Educational opportunities in Commonwealth countries should be transformed by a new framework being launched when ministers meet in Fiji. The new resource is designed to make the Sustainable Development Goals more attainable, by boosting school enrolments, providing safe learning environments and tackling adult literacy and gender disparity in education.
The Commonwealth Education Policy will be unveiled at the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (20CCEM) in Nadi, Fiji, 19 -23 February. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, said the initiative will help governments identify gaps and challenges in their education systems and effective strategies to achieve goals agreed by the international community in 2015.
She added, “We are living in a world where 121 million children ages six to 15 are out of school and 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, according to UN figures.
“In the Commonwealth, only one third of children in developing countries has access to early childhood education, approximately 17 million primary children remain out of school, and more than 400 million adults are illiterate. And the stark reality facing many of our Commonwealth member countries is that they are having to find funds to maintain and improve education services on shoestring budgets and sometimes after having their entire economy wiped out by a natural disaster.
“Our aim is to assist education ministries to deploy their resources and configure their systems for optimum performance. This new Commonwealth framework offers specific guidance on policies to upgrade four key aspects of education: governance, knowledge, capacity and advocacy. It will drill down into areas such as finance, planning, regulation, research and development, innovation, community engagement and professional development.”
The framework will be a part of a package of complementary resources which will be proposed to ministers at the 20CCEM. Proposals include guides on data collection, needs assessment and leadership, and schemes to address pressing concerns such as boys’ underachievement and the impact of domestic violence on education.
Ministers will also receive the Curriculum Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals which offers a step by step guide to developing curricula with new learning and delivery approaches; and an online toolkit to help boost technical and vocational education and training programmes.
Head of Social Policy, Layne Robinson, said, “Despite the significant progress achieved in education in the Commonwealth, huge gaps still remain in many of our member states. We believe that by working together and exchanging solutions and sharing out resources we can help to bridge those gaps. This is why the education ministers meeting is important. It will give ministers, senior officials, students, teachers, higher education leaders and civil society the opportunity to have a frank conversation about the shared and specific challenges facing education such as financing and climate change, and agree on a plan to tackle them together.”
He added, “We are already working closely with key partners such as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) who have had huge successes in improving girl’s education, training 34,929 women and girls in various skills for livelihoods and helping 6,673 girls in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania to find new sources of income.”
Mr Robinson said the Commonwealth Secretariat will deepen work with COL, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, regional organisations and other partners in the Commonwealth to provide improved services to member states in a more coordinated manner through a type of learning alliance. Education departments could benefit by tapping into this broad range of expertise, knowledge and experience and by working together with Commonwealth partners on the priorities that matter to them.
20CCEM will take place under the theme Sustainability and Resilience: Can Education Deliver? In addition to sessions for ministers there will be a forum for students, teachers, higher education leaders and civil society organisations.
Ministers are expected to agree a special declaration covering issues such as minimum financing for education. This declaration will be presented to Commonwealth heads of government at their summit in April 2018 in London.