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Teachers at the Centre of the Learning Agenda

Brussels, 7 May 2015

State Secretary Hans Brattskar's address at the seminar "Policies and Principles for taking Teachers forward in the Post-2015 Development Agenda" in Brussels, Belgium 7 May 2015.

Friends and colleagues,

Let me start by thanking Unesco, the European Commission and Education International for co-organizing this important event.

As the Global Monitoring Report that was launched recently clearly illustrates; important results have been achieved in reaching the EFA goals. Still much remains to be done. We have an unfinished agenda that need to be taken forward and completed in the new sustainable development framework.

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 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.'

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.

We must realize that reaching the most vulnerable children will require additional funding, innovation and new approaches. Children with disabilities must be included in our efforts. We have initiated an expert group dedicated to looking into how we can best reach children with disabilities.

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. We cannot accept to have generations who do not get the opportunity to receive an enducation.

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.

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, in many countries big 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 goal of gender parity in secondary education.

This is more than a rights issue: 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.

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 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 the 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. 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.

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 World We Want Survey.

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

We know that there are countries where taxes account for only 8-9 % of the GDP. In OECD countries the average is close to 35%. Clearly, 8-9 % is not sustainable for any country.

Donors must also increase their financial support. 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 achieve progress.

By organizing the Oslo Summit on Education for Development in July, we hope among other important targets to strengthen the business case for education. We must show convincing evidence that investing in teachers is a requirement for learning.

I hope the discussion today can identify some clear messages and recommendations that we can take forward; not only to the Oslo Summit; but also the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa later in July. Your participation and commitment to this conference is highly appreciated.

Thank you for your attention!

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