NGO UNESCO Liaison committee

NGO International Conference

NGO UNESCO Liaison committee - NGO International Conference

Forum on education

1st NGO/UNESCO International Forum
UNESCO, Paris, France
23 September 2013


Theme : Which Education Goals for Tomorrow’s Citizens of the World: Is Quality Enough?

This first NGO/UNESCO Forum was organized at the UNESCO Headquarter in France on Monday 23 September on the theme “Which Education Goals for Tomorrow’s Citizens of the World: Is Quality Enough?” .

240 NGO representatives and 20 representatives of Member States participated in this day and heard the voices of NGO leaders from Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, the United States, and United Kingdom.

At the end of the Forum the participants reached agreement on action to be undertaken in the field of education in 2013, 2014 and way beyond, in order to contribute to the post-2015 Agenda.

2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report) -A young Congolese boy during a lesson at the Mugosi Primary School, which caters mostly for children of the Kahe refugee camp in the town of Kitschoro, in the north eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. photographer: M. Hofer – © UNESCO

September 2013 is only two years before the end (2015) of the United Nations initiative Education for All (EFA) coordinated by UNESCO.

The 1st NGO/UNESCO International Forum will provide the opportunity for collective thinking on education as well as current and future objectives, and to offer concrete support to ongoing or new UNESCO initiatives in this area through the development and approval of a strategic plan and priorities for the post 2015 period.

A brief history

EFA was born in 1990 at Jomtien, Thailand. It was renewed in 2000 at Dakar, Senegal with the definition of the six EFA Goals, i.e.:

  • Develop early childhood care and education;
  • Offer all children access to and complete free and compulsory primary education;
  • Ensure that all young people and adult have access to life-skills and appropriate learning;
  • Achieve a 50% improvement in adult literacy;
  • Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015;
  • Improve all aspects of education quality.

Some results

The ambitious EFA initiative has obtained results, especially with respect to the objectives that also figure in the Millennium Development Goals (2000):

  • Ensure universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and women’s autonomy

Major efforts have been made in many countries to increase basic education for all children, which have led in most cases to significant increases in gross enrolment rates.

2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report) -Government primary school in Amman, Jordan – A young girl playing with a ball in a gymnasium photographer: Tanya Habjouqa – © UNESCO

But the road is long and must be maintained and constantly reviewed

  • Disparities by country and region and even within countries remain;
  • According to the EFA Global Monitoring Report, the objectives that do not appear in the Millennium Development Goals have been neglected with more than half of the world’s children without access to pre-school, 200 million young people who have not completed the primary cycle, 775 million illiterates, and unequal learning outcomes (2010 statistics).
  • World progress has slowed down and even declined, as if a plateau had been reached.

These shortcomings are accompanied by other intractable problems concerning sufficient and appropriate school infrastructure, the finance of education systems, or the recruitment and training of education professionals, especially teachers. With respect to this latter point, many countries are finding it more and more difficult to recruit and train teachers as well as to retain them in the profession beyond the first five years of their careers.

At the same time, regardless of world region, new problems are appearing. They do not appear in the same ways but they constitute the challenges of tomorrow for all countries. One might note: school dropout by girls or boys according to country; the loss of education knowledge and skills over time; lifelong learning as a necessity for the knowledge societies of today.

Renewed mobilization is necessary

Since achievement of some of the EFA Goals has been successful, stakeholders have somewhat slowed down efforts and the United Nations Secretary-General’s “Education First” initiative is intended to give education a new dynamic.

This initiative aims to put education at the forefront with three priority objectives:

  • Enroll all children in primary school
  • Improve educational quality
  • Encourage world citizenship.

This re-focus on the global scale of the problems of access to quality education is to be encouraged since we realize, for example, that illiteracy is actually increasing in countries where basic education is already universal.

However, it is to be regretted that this new initiative appears to neglect the different levels and types of education while contemporary knowledge societies require more than formal primary education.

Today a UNESCO commission is revisiting the Report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century that was preside by Jacques Delors. This report entitled Learning: The Treasure Within, defined six major fields for research oriented around development, science, citizenship, culture, social cohesion and employment, to help UNESCO focus its orientations. At the same time, UNESCO’s Medium-Term Strategy for 2014-2021 includes in its strategic objective 3: Shaping the future education agenda.

Collaboration among NGOs for education

The Collective Consultation of NGOs

The UNESCO Collective Consultation of NGOs for Education for All adopted recommendations on achieving the EFA Goals by 2015 in October 2012:

14. There needs to be an accelerated push to achieve all the EFA goals by all stakeholders, including the sector for higher education, giving priority and special attention to the needs of discriminated and marginalized children, young people and adults, especially girls and women.

17. Adult literacy is the goal furthest from achievement and needs significant new investments as well as a broader conception that recognizes literacy as a continuum and adult education as going beyond literacy.

18. Whilst there has been uneven progress, early childhood care and education is in need of urgent and increased investment, not only because of its immediate and long-term positive impact on the holistic development of children but also on the social and economic development of societies.

19. Developments in vocational education, designed to secure foundation skills for young people, should not be limited to a narrow conception of skills and the immediate needs of the labour market, but should include citizenship education and other types of knowledge. Furthermore, many young people need effective strategies for mentoring and support for vocational education in the informal and subsistence economy, appropriately contextualized.

20. Improving data collection and developing capacity for its effective use are essential for effective policy and governance. Disaggregated data should be generated and used in addressing inequalities.

21. Open Educational Resources and quality open, distance online and e-learning offer an important opportunity to be used to deliver on the EFA goals.

The International Conference of NGOs

The NGOs in partnership with UNESCO have also adopted a resolution during their International Conference of December 2012 which calls for an increased contribution to the collective efforts of the Liaison committee in support of UNESCO. This is the perspective in which the International NGO/UNESCO Forums are to be organized so that they strengthen and add to the visibility of NGO work in education. The first event, the NGO/UNESCO International Forum, is entitled “Which objectives for education for tomorrow’s citizens of the world: Is quality enough?

Organization and expectations of the Forum

As the title indicates, the Forum considers quality education to be essential, but intends to go further and address obstacles, propose solutions to resolve the Education for All before and after 2015 equation. It will be organized around a three-part agenda:

  • A discussion on the state of education by presidents and secretary-generals of NGOs from different countries (United States, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Senegal) and different sectors (Africa, teachers, higher education, women, culture, youth) moderated by a journalist;
  • Lectures by Jean-Marie Petitclerc, President, Valdocco and Philippe Lemarchand, CEO Atlande.
  • The drafting of a strategic plan for education and priorities for post-2015 to be established based on recommendations cited above and texts sent by the NGOs and amended by interventions from guests and participants.