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Are We Ready for the new Sustainable Development Goals?

By 4th December 2015October 20th, 2017One Comment6 min read


By Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education. This blog is part of a series of last minute reflections before a new education goal is set in stone. 


For several years now, we in the development community have been talking about and working on the “post-2015” agenda – that moment when the new Sustainable Development Goals would pick up where the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) left off. Now, at long last, that moment is upon us, and the question is: “Are we ready?”

Education is at the heart of the global development agenda and, as we had hoped, the fourth goal on education is much more ambitious than its predecessor. The global and national infrastructure supporting education in developing countries is much more sophisticated and effective today than it was even 15 years ago when the MDGs and Education For All first emerged.

Stronger systems and best practices are now in place in many countries. Collaboration and critical coordination among all the internal and external partners is strong. An increasing number of developing countries have committed to major education reforms and initiatives. Many are implementing new approaches and are making exciting progress. But much more needs to be done to ensure the poorest countries can achieve a step change in education progress as is contemplated in the new goal.


Helping to build strong education systems

The Global Partnership for Education supports countries in the development of national education sector plans and is committed to long-term strengthening of national education systems by investing in multi-year capacity development. It promotes government leadership and accountability in education planning, sustained finance, and the delivery of education services.

Established in 2002, it now has a substantial track record of supporting developing countries to amplify the impact of all the resources external and internal partners provide to developing countries.

Over the years ahead, the Global Partnership will actively support the new ambitious post-2015 education agenda and will play a key role in the implementation of that agenda, if provided the resources needed. This was noted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda where the Global Partnership was cited as a central mechanism to be strengthened and scaled up to realize the new ambitious education SDG. In May at the World Education Forum in Korea, hosted by UNESCO, the Global Partnership was invited to be a key coordinating partner for the education SDG.


A country-led development model is key

The Global Partnership is a country-led development model, a partnership globally and within developing countries. It aims to be increasingly able to leverage technical capability, advocacy, resource mobilization and mutual accountability for education impact.

To strengthen its operational platform, the Global Partnership:

  • Launched a new funding model that provides 70% of funding based on national education sector plans and 30% based on results in the areas of learning quality, education system efficiency and equity for all children as agreed by the government and other development partners.
  • Supports developing country partners’ efforts to improve the collection and analysis of education data that help them plan and evaluate the impacts of their interventions. With more and improved data, the education sector will be better positioned to make the case to donors that their investments are making a difference.
  • Focuses on solving the problem of educating children in fragile and conflict-affected countries, as well as children with disabilities or who are part of a disadvantaged community. This is what SDG4  intends: offering opportunities to “all.”


More funding urgently needed

But to achieve the ambitious goals ahead, the Global Partnership and the education sector will need significantly more funding.

UNESCO/GMR estimates that there is an annual financing gap of US$39 billion to ensure that every child received a pre-primary, primary and secondary education by 2030. This is above and beyond of what developing countries expect to spend and current financing from donor countries and other entities.

It is a daunting number, but if you break it down, it comes down to this: educating all the children in the world through secondary school will cost US$1.18 per child per day for the next 15 years. The largest share of this cost – 88 percent or US$1.04 per day – will be borne by developing countries themselves. Therefore the actual financing gap is a mere 14 cents per child a day.

Is the world ready to fill this gap? The current trajectory is not encouraging. Between 2010 and 2013, overseas development aid for education dropped by almost 8 % as overall development aid rose by 8.5%.Some donor governments that had once given large sums of money to help poor countries educate their children have, in recent years, suddenly gutted and even zeroed out their contributions. We have to turn this trend around.

However, there is one major promising development – the new Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunities – convened by Norway and headed by Gordon Brown — to invigorate global education financing and identify more effective and better coordinated ways to deploy resources.  This important new Commission deserves the support of every partner concerned about global education.

Are we collectively ready for the vast and complex challenge of getting all the world’s children in school and delivering to them a quality education? We must be if we are to achieve progress not just for the sake of education, but to secure achievement across all of the new sustainable development goals.

Alice Albright is Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education, which supports 60 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

This work has been reprinted from the World Education Blog and is therefore made available under the same license.

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