The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission), a group of world leaders composed of presidents, former prime ministers, business and education leaders, has set out an ambitious and credible programme of reform that will guarantee a basic education to every single child.
The Education Commission has set out the first-ever budget for global education, detailing from now to 2030 the costs and benefits of delivering a universal, high-quality primary and secondary education for all.
The report was presented in New York on Sunday 18 September, to the United Nations Secretary-General at the start of the 71st General Assembly.
The Shocking Facts
Even in 2030 – on current trends:
- 825 million children in low and middle income countries, half of the world’s 1.6 billion children, will not be able to secure basic secondary-level skills equipping them for the labor market
- 228 million children will not be in school
- 400 million will leave school without primary level qualifications
Instead of leaving behind half of today’s youth generation, the Commission sets out a plan under which the 1.3 billion children in low and middle-income countries can in the future attain at minimum the same level of basic skills achieved by children in high-income countries today.
The neglect of education is the biggest challenge countries will face over the next 15 years, the Commission reports. Lack of investment in education systems is crippling the chances of young people in the global workplace and hindering growth, making it impossible for low and middle-income countries to make the transition to high-income status. Failure to change course could result in a loss of $1.8 trillion for low-income countries alone by 2050 – losing 70% of GDP potential.
The Commission finds that the unequal distribution of opportunities fuels further discontent – eagerly exploited by extremists, especially in the Middle East and North Africa – and is a critical motivating factor for mass migration. Evidence shows that the failure to provide education for young children in conflict countries like Syria propels migration to Europe.
The first stage of the Commission’s plan is to have all countries adopting the reforms of the fastest improvers – the 25% of education performers around the world. Instead of only one in 10 schools being online, all schools would go digital.
Stage two of the plan is for every country to see education as an investment in the future and raise spending in low-income countries from 3% of national income today to 5% of national income.
Reform the Global Institutions to Mobilise $20 billion from New Multilateral Bank Consortium
The third stage of the plan is mobilising the combined resources of the international institutions. No country committed to reforming and investing should be denied the chance to deliver universal education for lack of funds.
The Commission proposes major reform of the global institutions and calls for a new consortium of multilateral development banks that will pool resources, in part by leveraging the flows to the World Bank from repayment of past debts.
By raising their commitment to education to 15 per cent of their combined budgets, they can generate an additional $20 billion annually by 2030 – increasing the number of qualified learners to a level ten times the number today in low-income countries.
New Compact: Multilateral Banks, Donors and Developing Countries Working Together
The fourth stage of the plan calls for a Financing Compact between developing countries, donors and multilateral institutions under which overall aid will rise to $35 a year per child by 2030 – significantly less than $1 a week, hardly a wasteful use of the world’s resources.
The benefits are clear – the aid given by individual donor countries would be more focused, better coordinated, and more cost-effective; loans from multilateral banks would be more widely and cost-effectively used; and by blending grant and loan finance in a more coordinated way, developing countries would receive more funding at a lower cost. To add to the education budgets and to get more children into school as a result of philanthropy, the Commission proposes a specific ‘education giving pledge’.
The Dramatic Results
Reforms and investment will get every child on track to enter school by 2030 and increase the number of qualified high school graduates in low and middle-income countries from 400 million to 850 million by 2030 – and during the next decade, raise the numbers even further to 1.2 billion. The numbers in the lowest income countries will rise from just eight million to 80 million children. This is what we mean when we say the lost generation can become the learning generation.
Norwegian Prime Minister and Co-Convener of the Education Commission, Erna Solberg, says, “The imperative to get all children and young people learning is shared by all countries. All countries will gain from action and all will face the dangerous consequences of inaction. Evidence shows that, for example, when youth have equal access to education and employment opportunities the risk of engaging in extremist activities are lower. This is a time of opportunity, but that time is running out.”
Gordon Brown, the chair of the Education Commission and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, says, “Delivering high standards of education to millions who lose out is the civil rights struggle of our generation. The evidence before the Commission proves education is the best anti-poverty investment the world can make. I am confident that if we combine investment and reform, and mobilise domestic and international finance in a more coordinated way, we can be the first generation in history in which every single child is at school.”