Speech/statement | Date: 2015-04-27 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
'Children in crisis and conflict situations should not be deprived of an education. Therefore, we are increasing both our humanitarian aid and long-term development aid for education', Foreign Minister Børge Brende said in his speech at the launching of the Unesco Global Monitoring Report on education in Oslo 27 April 2015.
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Friends and colleagues,
Let me start by thanking the UNESCO team for the 2015 Global Monitoring Report.
It provides the information, the analysis, the figures and the recommendations we need to make progress on the education agenda in the next fifteen years.
Important results have been achieved since the turn of the millennium. But much remains to be done. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
I can think of nothing that brings more hope, nothing that inspires me more, than seeing young children on their way to school, carrying schoolbooks, building a future for themselves, and for us.
Yet, by the 2015 deadline, 58 million boys and girls will still not be in school. That is 58 million children too many. Millions more will not be acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to enter the 21st century labour market.
As UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova puts it: 'Experience since 2000 shows what can be done – we need to draw on this to do more.'
First, we need to do more to reach the 58 million children and 63 million adolescents who are still being left behind.
The number of children and young people who are out of school has been nearly halved. Now it is time for us to complete the work we have started; Keep the promises we made when the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All targets were adopted.
The most vulnerable children are often the most difficult to reach. Children with disabilities must be included in our efforts.
Second, we must do more to protect and provide education during armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.
A large and growing share of the children and young people who are out of school live in conflict-affected areas. 36% today, compared to 30% in 1990.
Whole generations may be lost in complex humanitarian crises like the one we are currently witnessing in Syria. We can accept no lost generations.
The fact that 2.6 million children are out of school in Syria and its neighbouring countries is not only a huge injustice; in the long term it will undermine the prospects for stability, reconciliation and development in the region. Norway has stepped up its efforts to reach children who are displaced or in other ways affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.
For example, of this year's NOK 750 million contribution to the humanitarian response in Syria, we have earmarked NOK 150 million, one fifth of the total amount, for education.
Children in crisis and conflict situations should not be deprived of an education. Therefore, we are increasing both our humanitarian aid and long-term development aid for education.
Schoolchildren have become targets. Attacks on schools are increasing at a horrific pace. It is against everything we stand for and believe in when a school is the most dangerous placefor a child to be. Schools must be protected. The most vulnerable amongst us must be given the best protection. That is why we support the Safe Schools Initiative. We will stop the extremists from stopping children going to school.
Third, we must do more to promote girls' education. We must be more insistent than ever that education is a right – for girls, just as it is for boys.
Among out-of-school children, girls are more likely than boys never to enrol in school. Progress has been made in tackling severe gender disparity in rates of school enrolment. Nevertheless, challenges remain.
In Niger and Guinea, only three out of ten girls have access to education. In Pakistan, only seven girls start school for every ten boys.
The statistics give even more cause for concern if we look at the number of girls who enrol in and complete lower and upper secondary school. Only around half of the countries in the world will meet the goal of gender parity in secondary education.
This is clearly an issue that we need to put much higher on the agenda. It is more than just a rights issue: Every government and every family must be made aware that this is an investment that brings high returns in terms of health, equality, job creation and, in the long run, development.
Fourth, we need to do more to enhance education quality and learning outcomes. We need to invest more in teachers, in innovation and in building sustainable education systems.
A renewed global effort to improve the quality of education will significantly boost our efforts to fight poverty; it will foster development; and it will help create the 600 million new jobs we need worldwide by 2020, according to the International Labour Organization.
The question of teachers is crucial. In a third of countries, less than 75 % of primary school teachers are trained to national standards. In Africa there are 55 pupils for every qualified teacher. We must work with teachers' associations as well as with the national authorities in developing countries to find the best and most constructive approaches.
Many more teachers are needed. Better-trained teachers are needed. And innovation is needed, too.
One example of innovation is the Norwegian digital learning tool, Salaby, which offers new ways of helping children learn basic skills in reading, writing and maths. We must be open-minded and try out new solutions.
Fifth, we must do more to make the 'business case' for education. We must mobilise additional resources.
The business case for education is clear. The World Bank partner countries have put education at the very top of their priority list for a reason: A one-year increase in the average educational attainment of a developing country's population can increase annual per capita GDP growth by up to 2.5 %.
But we are still facing an estimated financing gap of 22 billion US dollars. In order to close that gap, many developing countries have to spend more on education than they do today.
Take Pakistan: Last year, estimates showed that if the Pakistani Government had increased its tax revenue from 10 % to 14% by 2015 and allocated one-fifth of the increased income to education, all of Pakistan's children and adolescents would have been able to attend to school.
All countries need to give priority to education, develop their tax base and finance this sector through government budgets.
But we, the donor countries, must increase our contribution, too. ODA funding for education has dropped by around 10 % over the last years. This trend must be reversed.
The Norwegian Government is doing its best to push for progress. We have made a commitment to double our development aid for education and seek partnerships with other donors in order to make a difference. We know, however, that even if there are huge increases in aid, the amounts provided will still be relatively modest when compared with the needs.
That is why we have developed a pilot programme for results-based financing in the education sector together with the World Bank. We believe that a strategically focused and results-oriented aid policy can serve as a catalyst and help generate the required investments.
We should also take into account that although fragile states and low-income countries will need development aid for many years to come, the broader picture has changed. Official development assistance (ODA) accounts for just 7% of total international resource flows to developing countries.
If we are to mobilise the financing needed to achieve the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals, we must take a comprehensive approach, and take into consideration the whole picture of investment and value creation.
No society can achieve sustainable development without investing in education. Therefore, education must be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.
Extreme poverty can only be eradicated by 2030 if sufficient priority is given to education. The same is true for many of the other goals and targets that the global community are about to set, relating to economic growth, infrastructure, innovation, health and gender. They all depend on a successful global effort to provide quality education for all.
Experience since 2000 shows what can be done. Let's build on what we have achieved. And do more. Thank you.