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Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure and privilege to address you today.
On behalf of the Government of Norway, I pledge to double our financial support for good-quality education over the next three years.
Good-quality education gives children and young people the opportunity to escape poverty and is a building block of sustainable development. At present, 58 million children are not even attending primary school, and 250 million children still cannot read or write after four years of schooling. This is a terrible waste of talent and opportunity that calls for a massive scaling up of efforts to improve the quality of learning.
My Government is substantially increasing its support to good-quality education. A white paper entitled Education for Development was published recently and outlines an ambitious plan for improving quality. We will focus on reaching the poorest and most marginalised groups of children and young people, such as children affected by conflict and crisis, disabled children and working children.
Crucial factors for ensuring learning are qualified teachers and teaching materials of good quality. Everybody agrees on this, but it is still proving very difficult to provide at country level. Lack of financing is a critical bottleneck, but it is also important to improve education policy by strengthening the evidence base and taking innovative approaches using new technology. This will make it possible to reach more children and improve quality.
Girls in particular are lagging behind. In childhood and adolescence, too many girls are undernourished, stunted, denied education and forced into early marriages. This creates a gender disparity that will continue to weaken society for many generations. We understand the importance of keeping girls in school in order to prevent early marriage and improve health outcomes. Educating girls not only vastly improves their own lives, but also brings benefits for their families and communities and for the economy and society as a whole.
This is the background for a collaborative initiative Graca Machel and I launched this summer. We are seeking to harness synergies between education, health, the empowerment of girls, young people and women, and governance and democracy at global, regional and national levels.
We need to address the root causes that keep children out of school, promote free universal good-quality education for all children and ensure that girls have access to quality education.
We also need to increase the proportion of children who go on to secondary education, improve retention rates and performance in secondary education, including vocational training, and improve learning and skills outcomes. All this will enable young girls to continue into higher education and/or enter decent jobs.
For the first time in history, it is possible to deliver good-quality education to all children. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.