ECOSOC REVIEWS REPORTS ON IMPLEMENTING COMMITMENTS IN REGARD TO EDUCATION AND CURRENT TRENDS AND THEIR IMPACT ON EDUCATION
Holds General Debate on Implementing the Internationally Agreed Goals and Commitments in Regard to Education
5 July 2011
The Economic and Social Council this afternoon reviewed reports on implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education, current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on education, and the thirteenth session of the Committee for Development Policy and then held a general debate on implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education, the theme of its High-Level Segment.
Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the theme of the Annual Ministerial Review, entitled “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education,” as well as the report of the Secretary-General on “Current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on education.” He said the report on the Annual Ministerial Review documented the progress and specific achievements made in the field of education. The report on trends and challenges addressed a range of current issues, focusing on problems resulting from the global economic crisis. Significant advances in enrolment of children in school, particularly in Africa, were highlighted. There also remained a number of challenges. Too often training and curricula were outdated and irrelevant. Graduate students lacked skills vital for entering the labour market. Rural areas and poor communities remained marginalized. Despite advancements in gender parity, there remained many girls without access to education. These challenges should be addressed by concerted policy implementation. Countries had an obligation to ensure that educational opportunities were available for everyone.
Frances Stewart, Chair of the Committee for Development Policy, presented the report of the thirteenth session of the Committee for Development Policy and elaborated on the Committee’s findings related to education in development policy. The Committee on Development Policy noted that 68 million children were out of school in 2008, and at the current pace, the goal of universal primary education would not be achieved by 2015. The Committee stressed two major factors for the lack of enrolment. First, the expansion of school enrolment was not paralleled by improvements in the quality of education. Second, linkages between education, labour markets and the overall economic conditions confronting a given country were prominent. Ms. Stewart also discussed the two other issues the Committee considered in its report: the interaction between migration and development in the context of the economic crisis and the monitoring of development progress in Least Developed Countries.
Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the Economic and Social Council, opening the general debate, stated that the primary purpose of the High-Level Segment was to track progress, share best practices, and accelerate action towards the achievement of the development agenda. The virtuous cycle between quality education and improved economic opportunities had been at the core of all successful development experiences. Mr. Kapambwe expressed his hope that the general debate of the Council would highlight the benefits education could bring to individuals and societies.
Taking the floor in the general debate were Jorge Arguello, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations in New York on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Grazyna Bernatowicz, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, on behalf of the European Union, David Namwandi, Deputy Minister for Education of Namibia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, Jean Assleborn, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, Ahmed Gamal El-Din Moussa, Minster for Education of Egypt, Muhammad Nuh, Minister for Education of Indonesia, Pinda Simoa, Minister for Education of Angola, Sam Ongeri, Minister for Education of Kenya, Seraphin Moundounga, Minister for National Education, Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation and Culture of Gabon, Dennis Alonzo Maazaiegos, Minister of Education of Guatemala, Martin Dahinden, Secretary of State, Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Ikuo Yamahana, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Milena Damyanova, Vice-Minister for Education of Bulgaria, Mahmud Mammad-Quliyev, Deputy Minster for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Gennady Gaitilov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Vijith Gamini Wijayamuni Soyza, Deputy Minister for Education of Sri Lanka, Francisco Varela, Under-Secretary (Vice-Minister), Department of Education of the Philippines, Milos Kotorec, Vice-President of the Economic and social Council and the Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations in New York, Jorma Julin, Director General, Department for Development Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Lauma Sika, Deputy State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, Pedro Oyarce, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, Juri Seilenthal, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations in Geneva, Claude Heller, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations in New York, and Paulette A. Bethel, Permanent Representative of the Bahamas to the United Nations in New York.
In the general debate on global and national commitments regarding education, as well as current trends and challenges and their impact on education, speakers emphasized that education was an important means of improving social and sustainable development, economic growth, quality of democracy and significantly enriching individual lives. Despite the progress made in pursuing the goal of universal education, speakers emphasized the need for further cooperation, coordination, aid and investment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of the Education for All initiative. The post-2015 situation was also discussed. Speakers emphasized that vocational training and tertiary education should also be considered as key education goals. Speakers reiterated that the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations played a key role in achieving education goals within the context of global development.
Also this afternoon, in a parallel meeting, Venezuela and Bangladesh presented national voluntary presentations.
The next meeting of the Council will take place in Room XIX at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 6 July 2011, when it will hear a national voluntary presentation by Pakistan and hold a special panel discussion and interactive dialogue on promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable growth for accelerating poverty eradication and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. At 3 p.m., the Council will continue with its general debate on implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education.
The Report of the Secretary-General on implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education (E/2011/83) emphasizes the interlinked nature of all development goals; provides a brief overview of progress towards the internationally agreed development goals related to education, identifying challenges and possible policy responses and proposing a number of recommendations; considers preschool education, youth and adult literacy and skills development, and gender equality; examines the quality of education and the relevance of learning gaps across and within countries, as well as teacher shortages and deployment; highlights measures that have proved effective in overcoming inequality in access and participation in education, and in ensuring a more equitable distribution of higher levels of learning outcomes; and argues that improvements in both quality and equity can be made at low cost, while also making the case for strengthening levels of domestic and international investments, increasing efficiency in their use and improving the targeting of allocations at the most disadvantaged.
The Report of the Secretary-General on current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on education (E/2011/82) provides an analysis of the impact of current global trends on the internationally agreed development goals in regard to education and makes a number of recommendations to deal with those challenges.
The Report of the Committee for Development Policy on its thirteenth session 21 to 25 March 2011 (E/2011/33) contains the main findings and recommendations of the thirteenth session of the Committee for Development Policy. At the session, the Committee addressed the following themes: education for all, issues related to the least developed countries (including monitoring of the development progress of Equatorial Guinea and Samoa), and migration and development.
Introduction of the Reports
SHA ZUKANG, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the reports of the United Nation Secretary-General “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education” and on “Current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on education”, said that these reports concerned the broad field of education. While the first one reviewed the progress and specific achievements made in the field of education, the second addressed many of the current challenges, in particular those related to the economic crisis. Among the successes, it was noted that about 90 per cent of countries now requested that children attended school; 52 million additional children had enrolled in the past ten years and there was a 31 per cent increase in Sub-Saharan Africa despite considerable restrictions on infrastructure and resources. Gender parity had been achieved in many regions, although the rate of progress varied considerably. Most countries as a whole were moving in the right direction and better efforts to target marginalized children had also been implemented. Cash transfers, school feeding and other incentives were becoming integral to achieving educational goals. There remained a number of challenges.
Quality education was as important as ensuring access and regrettably, despite completing a full cycle of primary education, many children did not acquire basic skills, Mr. Sha said. A survey of developing countries showed that young adults with primary education faced 40 per cent chances of being illiterate. Too often training and curricula were outdated and irrelevant and children lacked skills vital for entering the labour market. Rural areas and poor communities remained marginalized and, despite advancements in gender parity, there remained many girls without access to education. Many other development related goals and factors, such as reproductive health, child mortality and entrepreneurship and sustainable development were all impacted by education; and societies lacking in educational standards were at disadvantage for achieving international development goals. The global economic recovery continued to be fragile; although current data was limited, it was believed that economic crises could affect enrolment rates, particularly for girls. Rising food prices meant that most of the household resources would be dedicated to food. Many other obstacles prevented children from receiving education. Natural disasters and armed conflicts presented a considerable challenge. For example, 40 per cent of out-of-school children were in conflict situations, where students and children were often deliberately attacked. These challenges must be addressed by concerted policy implementation. Eleven reports had been prepared by countries as part of their voluntary reporting. Many of these reinforced the message of the United Nations Secretary-General’s reports, particularly on the importance of quality education; they presented innovative examples of governments meeting the challenges before them. Reinvigorating global partnership for development and political commitment were needed and ways for education to meet the aspirations of people in the twenty-first century should be found. Countries had an obligation to ensure that educational opportunities were available for everyone, including the Education for All goals.
FRANCES STEWART, Chair of the Committee for Development Policy, presenting the report of the thirteenth session of the Committee for Development Policy, said the relevance of education to individual well-being, institutional development and economic growth could not be over emphasized. At the level of the individual, education played a major role in enhancing the quality of life to developing cognitive and social skills and capabilities. The centrality of education for both individual and collective growth had long been recognized by the international community. The Committee on Development Policy, however, noted that 68 million children were still out of school in 2008, and at the current pace, the goal of universal primary education would not be achieved by 2015. Higher enrolment rates at all levels had not led to faster economic growth or increased productivity in many parts of the world.
While there were various reasons for this, the Committee for Development Policy stressed two major factors. First, the expansion of school enrollment was not parallel with improvements in the quality of education. The second reason lay in the linkages between education, labour markets and the overall economic conditions confronting a given country. In economies with slow job creation, educated workers were underutilized and productivity gains were minimal. The lack of opportunities for educated workers in the domestic economy often led to brain drain. But even in economies with strong demand for educated workers, skill mismatches could happen. These problems constituted major challenges for human resource development in many developing and developed countries. These problems could be addressed if educational polices were designed as an integral part of the national development policy. Attention should be paid to equity in these development strategies. Comprehensive educational reforms could be necessary. Changes could also be required at the level of secondary and tertiary education. Reforms needed to include both the private and public sector, with better regulatory frameworks to guide the content and quality of education offered by private institutions. The Committee did not advocate a one-size-fits all approach but improving the quality of education at all levels was often a key to the successful implementation of development strategies. The Committee put forward a series of recommendations on how developing countries, with the support of development partners, could improve the quality of education provided.
Ms. Stewart introduced the two other issues the Committee considered in its report: the interaction between migration and development in the context of the economic crisis and the monitoring of development progress in Least Developed Countries. The economic crisis had slowed cross-border migratory flows. Migration remained unaddressed by a formal international regime, and thus the Committee called for increased international cooperation and clear progress toward creating a multilateral framework for the regulation of migration flows. Regarding Least Developed Countries, the Committee reviewed the criteria and indicators used to identify such countries. The Committee found it necessary to examine whether new insights would be useful for strengthening the methodology used to designate countries as Least Development Countries. Ms. Stewart hoped the deliberations on the Annual Ministerial Review theme would provide additional impetus to accelerate the progress toward achieving the education goals adopted by the international community.
Introduction to General Debate
LAZAROUS KAPABWE, President of the Economic and Social Council, said this debate was not only the culmination of a long and intense preparatory process, but was also the starting point for collaborative action. The primary purpose of the high-level segment was to track progress, share practices, and accelerate action towards the achievement of the development agenda. The virtuous cycle between quality education and improved economic opportunities has been at the core of all successful development experiences. Mr. Kapabwe hoped that this year’s general debate of the Council would help to highlight the potential benefits education could bring to individuals and societies they belonged to. He urged delegations to engage in an open dialogue.
JORGE ARGUELLO, (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the G77 and China, said that progress was still uneven and many obstacles and challenges remained for the implementation of the internationally agreed goals and commitments on education. Further work was needed towards achieving the objective of eradicating illiteracy and promoting the concept of Education for All Throughout Life, through steps to promote basic education, with an emphasis on the promotion of girls education, as well as higher education. In order to ensure access to education it was necessary to address basic and other infrastructural needs to the spread of knowledge, such as providing electricity, transport and better communication facilities, as well as infrastructure for schools. Education and development were interlinked and mutually reinforcing and social protection measures were needed to promote education for marginalized groups. For this reason, the G77 and China encouraged the international community to fulfill commitments, and donors to increase aid levels towards achieving existing targets.
GRAZYNA BERNATOWICZ, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that education was the foundation on which human societies were built. It was essential to human and societal development and was a fundamental human right. The European Union was fully committed to this agenda. Education was a cornerstone of sustained, inclusive and equitable growth and overall sustainable development. The Millennium Development Goals were interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Education was critical for reaching all the Millennium Development Goals. Tremendous progress had been made towards the goal of universal primary education. While this was a major achievement, huge challenges remained. The first challenge was to combat inequality in access to education. The quality of education constituted a second challenge which required overcoming the serious shortage of teachers and ensuring teacher training. The lack of post-primary education was the third challenge. There was still a serious financing gap in meeting the goal of universal primary education in low income countries. Diversified sources of financing as well as domestic resource mobilization remained essential. The European Union was committed to addressing these challenges and supporting developing countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goal concerned with education and had programmed about two billion Euros for this objective.
DAVID NAMWANDI, Deputy Minister for Education of Namibia, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, said that the Southern African region had been hard at work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Some members of the Southern African Development Community had made considerable and commendable progress in the area of girls’ education. There were now more girls in school than boys in some countries, posing yet another challenge as to how to ensure that boys were not left behind. The Southern African Development Community was committed to doing everything possible to get every girl and boy in school. Member States had adopted a Protocol on Education and Training aimed at ensuring that countries harmonized their education systems. The Pan-African Strategy for the Integration of Science, Technology and Innovation was a key driver for the socio-economic empowerment of the African people. The Southern African Development Community took up this challenge. There were still a few challenges being faced, particularly regarding financial mobilization. The Southern African Development Community called on developed countries to meet their commitments with regard to development aid.
Speaking specifically on behalf of the Namibian Government, Namibia said the Government had been working hard to ensure that its people were not left behind in the provision of education. Namibia’s education system currently covered the entire spectrum. Enrolment in early grades had expanded to over ninety-eight per cent. Efforts to expand literary programmes had increased literacy to 75 per cent of the population. Women currently made up 70 per cent of students in these programmes. The Namibian Government had intensified efforts to improve efficiency and quality of education and training. Numerous challenges continued to face Namibia, including the capacity to make the economy grow, attracting and retaining quality teachers, the impact of HIV/AIDS and the absorption and integration of information communication technologies.
AHMED GAMAL EL-DIN MOUSSA, Minister for Education of Egypt, said that in the wake of the Revolution, Egypt had changed its approach to development and recognized that youth, as an important percentage of the population, constituted a great human resource and Egypt intended to channel this resource in an effective way. In response to the Millennium Development Goals, Egypt had set up an ambitious plan in line with its international obligations, as well as national responsibilities in order to ensure a better life for all Egyptians without discrimination, achieving targeted goals of education radically and inclusively, at quantitative and qualitative levels, and reflecting the goals of Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals. The strategy ensured the availability of equal educational opportunities for all, including people with special needs, children and young people outside the educational system and reducing the gender enrollment gap; rationalizing the education budget to allocate more resources into infrastructure and diversifying funding sources; ensuring education quality, developing curricula and textbooks that responded to the challenges of the future, the promotion of human rights education, improving teacher’s skills and learning systems, as well as planning monitoring and evaluation of educational policy; and aiming at enhancing partnerships with all relevant stakeholders at local, national and international levels, including the United Nations system, the media, the public sector, civil society and youth. Egypt had pioneered in girls’ education in the Arab World, providing an enabling environment to encourage girls to stay in school and complete primary education.
JEAN ASSLEBORN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said Luxembourg attached great importance to the role of the Council in the promotion and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The right to education was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and later reaffirmed by the World Forum on Education and the Millennium Development Goals. Despite considerable progress in the field of education, the gap between established goals and progress made on the ground remained significant. Further efforts should be made to implement these goals. The reports of the Secretary-General showed that education played an important role in the implementation of the development-related goals; education was an important insurance against poverty and was capable of empowering individuals. Implementing a holistic approach was essential. While national budgets were an important source of funding, the international community must reaffirm its political commitments with financial contributions. Luxemburg aid level reached 1.09 per cent of the GDP in 2010 and was entirely channeled through unconditional contributions. State and non-state actors involved in conflicts had increasingly targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure and along with many other instances of violence and grave violations against children, this remained a source of concern. For this reason, Luxembourg had expressed support for the initiative in the context of the Security-Council to address this issue and to reinforce the existing protection mechanism.
MUHAMMAD NUH, Minister for Education of Indonesia, said education was of paramount important for human development. It was an inherent part of the dignity of all humans. It was critical that the Economic and Social Council’s session on education be used to focus on advancing education for the global community. Key to advancing education was increasing investment in the Education for All initiative. Also important was to promote and enhance the quality of education, which would improve skills and productivity as well as contribute to the development of human capital, which in turn could stimulate sustained and inclusive growth. An emphasis on increasing literacy for all ages was also essential. Indonesia’s educational policy included the right to education for all, life-long education and education for sustainable development. Indonesia had stressed providing marginalized communities and children in disasters with adequate education opportunities. However, Government action was not enough. Dynamic partnership with the private sector was also essential.
PINDA SIMOA, Minister for Education of Angola, said that the right to education for all was a fundamental human right and was found in Angola’s national constitution. Angola was a new country that still suffered from a high level of illiteracy. With the advent of peace in 2002, the Angola Government had resolved to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All initiative. The Angolan Government was in the process of reforming the educational system. The principal objective consisted of reforming the primary and secondary levels of education, and more specifically: the expansion of school coverage, improvement of how teachers were viewed, improvement of the quality of education, the reduction of illiteracy, the alleviation of the poverty of students and enhancement of children’s health. The achievement of these objectives was well underway in Angola.
SAM ONGERI, Minister for Education of Kenya, said that education was a high priority for the Government of Kenya, as established in the Constitution. Sub-Saharan Africa was behind schedule in the achievement of internationally agreed goals. Addressing factors such as food security, nutrition, clean water supply and other environmental factors was necessary in order to promote the attainment of goals concerning education. Hikes in food and fuel prices were eroding the income margins of households and making it harder for some to attain education. Kenya had introduced a programme in partnership with the World Food Programme, in which local communities would provide food for school canteens in order to reduce costs. Equity in access and quality of education were also important, free primary education had been implemented. Enrolment rates had grown from 5.9 million children in 2003 to 9.8 million in 2010 in elementary school, and from 1.38 million children in 2008 to 1.78 million in 2010 in secondary school. Initiatives were taken to introduce peace-education programmes for children in conflict situations. Gender based cultural biases had impacted education at the expense of women; in many cases countries had failed to meet objectives and missed target. In order to promote practical skills, Kenya had established a talent academy for in-school and out-of-school children to promote talent and skills. Public private partnerships were important for fulfilling goals. Kenya urged developing partners to continue to commit resources to support developing nations.
SERAPHIN MOUNDOUNGA, Minister for National Education, Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation and Culture of Gabon, said that free and compulsory education was established in Gabon in 1966 after independence and the Government had made subsequent efforts to improve school enrolment rates and to achieve and gender equality. After 1990, teachers’ mobilizations had posed obstacles for the implementation of governmental plans. In 2007 President Bongo Ondimba, in order to reform the educational system in Gabon, had called for a national meeting on educational reform in 2010, after consultation with national experts. As a result, pre-elementary education was generalized with an emphasis on local languages as well as French in a bilingual maternal context; information technology, a second foreign language, the promotion of teaching as a professional path, and inter-school competition and sports activities were introduced. Private public partnerships had been set up with Total Gabon, Shell Gabon, among others. Finally, the Minister noted that even when providing for education could be expensive, ignorance would always be more expensive.
DENNIS ALONZO MAZARIEGOS, Minister of Education of Guatemala, said he wished to emphasize advances in the education sector in Guatemala. The current President had made education a priority, with a special focus on the poorest sectors of society. The education system had been in crisis. The illiteracy rate was 22 per cent and the educational infrastructure was insufficient. A number of reforms had been undertaken. In September 2008, a constitutional amendment to assure universal education was passed with the support of the President. The “My Family Progress” plan was created, which involved cash transfers to families that sent their children to school until the age of fifteen A national council of education was established, and a well qualified working group was set up to assess coverage rates, which had increased to 99 per cent of children. Fostering pre-primary education was also a priority. Guatemala had established educational centres and expanded the number of teaching days. Guatemala had established programmes that worked toward ethnic and gender equality in education. As of December 2010, illiteracy had been reduced to 18 per cent. Between 2008 and 2011, the educational budget had increased by 103 per cent, now amounting to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Guatemala thanked a number of United Nations agencies which had aided Guatemala in achieving these goals.
MARTIN DAHINDEN, Secretary of State, Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said education was a universally recognized human right and a springboard for the implementation of human rights and assured peace and societal stability. Mr. Dahinden emphasized the Dakar Framework of Action for the Education of All initiative. The coherent framework included an emphasis on all forms of education and training and acknowledged the diversity of educational needs. Switzerland was concerned by the insufficient attention paid to certain Education for All goals, including the quality of education, the acquisition of vocational skills and the literacy of adults. For this reason, Switzerland supported work on these issues, particularly by providing aid to civil society. It was also necessary to recognize the value of formal and informal education, for they provided a flexible and innovative education system that ensured access to knowledge and the development of vocational skills, even for the poorest. To reach marginalized groups, it was essential that alternative forms of education be strengthened. Alternative approaches should be incorporated into national education plans and be fully endorsed and supported by governments.
IKUO YAMAHANA, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that stimulating the economy was essential for Japan’s reconstruction. Reconstruction demand would drive the Japanese economy towards recovery and further promotion of business, visit and study in Japan would provide helpful support. In order to fund reconstruction, Japan had to reduce part of its official development assistance budget as a temporary measure. This temporary reduction would not affect Japan’s bilateral assistance projects or activities by the United Nations. Japan held a Millennium Development Goals follow-up meeting in Tokyo last June with the participation of a broad range of stakeholders. Education was an important element for human development that enhanced the ability and possibility of individuals. Education also supported nation-building and worked as a driving force for economic development and a foundation for a peaceful society. Japan was determined to continue to faithfully implement the “Kan Commitment” including the financial commitment to provide 3.5 billion dollars in the field of education in five years from 2011. Japan had also developed an assistance model “School for All”, by collaborating with many developing countries, donors, international organizations and civil society and had compiled a list of good practices, and hoped that effective approaches would be further promoted through coordination among countries and international organizations.
MILENA DAMYANOVA, Vice-Minister for Education of Bulgaria, said that Bulgaria supported the work of the Council and recognized its importance for coordinating, reviewing and implemented work on economic and social issues, with reference to Resolution 61/16. Education played an important role in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the promotion of sustainable development. Bulgaria had made education obligatory since the age of five and taken action to prevent drop-out cases. The Government was determined to make possible early development through consistent programmes in nursery and elementary school and integrating independent learning activities into traditional elementary school programmes. Educational standards were under review and would be updated to develop in students the skills to meet the requirements of employers. The national objective was to train independent-minded, innovative, respectful of others and skilled individuals, able to develop their own skills, work in teams, and to contribute to society. Access to quality education for children had a direct impact on the sustainable development of countries. The Government endeavored to develop a coherent policy to this end as the institutional basis for education and intellectual development in Bulgaria.
MAHMUD MAMMAD-QULIYEV, Deputy Minster for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said Azerbaijan was strongly convinced that well established education was a catalyst for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Thus, Azerbaijan believed this issue should be a permanent agenda item. The Education for All initiative would not meet all goals if it remained constrained to primary education. The initiative needed to be expanded to higher education and vocational education. Education was high on the national agenda in Azerbaijan. Raising education standards and promoting the attendance of Azerbaijanis to the best universities in the world were goals for the Azerbaijan Government. Azerbaijan had implemented a number of human capacity projects for least developed countries, small island developing states and developing countries. Additionally, Azerbaijan had launched various aid programmes in the education sector. Mr. Mammad-Quliyev proposed the consideration of establishing an international training centre for students for least developed countries, small island developing states and developing countries based on the state academy of Azerbaijan, which could provide theoretical and practical knowledge. Mr. Mammad-Quliyev invited United Nations experts to discuss the issue in a more detailed manner with Azerbaijani counterparts.
GENNADY GATILOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said education was one of the most important factors in development. In order to achieve ambitiously agreed goals in regard to education at a time when necessary resources were limited, international organization should employ extra efforts to strengthen cooperation with other stakeholders. The programme of work of international organizations should match the tasks set by the international community, including the Millennium Development Goals. Special emphasis should be placed on providing assistance to countries facing the most acute challenges in this field. It was unlikely that, without practical measures at the national and international level, the Education for All initiative would succeed. The Russian Federation was contributing significantly to the implementation of the Education for All programme. At present, the Russian Federation’s main objective was to actively engage all stakeholders to implement the initiatives proclaimed in the Moscow Declaration. The Russian Federation believed that the Economic and Social Council would contribute significantly to strengthening the political will to invest in education.
VIJITH GAMINI WIJAYAMUNI ZOYSA, Deputy Minister for Education of Sri Lanka, said that Sri Lanka continued to engage with the United Nations with mutual respect and trust and its citizens lived in peace after the elimination of terrorism that affected Sri Lanka for over three decades. Sri Lanka was part of a number of international agreements and instruments, and was implementing initiatives to promote quality and equity in educational opportunities which emphasized equal opportunities for primary education, as a basic right for every child. The Government was committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals to eliminate gender disparities and to achieve universal access to primary education for all children by 2015. Furthermore, it had implemented judicial reforms to protect children and support children affected by conflict, including school reconstruction and rehabilitation, teacher training in psycho-social response and home-learning modules; disaster risk reduction preparedness and strategies had been included in the general curriculum; and had uplifted selected schools in an attempt to address equity. The help of the international community, the United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations was essential for Sri Lanka to fully achieve the goals.
FRANCISCO M. VARELA, Under-Secretary (Vice-Minister), Department of Education of the Philippines, said that education was a critical topic as 2015 approached. There was a strong need for a shift in global educational priorities from mere access to improving the quality of schooling and promoting creative policies. Education was a cornerstone of national development and a primary avenue for social and individual mobility. In the Philippines, education had continuously been given the largest budget allocation as required by the Constitution and annual national budgets had consistently prioritized education. This year a universal kindergarten programme was implemented along with other initiatives, including cash transfer programmes to increase enrolment and attendance rates; the implementation of a no-collection policy to minimize the burden of schooling costs; and a systematic school feeding/nutrition programme. Access to quality education was fundamental for poverty reduction. The international community should pull together and leverage on its collective knowledge, experience, and resources to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All agenda.
MILOS KOTOREC, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and the Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the United Nations in New York, said Slovakia appreciated the fact that the main topic of the High-Level Segment was education and welcomed the draft of the Ministerial Declaration. Slovakia fully accepted its international commitments with regard to education and had been seeking their full embodiment in its legislation and policy. Education was certainly an indispensable part of development and Slovakia considered education development as one of the most important parts of the Slovak development assistance strategy. The Programme Slovak AID financed support grants and programmes aimed at educational activities in schools in selected countries in need. Education was an important means of improving social and sustainable development, economic growth, quality of democracy and significantly enriching a person’s life. Despite the progress made in achieving the goal of universal primary education, the international community should work harder and in a more targeted way to achieve universal primary education. Increased attention needed to be paid to skill training. The financial and economic crises affected the entire world, but this should not prevent the full realization of educational goals.
JORMA JULIN, Director General, Department for Development Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, said concerning development cooperation in the field of education, in the last few years six to eight per cent of the official development assistance of Finland had been dedicated to education. Both reports of the Secretary-General addressed well the issues related to education in terms of goals, commitments, trends and challenges. They were comprehensive and there was much consensus on what should be done. Only determined action fell short. Critical issues remained, including inclusiveness and accessibility in education sector. Employability, employment-led education and school-work transitions had been neglected. Teachers training and improving teachers’ working conditions needed emphasis. Mr. Julin underlined the importance of aid effectiveness and effective delivery in education development. Strong aid harmonization and donor coordination were necessary for better outcomes. This was an issue where the Economic and Social Council should show leadership.
LAUMA SIKA, Deputy State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, said that innovation had become the predominant engine for all spheres of life and education helped to rise above traditional glasses and to tackle problems from different perspective. There existed risks, for example, that technological innovation could lead to widening the gap between those who counted with additional tools for problem-solving and decision-making and those without them. UNESCO played an important role in its continuous dialogue with Member States, sustaining their commitment, maximizing resources and mobilizing responses to various challenges. Latvia had concluded an agreement to adjust the Latvian education system to meet the diverse needs of learners. Education required life-long, life-wide and life-deep learning elements and Latvia had approved Guidelines for Lifelong Learning Policies prioritizing availability to life-long learning, high quality education according to the needs of target groups, and to improve resource administration. In order to address problems of sustainability common values for the twenty-first century must be commonly pursued.
PEDRO OYARCE, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the key question was how to make education a stronger priority in the design and implementation of national strategies. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals was of great importance for Governments and the multilateral system, and the Council could play an important role in improving the coherence of the system and the design and implementation of policy. Education was necessary for the full development of the human person and dignity and the respect for fundamental rights and freedom. Education was a human rights issue and definitions must acknowledge that education played an important role in reducing inequalities and the creation of inclusive societies. Chile was committed to provide a high quality and equitable educational system, primary education was obligatory and of high quality, total coverage had been achieved, and the further initiatives would be implemented. The Ministerial Declaration that the Council would make on Friday should set an inflection point in the fulfillment of these goals, demonstrating that the Council counted with the responsibility to fulfill its political multilateral commitments.
JURI SEILENTHAL, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said education was a universal human right, but because universal education had not been achieved, it was still considered as a privilege. Estonia’s bilateral co-operation projects in the education sector, as well as its voluntary contributions to United Nations activities, served to increase access to education. Forty per cent of all out-of-school children lived in conflict-affected countries. Estonia had supported the continuation of education activities for girls and boys in many conflict affected areas. Estonia emphatically believed in United Nations Resolution 1325 and its implementation. Estonia’s aim was to ensure access to education for girls in countries affected by conflict. It was also vital to underline the significance of vocational education as a tool for achieving inclusive growth. Estonia had supported vocational education systems and the development of entrepreneurial skills in partner countries. Estonia continued to work for the strengthening and coherence of the United Nations development system.
CLAUDE HELLER, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations in New York, said that over the last few years there had been defining moments for the Economic and Social Council which should be utilized by Member States to put the Council at the centre of the development agenda. The Millennium Development Goals had been reinforced as a priority in this system. Mexico would provide a national voluntary presentation during the High-Level Segment. Education was not just a fundamental human right but a powerful catalyst to achieve all the other development objectives. No effort should be spared to meet challenges regarding education, regardless of individual countries’ progress. Collective efforts were undermined by the economic crisis. Today there were grave doubts as to whether the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved by 2015. The role of the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations in discussing economic issues should be strengthened. Synergies between the Economic and Social Council and the Group of 20 should be enhanced for reflecting on the crisis. The post-2015 situation needed to be considered as well.
PAULETTE A BETHEL, Permanent Representative of the Bahamas to the United Nations in New York, said that education had a positive impact on poverty reduction and human development. The right to education must be fully realized in order for future generations to make a significant contribution to society and to the global economy. Education accounted for one of the largest shares of the Government’s budget and it had continued to invest in education over the years. In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, a programme had been launched to provide an innovative educational initiative enhancing skilled human resource capacity to meet the demands of the economy; a Career Academy was created to strengthen the Career and Technical Education sector in Senior Secondary Education. The Future Teachers of Bahamas Programme, established in 1995, was yielding positive results. The increase in school violence, truancy and drop-out rates remained important challenges, to this end “street patrols” had been implemented to investigate children out of school and male students at risk were offered positive alternatives through mentoring, conflict resolution and behavior modification programmes, as well as efforts to ensure balance, equity and non-discrimination in the pursuit of educational goals.
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