a) Increase by x% the proportion of children able to access and complete pre-primary education
b) Ensure every child, regardless of circumstance, completes primary education able to read, write and count well enough to meet minimum learning standards
c) Ensure every child, regardless of circumstance, has access to lower secondary education and increase the proportion of adolescents who achieve recognised and measurable learning outcomes to x%
d) Increase the number of young and adult women and men with the skills, including technical and vocational, needed for work by x%
Education is a fundamental right. It is one of the most basic ways people can achieve wellbeing. It lifts lifetime earnings as well as how much a person can engage with and contribute to society. Quality education positively effects health, and lowers family size and fertility rates. Availability of workers with the right skills is one of the key determinants of success for any business—and of capable and professional public bureaucracies and services. Investing in education brings individuals and societies enormous benefits, socially, environmentally and economically. But to realise these benefits, children and adolescents must have access to education and learn from it.
Across the world, investment in education clearly benefits individuals and societies. A study of 98 countries found that each additional year of education results in, on average, a 10 per cent increase in lifetime earnings – a huge impact on an individual’s opportunities and livelihood. In countries emerging from conflict, giving children who couldn’t attend school a second chance is one way to rebuild individual capabilities and move into national recovery.
However, globally, there is an education, learning and skills crisis. Some 60 million primary school-age children and 71 million adolescents do not attend school. Even in countries where overall enrolment is high, significant numbers of students leave school early. On average, 14 per cent of young people in the European Union reach no further than lower secondary education. Among the world’s 650 million children of primary school age, 130 million are not learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. A recent study of 28 countries found that more than one out of every three students (23 million primary school children) could not read or do basic maths after multiple years of schooling.
We believe it important to target learning outcomes, to make sure every child performs up to a global minimum standard upon completing primary education. To do this, many countries have found that pre-primary education, getting children ready to learn, is also needed, so we have added a target on that.
All around the world, we are nearing universal primary school enrollment, although 28 million children in countries emerging from conflict are still not in school. In more than 20 countries, at least one in five children has never even been to school. There, the unfinished business of MDG 2, universal primary education, continues to be a priority. We need to ensure all children, regardless of circumstance, are able to enroll and complete a full course of primary and lower secondary education and, in most cases, meet minimum learning standards.
Of course, education is about far more than basic literacy and numeracy. While the targets are about access to school and learning, education’s aims are wider. As set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, education enables children to realise their talents and full potential, earn respect for human rights and prepares them for their role as adults. Education should also encourage creative thinking, teamwork and problem solving. It can also lead people to learn to appreciate natural resources, become aware of the importance of sustainable consumption and production and climate change, and gain an understanding of sexual and reproductive health. Education supplies young people with skills for life, work and earning a livelihood.
Teachers are often early mentors who inspire children to advance. The quality of education in all countries depends on having a sufficient number of motived teachers, well trained and possessing strong subject-area knowledge. Equity must be a core principle of education. Educational disparities persist among and within countries. In many countries where average enrolment rates have risen, the gaps between, for example, rural girls from a minority community and urban boys from the majority group are vast. Some countries have made significant gains in the last decade in reducing disparities based on disability, ethnicity, language, being a religious minority and being displaced.
As children move on to higher levels of education the education gap still remains enormous. Many children who finish primary school do not go on to secondary school. They should, and we have included a target to reflect this.
Skills learned in school must also help young people to get a job. Some are non-cognitive skills—teamwork, leadership, problem solving. Others come from technical and vocational training. Wherever it takes place, these skills are important components of inclusive and equitable growth. They are needed to build capacity and professionalism in governments and business, especially in fragile states.
The barriers to education, and the most effective solutions, will vary by country. But the commitment to learning must be constant and unwavering