Innlegg på lansering av Centre for Research for Equitable Access and Learning

University of Cambridge, 16. juni 2015

Statssekretær Brattskar holdt dette innlegget på lanseringa av Centre for Research for Equitable Access and Learning (Real) på University of Cambridge 16. juni 2015.

Vice-Chancellor, ladies and gentleman

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to participate at the launch of the Centre for Research for Equitable Access and Learning. It is both appropriate and stimulating that this takes place at Corpus Cristi, an institution that for long  has been associated with academic excellence.

The recent Global Education Forum in Incheon illustrated that important much has been achieved in reaching our common education goals. Still much remains to be done. We have an unfinished agenda that needs to be taken forward and completed in the new sustainable development framework.

The Incheon declaration outlines an even more ambitious education agenda than Education for All by including upper secondary and lifelong learning for all. For many countries, this will require a substantial scaling up of efforts and resources allocated to education.

We need to do more to reach the 58 million children and 63 million adolescents who are still being left behind. We must also realize that reaching the most vulnerable children and youth will require more resources, innovation and new approaches.

Equitable access means education for every child. Children with disabilities provides an unfortunate illustration of how children can be systematically excluded from an opportunity to attend school. We need more knowledge about who these children are, but also develop policies that lead to quality education for all. Norway has established an expert group dedicated to looking into how we can best reach children with disabilities. The report will be presented at the Oslo Summit on Education and Development next month.

We must also 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; the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

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 increased 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.

We must do more to promote the education for girls. We must be more insistent than ever that education is a right – for girls, just as it is for boys. 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, in many countries great challenges remain.

The low number of girls who enrol in and complete lower and upper secondary school gives particular reason for concern. Only around half of the countries in the world will meet the Education for All goal of gender parity in secondary education.

A critical barrier is that parents often prioritize the education for their sons. We need to disprove the perception that investing in boys provides more security for the family. Every government and every family must be made aware that investing in girls education is an investment that brings high returns in terms of health, equality, job creation and, in the long run, development.

This morning I visited the office of Camfed. It was really interesting and inspiring to hear how this organization is working, particular in using the students as ambassadors and change agents in their communities. This can be one way to convince parents that investing in the education of girls is also an investment in the future security of the family.

Finally, we need to do more to enhance education quality and learning outcomes. The fact that around 250 million children either fail to make it to grade 4 or do not reach the minimum level of learning is not acceptable.

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 make a contribution to fulfill the need to create the 600 million new jobs worldwide by 2020, according to the International Labour Organization.

The question of teachers is crucial. In a third of the countries, less than 75 % of primary school teachers are trained to national standards. In Africa there are 55 pupils for every qualified teacher. In some countries many more students for every teacher as saw during visits to Niger and Malawi earlier this year.

We must work with teachers’ associations as well as with the national authorities in developing countries to find the best and most constructive approaches to improve the quality of education. Teachers must be put at the centre of the education agenda.  

Many more qualified teachers are needed. This will require additional funding, but countries also have to develop teacher policies that work.

All countries need to give priority to education, develop their tax base and finance this sector through government budgets.

Also donors must increase their financial support. ODA funding for education has dropped by around 10 % over the last few years. This trend must be reversed.

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. Education also came out as the top priority in the UN World We Want Survey. Still education has not been as successful as other priority areas as health and work against climate change to attract support from new partners in the private sector and from foundations.

The Norwegian Government will do its part to push for progress. We have made a commitment to double our development aid for education over a four year period and seek partnerships with other donors in order to make a difference, as we work to increase both funding for and the political attention to the field of education.

By organizing the Oslo Summit on Education for Development on 6th and 7th of July, the Norwegian Goverment hopes to strengthen the business case for education. In doing this we need convincing evidence that investing in education brings learning outcome.

From our experience on climate change and global health issues, we have seen that focused initiatives such as The New Climate Economy Commission and the UN Commission for Life Saving Commodities can strengthening legitimacy and mobilize additional support. Not least sharpening the academic vigour and bring in practitioners from different sectors have proved to be useful. We are considering if something similar can be done for the issue of financing of education.

By focusing on equity and learning, REAL can play a substantial role in supplying much needed knowledge for how we can provide quality education far as many students as possible. Today we hear a lot about the need for a data revolution. This is called for. Still, data in itself will not be sufficient. We need to ensure that robust methodology and research is applied that can lead
to concrete policy recommendations.

By focusing on equity and learning, The Centre for Research for Equitable Access and Learning will play a critical role in strengthening the evidence base. I wish the Centre every success.

Thank you for your attention!