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Countries are off track in meeting their education commitments for 2030
by UNESCO, agencies
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
July 2019
Almost five years since the UN adopted Sustainable Development Goals for the target date of 2030, UNESCO projections show that the countries of the world will fail to meet the educational commitments of that agenda, Sustainable Development Goal 4, unless there is serious progress over the coming decade.
UNESCO projections ahead of the UN High-level Political Forum that is to examine progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, show that when all children should be in school, one in six 6 to 17-year-olds will still be excluded in 2030.
Projections also show that 40% of children worldwide will fail to complete secondary education, a figure that is forecast to reach 50% in sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of trained teachers has been declining since 2000.
The new projections (Meeting Commitments: Are countries on track to achieve SDG 4?) were produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report. The figures are all the more worrying considering that SDG 4 calls for effective learning, not just for school enrolment.
At current trends, learning rates are expected to stagnate in middle-income countries and drop by almost a third in Francophone African countries in 2030. Furthermore, without rapid acceleration, 20% of young people and 30% of adults in low-income countries will still be unable to read by the target date for the elimination of illiteracy.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes leaving no-one behind, yet only 4% of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary school in the poorest countries, compared to 36% of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower-middle-income countries.
In 2015, UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report identified an annual funding deficit of $39 billion to achieve SDG 4 but aid to education has stagnated since 2010.
“Countries need more and better data to target policies and make the most of every dollar spent on education,” said the Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Silvia Montoya.
“Data are a necessity – not a luxury – for all countries. Yet today, fewer than half of countries are able to provide the data needed to monitor progress towards the global education goal. What is the point in setting targets if we can’t track them? Better finance and coordination are needed to support countries, fix this data gap and, most importantly, make progress before we get any closer to the deadline.”
A complementary publication by the Global Education Monitoring Report (Beyond Commitments: How countries implement SDG 4) analyzes policies that countries claim to have put in place since 2015 to achieve educational targets, highlighting the need to align national education plans with SDG4.
Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report: “Countries have interpreted the meaning of the targets in the global education goal very differently. This seems correct given that countries set off from such different starting points. But they must not deviate too much from the promises they made back in 2015. If countries match their plans with their commitments now, they can get back on track by 2030.”
July 2019
UNESCO data shows one in six children won’t be in school by 2030. (Guardian News)
World leaders have “a lot to answer for” as new figures reveal that governments are failing to give all children an education, and that by 2030 one in six children won’t be in school.
The former prime minister of New Zealand and advocate for education Helen Clark said the figures showed “worrisome complacency on the part of countries which, just a few years ago, were so keen to hammer out an ambitious global agenda and make it a success”.
“Education is slipping down the aid agenda when it should be rising up,” Clark said.
As part of the sustainable development goals, UN members states promised that all children would complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
But Unesco predicts that by the 2030 deadline, one in six children aged six to 17 still won’t be in education, including one in 11 primary school-aged children.
Taking stock of progress a third of the way towards the deadline for a high-level political forum on sustainable development in New York this week, Unesco analysed responses by 72 governments and key city or municipal authorities, concluding that without a significant acceleration, the world will miss its education commitments.
Researchers found that as well as children continuing to miss out on the chance to go to school, many who do start education are still dropping out. By 2030, they predict that 40% of young people will still not complete secondary education.
“Considering that ‘a good quality education’ was voted young people’s most important priority in 2015 when the SDGs were being decided, leaders today have a lot to answer for. Countries must commit to investing more in education now so that we do not break the global promise made to today’s children and youth,” said Clark, who is chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report advisory board.
“Today’s warning on the education goal has worrying implications for the whole 2030 agenda on sustainable development. It’s never too late to act to correct course, but doing so is now urgent if the global agenda is to be achieved.”
Gordon Brown, former prime minister and the UN’s special envoy on global education, said: “Once again new projections by Unesco show that we are failing our youth by not guaranteeing access to quality education … We need to do more to support and encourage countries to commit to education, which is key to healthy societies.”
In 2018 Brown launched the $10bn (£8bn) International Finance Facility for Education, backed by the UN and the World Bank. He emphasised the need to continue to develop new streams of financing “to provide the means to invest and reform education systems. There is no time to waste.”
Unesco’s snapshot of the global state of education also highlights ongoing inequalities. While literacy rates are improving globally, within low-income countries, projections show that about 20% of young people and 30% of adults will still not be able to read by 2030. An estimated 750 million adults cannot currently read.
In low-income countries, only 4% of the poorest finish upper secondary school and only 2% among the poorest girls, compared with 36% of the richest.
Many governments are adopting policies to try to meet their commitments, including in early and life-long learning, but funding remains an issue.

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Leading Child Rights Organizations call for a second revolution in Child Rights
by Joining Forces Alliance
June 2019
Thirty years after global leaders promised to protect the rights of all children, millions are not in school, face poverty, exploitation, violence, neglect, and abuse. A new report, A Second Revolution: 30 years of child rights, and the unfinished agenda, says it is time for the global community to fulfil the broken promises of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).
Produced by the Joining Forces Alliance — an alliance of the six leading child-focused organizations — the report makes the case for a new era of commitment for children.
Alliance members say that governments must take bold action to target the children who continue to suffer, often the result of discrimination based on gender identity, race, caste, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
“There has been real progress for children since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but we cannot overlook the millions who have been left behind,” said Meg Gardinier, Chair of the Joining Forces CEO Oversight Committee.
“It is the most vulnerable children the world overlooks – those facing extreme poverty, the young living in fragile states, refugees, and children with disabilities. When it comes to translating commitments into lasting change, we have fallen short and we must do better. This is a moral, legal and economic failure that the world can ill afford.”
A few global statistics reflect the challenges that remain. Each year:
Over 5 million children die from preventable causes, and nearly half of these deaths are attributable to undernutrition; 95,000 children a year – 70% of them boys – are murdered, and 15 million adolescent girls report experiencing forced sex; and 64 million children lack access to primary education.
The report highlights key factors that contribute to the gaps in progress, including a lack of investment in services that are critically important for children.
For example, most countries fall well short on spending the 5-6% of GDP to ensure universal coverage of essential health care. And foreign aid, which many of the poorest countries rely on, is falling short in critical areas such as health and education.
Another factor is the lack of quality data. Governments tend to rely on data that reflects national averages, making it difficult to identify the needs of specific children and to monitor progress. Disaggregation of data by gender, age, disability and locality, is increasingly important as many rights violations are concentrated amongst disadvantaged groups of children.
The Joining Forces Alliance is calling on governments to embrace and act on all parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This must include: Implementing legislation, policies, budgets, and programmes that are inclusive of all children; Promoting the rights of all marginalised children and championing gender equality; and supporting children’s meaningful participation and upholding their rights to freedom of expression and opinion.
Giving children a real voice and listening to and heeding their views will be crucial for progress. Children are still widely treated as passive recipients of decisions taken by adults, despite that fact that children’s right to participate is one of the core principles of the UN CRC. Barriers exist at every level of society, from a lack of recognition in law and policy; limited adult capacity to facilitate child participation in meaningful ways; and a lack of access to justice for children needing to challenge violations of their rights.
"Listen to us,” said Lucia, a young person from Spain who was interviewed as part of the report process. “There are many people who think that when you are a child, your opinion will be ridiculous. Or that it doesn''t make sense, or that it isn''t worthy. Even if it''s good. Because as you''re a child, your opinion isn''t worth it.”
# Joining Forces’ is a collaboration between the six leading NGOs working with and for children under the age of 18 (ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation, and World Vision International).
* To read the full report and recommendations:

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