The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) offers an opportunity for organisations and leaders to assess the progress that is being made in achieving the Global Goals
The sustainable development goals are something that the world has unified behind. Yet, the UN recently revealed that little progress has been made in delivering education. At Bridge, we believe that Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) underpins much of what will be necessary to achieve the other SDGs. SDG4 seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. People’s education impacts on their health and well-being, poverty, job opportunities, environmental behaviour and values towards gender equality. It underpins stability in fragile nations and drives economic prosperity.
Yet, 263 million children, including millions of refugees, around the world are not in school at all. Another 330 million are in school but not learning. Our approach as a global community to SDG4 must be bold and radical if we are to tackle this crisis.
Chair of the Education Commission, Gordon Brown:
“This is the civil rights struggle of our time”
Bridge believes that every child has the right to learn, so we built a network of schools across two continents. They focus on those living in extreme poverty; on under $2 a day. We already work in partnership with governments, communities, parents, and teachers to deliver quality education to hundreds of thousands of children across Africa and Asia. We hope to educate millions.
It’s because of this that we are now a UN Global Compact participant. A sustainability initiative that seeks to advance societal goals and advances universal principles on human rights, labour and anti-corruption. A movement that promotes the impact that non-state actors and partnerships have in achieving these global goals. Bridge stands firmly behind it.
Education reform is not simply about having children sat in classrooms – although in many countries that would be an improvement. It is about them being in classrooms where learning is actually happening. We must use interventions and programmes that have been proven to deliver effective, tangible improvements in learning. Interventions such as the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), which has Government, NGOs and private providers working together to improve learning outcomes. Developing partnerships that combine the public and the private sector can and does change the future prospects of individuals and communities. Public Private Partnerships have long been a bedrock of sectors such as healthcare and energy and yet education has lagged behind.
Class sizes, school transparency, learning materials, funding, teacher training and teacher presence – these are all issues that plague education systems in many developing countries. These are issues that UNGA must tackle to achieve SDG4. Praiseworthy initiatives like Fund Education and Education Cannot Wait all seek to increase the money that goes into education. However, new funding streams and initiatives must be coupled with new accountability and performance metrics focused on outcomes. In addition, there needs to be a focus on delivering education and learning gains in a financially sustainable way.
Accountability and performance become more complex when communities are transient or fleeing conflict. At Bridge, we have piloted our education model in Syrian Refugee camps and integrated refugees from Sudan into our Ugandan schools. Communities in remote or poor areas usually have schools that are not equipped for learning. They are frequently overcrowded and chaotic often without attendance or performance measurements in place. Areas of instability and conflict have tens of thousands of children, often refugees and internally displaced persons, who do not get an education. Their lack of education perpetuates the conflict and instability. These communities struggle to prosper in stable environments because they do not have the foundation of an education that will enable them to do so. It is a monumental challenge that the world is confronting.
UN Refugee Chief, Filippo Grandi:
“Without education an entire generation of young people, already robbed of their childhood could lose out on a future as well”
It is against this backdrop that UNGA discusses global education. Thinking about how it can be done differently; how reform can be delivered; technology utilised; investment mechanisms developed. These are the questions that underpin the solutions to the crisis.
As the development sector convenes for UNGA this week, we will be passionately arguing to keep education reform at the forefront of the debate. Let us, as a global community, focus on sustainability, accountability and scalability. It is an urgent global crisis we are trying to tackle. Let us not be afraid to be bold.