World leaders met May 19-22 to discuss the future of global education through 2030. UNESCO convened the Forum with the cooperation of organizations such as UNICEF, the World Bank, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women and UNHCR. With over 130 world leaders in attendance and 1,500 participants, the World Education Forum 2015 met with the goal of outlining the next fifteen years of educational goals. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, explained the Forum’s importance: “We know the power of education to eradicate poverty, transform lives and make breakthroughs on all the Sustainable Development Goals… This is not only a human right but an imperative for security, inclusive development and peace.”
The opening day of the Forum focused the concept that education as necessity for peace and equality, as many leaders drew connections between education and other issues of human rights. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim remarked that approximately 250 million children are illiterate, and improving global education “will help end extreme poverty.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General, spoke of low literacy rates in the context of gender equality, for women account for two-thirds of illiterate adults worldwide.
As these Forum members described, the deficit in global education affects the poor, women, and those in areas of conflict and crisis such as refugees. As UN Special Rapporteur on education, Kishore Singh explained, “It is the weakest among us who need education the most and we cannot stand by as they are being excluded.” Thus, the second day of the Forum discussed the themes of equality, health—particularly sexuality, lifelong learning, and education in conflict and crisis.
The third and final day saw the adoption of the Incheon Declaration on the Future of Education, the culmination of the discussions held in the previous days. The Declaration outlines goals for world education and accompanies the Education 2030 Framework for Action, which outlines a plan for achieving these goals. The Declaration breaks the educational goals into five themes: right to education, equality in education, inclusive education, quality education, and lifelong learning.
Carrying out the ambition goal of “lifelong learning for all by 2030” will require an increase in funding for education, but this investment will see a return of up to $15 in gain for each dollar invested. What are the implications of this kind of growth for the world’s poor? According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, education can end poverty for over 170 million people around the world.
The Declaration and Framework 2030 urge governments worldwide to focus on education and meet the goals of the World Education Forum. While this plan encompasses educational goals worldwide, it requires localized cooperation. The Framework calls upon governments to provide necessary funding and regulations for free public education to provide the kind of quality, lifelong learning the Forum strives to see for the world by 2030. As the combined efforts of leaders from this diverse group of organizations and nations demonstrates, the World Education Forum 2015 attempts to use education as a tool to reach much broader goals. “Lifelong education for all” will lead to equality in other aspects of human rights as well. The Forum’s multi-faceted approach to education addresses the many issues that education has the power to change, and the adoption of the Education 2030 Framework for Action by governments around the world will address equality and poverty through education.
– Zoey Dorman