The Education International’s President Susan Hopgood has joined a high level panel of experts to discuss gender, education and financing issues at the Sixtieth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Education International (EI) jointly hosted on 16 March a side event to the Sixtieth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) together with the UN Girls’ Education Initiative(UNGEI), the Mission of the Norway to the UN, and the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. The event was opened by Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, who set the tone of the panel discussion by stating: “The sustainable development goals (SDGs) depend on quality education; we won’t achieve them without quality education. Much is at stake, and there is no plan B.”
Yannick Glemarec, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director Policy and Programme, moderated the panel discussion structured around a series of questions relating to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity’s mandate. The Commission is co-convened by the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, alongside President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. Chaired by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, it was launched in autumn 2015, following the Oslo Summit on Education for Development, with a mandate of invigorating and strengthen financing for global education and identify more effective and better coordinated ways to use existing and new sources of financing to ensure SDG4 on education is met by 2030.
The Commission is made up of eminent leaders in the field of education, including five former presidents and prime ministers and three Nobel Prize recipients. Former co-chair of the EI Status of Women Committee, founding general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union and current Deputy Director Education Services, Kampala Capital City Authority, Teopista Birungi Mayanja is one of the Commissioners.
During the panel discussion, the five panellists (EI President Susan Hopgood, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Tone Skogen, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta, Director of International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity Justin van Fleet, and Meighan Stone, President of the Malala Fund) were in broad agreement on three key points:
· Firstly, that the same case for girls’ education has been made for the last 30 years; as Geeta Rao Gupta put it: “We have the ‘right talk’ – we do not lack rhetoric - but translating that talk into action, into effective implementation, is where we suffer”.
· Secondly, the many reasons why there has not been action and investment in girls’ education at the level needed often reflect, according to Deputy Minister Skogen, “the low status of women and girls in society, which underlines the need to do away with the outdated social norms that constrain women’s access to full participation in society”.
· The third shared view of the panellists is that ultimately, political will is the crucial factor, which will make the real difference to girls’ education over the next fifteen years. EI’s President, Susan Hopgood, made the point succinctly when she stated: “In the end, the financing everyone agrees must happen absolutely depends on this political will. We can’t ignore that and think the answer will come from elsewhere; the answer does actually lie with governments”.
Hopgood also underlined the need for states to be the main duty bearers when it comes to financing education. She referenced SDG4 on education, which talks about free universal education, and pointed out that: “Financing must be about supporting governments to be able to finance education, not least through increasing their tax base and addressing corruption at all levels. Education should not be ‘for profit’. The profit motive has no place in dictating what is taught, how it’s taught and assessed, nor how our schools are organised. In such a world, we stand no chance of achieving Goal 4 by 2030”.