The Prime Minister´s Opening Speech at the Oslo Summit of Education for Development

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Oslo Plaza, 7 July 2015

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Secretary-General, president, prime ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to begin by welcoming you all to Norway. 

You have come to Oslo to find ways to fulfil the dreams of millions of children and young people who are being denied their right to a quality education.  If this injustice continues, large groups of young people will not have the opportunity to escape poverty and enjoy a decent life. 

2015 is a crucial year for education. We have already had the successful World Education Forum in Incheon, and we are now looking ahead to the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September. This is also the final year for reaching the Millennium Development Goals. As Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group, I always urge stakeholders to do everything they can to speed up progress towards achieving the goals.  I now urge you to do the same.  

We need to find smarter approaches that will make it possible to reach the new goals for 2030. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done’.

But we know that this mission is possible, because we have already gained a great deal of experience from the MDGs, and we know what needs to be done.  

Norway, for its part, will double its financial contribution to education in its development assistance for the years 2013–2017. In particular, we want to strengthen girls’ education, the quality of learning, vocational and technical training, and education in conflicts and emergencies. We have also entered into a new partnership with the World Bank on Innovative Financing. 

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The proposed Sustainable Development Goal 4 is: ‘Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all’. In this one sentence, there are four points that should guide us in our work: inclusion, equity, quality and lifelong learning.

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Firstly, then, inclusion. If young people get an education and find work, they will feel that they have a future in society. We all want to belong, and it is up to us to create societies where everyone has a sense of belonging.

Providing education and training that prepare young people for work is essential for economic development and job creation. It is what all people need in order to get somewhere in life.

We must increase our efforts to uphold the right to education, especially in conflict situations. A central ambition of this conference is to establish a joint platform based on agreed principles and concrete recommendations as to how education in crises and conflicts can be supported in a more coordinated and effective way. 

Schooling can give a sense of normality and hope, and help build skills that offer young people and countries opportunities for the future. Norway will continue to engage strongly in the safe schools process.

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Secondly, equity. We need to intensify our efforts to reach the poorest and hard to reach children and young people, and particular the girls. Even today, more girls than boys never enrol in school. The low number of girls who begin and complete secondary school gives cause for concern.

We need to overcome the barriers that prevent girls from getting an education. Poverty is the main reason. Investing in girls’ education is an investment that brings high returns in terms of better health, equality and jobs. In Norway we are proud to say that the high number of women in the workforce makes a significant contribution to our economic growth and welfare state.

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Thirdly, quality. The fact that 250 million children fail to start the fourth year of school, or cannot read or write after more than three years of schooling, is not acceptable.

The quality of an education system can never be better than the quality of its teachers or the quality of the teaching.

Teachers’ associations and national authorities must find the best and most constructive ways of improving the quality of education. Civil society organisations, parents’ associations and the private sector must be included in the dialogue.  

I look forward to hearing from the side eventPartnering for Education that took place yesterday. 

Building on the UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force, Norway will fund a new Network on Quality and Teachers. The main objective is to help partner countries put in place a system where qualified, professionally trained, motivated and well-supported teachers are available for all learners.

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Fourthly, lifelong learning. We must create the additional 280 million jobs that are needed by 2019, according to the ILO.

We are moving increasingly from industrial production to knowledge societies. This means that learners of all ages need to learn how to use new technologies and cope with rapidly changing workplaces.

In addition to traditional core skills, today’s students also need ‘21st century skills’ that include critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and digital literacy.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Today marks the start of a process to mobilise additional resources and put the right systems in place.

In order to speed up this process, I am happy to announce that together with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, President of Malawi Peter Mutharika, President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, I have asked the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr. Gordon Brown, to establish an International Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities. I sincerely hope that you all will support the important work of the Commission. The main outcome will be to identify and strengthen the investment cases for domestic financing, development aid, private financing and innovative financing.

I have high expectations that this conference will mobilise additional resources and secure political support for this agenda. We have identified some areas that will require particular follow-up. These include girls’ education, quality of learning and teaching, and education in emergencies.

We need to innovate and forge new partnerships. Information technology and globalisation offer new opportunities. We must make the most of these opportunities and work together to secure education for all children and young people. I very much hope that the Oslo Summit will be the springboard for further action in this area.

Thank you.