many have criticized the MDGs for being too narrowly focused on primary education (after all secondary education and early childhood are equally important). There has also been major criticism that the MDGs do not address the fact that even if you get children into school they are rarely mastering the foundation, life and citizenship skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. This new vision includes a necessary last push on meeting the MDGs (something for which recent trend data paints a pessimistic picture) and most importantly a vision for what the global education agenda should look like after the MDGs deadline of 2015.
As part of the continuing debate on what this new global education agenda should look like, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings will be hosting two days of events on how to take forward this agenda after the MDGs expire. On December 5, we will host a public event on global education and the post-2015 development agenda with former British Prime Minister and recently appointed UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown will be joined by White House Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling, a leading advocate for improving education and learning in developing countries. The event will also feature discussions on the latest data on the status of global education, the next steps for implementing Education First, and the prospects for a post-2015 global development agenda. Other speakers will include: Carol Bellamy of GPE; Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University in Ghana; Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report; and Homi Kharas, executive secretary of the UN secretary-general’s High-level Panel on the global development agenda beyond 2015.
Some of the other events we will be hosting include:
- A private meeting to engage broader international development stakeholders on the post-2015 agenda, including those in global health, agriculture and economic empowerment.
- A consultation with technical education experts to discuss how to develop better metrics to assess and measure learning and education outcomes globally.
- Final presentations by our guest scholars in the Global Scholars Program— a six-month fellowship for researchers from developing countries to come to Brookings to conduct research on global education issues with a specific focus on improving learning opportunities and outcomes for girls.
- A symposium with academics and international donors to identify the major gaps in the evidence base and research on global education with the goal of increasing research funding and quality in this area.
While these events are not open to the public, we plan on posting summaries of them and blogging about them after they are finished. Please visit our web page next week and beyond for all of these updates.