World Leaders Failing on Education Promises

Former British PM Gordon Brown has spoken out for the 70 million children out of school. Leaders in developing countries, he said, need to make good on pledges made for “education for all.”

According to Britain’s former prime minister, Gordon Brown, countries’ failure to put education at the top their agendas does not bode well for future economic growth.

In fact, said the former politician yesterday, failing to meet targets on education can undermine progress on poverty reduction.

Not only does education help expand children’s future job opportunities and mitigate youth unemployment, but it has the potential to raise economic growth by 2% in the world’s poorest countries and lift 104 million people out of poverty. The return on investment in education is huge: US$10-15 for every dollar spent.

Mr. Brown was speaking at the Johannesburg launch of a new report on education that will be presented to leaders of the G8 in France next week. The report, entitled Education for All: Beating Poverty, Unlocking Prosperity, proposes the creation of a global fund to help poor governments get their children into school.

Despite long-standing pledges to achieve universal primary education, there are still 70 million children out of school. The challenges are the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, where 10-million children affected by poverty are forced to drop out of school every year.

“In the next four years we must make a commitment to train a million teachers. Pledges have to be honoured,” affirmed Mr. Brown.

Any number of obstacles can force children out of the classrooms and into the labour force when their households are already struggling to make ends meet. Drought and other natural disasters, sudden unemployment and rising food prices can push households over the edge. At this point, school fees can become insurmountable and school is no longer an option for children, who must work to support their families.

But it is not only numbers that are crucial to reaching the goal of education for all. Quality matters too. This means improving teacher training, pedagogies and facing up to language issues – challenges against which governments in many different countries must work to overcome.

For instance, the report found that more than half of grade four children in Malawi could not read a single word of English, an official language. In Malawi, students may be taught in any of three major local languages in their early years of their schooling. After the first four years of primary school, however, English becomes the medium of instruction.

Mr. Brown is now the head of the High-Level Panel on Education. The Panel is a part of the Global Campaign for Education, a group that calls on governments to improve schools. Graça Machel also serves on the panel. Ms. Machel is a well-known international advocate for the rights of women and children. She is also the wife of Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.

Source – SOS Children’s Villages Canada