17 de maio de 2015

'Bring quality primary education to all children'

By Sheikha Moza bint Nasser
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Education Above All
On a recent visit to a camp for Syrian refugees in Turkey, I witnessed some of the most powerful displays of human endurance. And yet, amid all the traumatic stories, what truly affected me was the unquenchable thirst these refugee families had for education.

The children I spoke to told me of their continued desire to learn in their makeshift schools, crammed into classes and taught in shifts. Their parents spoke of the hope they place in the transformative power of education.

Syria was once a place where education was universal. Now, with more than four million people forced to flee their homes, it is one of many nations suffering from the global education crisis.

There are an estimated 58 million primary aged children out of school worldwide and those affected by conflict and natural disasters are among the hardest to reach. These numbers are increasing at an alarming rate, from Nepal, to Myanmar to Yemen. 

If we do not act to nurture and educate these children, the cycle of poverty and conflict will reproduce for generations.

This is a clear failure on the part of the world's governments which promised in 2000 to get children everywhere into school. And it is not only about getting them into school but also about keeping them there and providing a quality education. 

The UNESCO indicates that at least 250 million of the world's million primary school aged children are unable to read, write or do basic mathematics.

Later this month, we have the chance to do something about this. International policymakers will meet in Korea at the World Education Forum to agree on the global education targets that are set to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

It is fitting that Korea is hosting this forum because it is so often seen as a model of investment in education. Eight percent of its GDP is spent on education. 

UNESCO estimates that every dollar invested in primary education generates $10-$15 in economic returns. Korea is living proof that education pays off. 

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) accentuate the challenges world governments must address by 2030.

I insist that quality universal primary education must be properly prioritized in these SDGs. The emphasis here is on quality as recently argued in a New York Times analysis of the OECD's Universal Basic Skills. 

Success is not only measured by the number of children we enrol, nor by their achievements on standardized tests, but through the tangible and intangible impacts of education on the quality of their lives. This is the unfinished business from the MDGs.

Wherever I travel with the Education Above All foundation, I encounter bright, motivated young children denied the chance to learn.

As the world moves on to new priorities, we cannot forget the responsibility we have to these children who have been failed by our complacency. The job is not done. We committed to bring quality primary education to all the world's children. Not some, not most, but all of them. 

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser is the chairperson of the Education Above All foundation.
The Korea Times, 17/5/2015

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