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Education Beyond 2015: Collective Voices from Asia-Pacific

Education in the post-2015 development agenda should guarantee equitable opportunities for all to participate in transformative quality learning. It should provide knowledge, skills, competencies and values for decent life and work, and inclusive and sustainable development.

These key aspects were concluded from the two-day Asia-Pacific regional thematic consultation on education in the post-2015 development agenda (28 February - 1 March 2013, Bangkok) which was organized by UNESCO Bangkok, UNICEF Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific (EAPRO), and UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA).

Over 120 representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations (international, regional, national and local), universities and academia, teachers’ unions, organizations representing persons with disabilities, and youth organizations from across the Asia-Pacific discussed the future of education in the post-2015 development agenda in the regional consultation.

This regional consultation was undertaken within the framework of a global process which aims at fostering a broad-based, open and inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders to review the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All Goals, to define the post-2015 development agenda and to strengthen global commitment towards human development and poverty reduction. The consultation built on two regional high-level expert meetings which were organized by UNESCO Bangkok in May 2012 and November 2012 around the themes on education for the future and the post-2015 development agenda.

“As 2015 nears, discussions on the post-2015 development agenda are intensifying across the globe. These discussions will lead us to a common vision for ‘The World We Want beyond 2015.’ In this context, the regional consultation is to develop recommendations for the future of education, particularly from an Asia-Pacific perspective,” UNESCO Bangkok Director Mr Gwang-Jo Kim said, acknowledging the importance of the regional consultation.

The regional consultation was convened to develop a collective voice from the Asia-Pacific region regarding education priorities for a post-2015 development agenda. As an immediate result, it contributed to the debate of the global meeting of the thematic consultation on education which took place in Dakar, Senegal in mid-March 2013. The outcomes and recommendations of the regional consultation will also feed into further discussions within the UN towards developing the possible contours of the post-2015 development agenda.

UNICEF ROSA Regional Education Advisor, Lieke Van De Wiel, also commended the spirit in which the regional consultation took place and thanked participants for their active engagement.

“This consultation is a most important opportunity to present a regional perspective on the future of education, one which may carry forward into global level discussions on a global development agenda beyond 2015,” Ms Van De Wiel said.

The meeting identified main messages as a collective voice from the region on education for the future and in the post-2015 development agenda, which include:

♦  Key principles/considerations of education for the future

•  A future education agenda must be underpinned by the key principles of education as a basic human right for every people and a public good for any society, and also a condition for human fulfillment, sustainable development, peace and democracy and a vehicle for global citizenship.

•  Education beyond 2015 must take into consideration the overall context of rapid economic development and societal change and the implications of these trends for education.

♦  Quality learning is at the centre of policy discourses at national and global levels

•  Relevant and quality learning should be one of the core constructs for future education policy priorities and development agenda.

•  Quality teachers are central to quality learning, right from the early childhood stage and onwards.

•  The future education agenda should encourage a systems approach to quality learning. Improved learning requires a more holistic attention to sustainable development, cultural diversity, human rights education, use of local languages, learning of other languages, including international ones, and traditional knowledge. Responsible and global citizenship should become an important theme for education in the post-2015 development agenda.

 Quality with equity is a must, not a trade-off

•  Equitable and inclusive access to quality learning should be ensured for all (children, youth and adults), at all levels of education according to country contexts and priorities, including early childhood care and education (ECCE), technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and higher education. Education in the post-2015 agenda must therefore go beyond primary education.

•  Sharper focus on equity is required to address persisting disparities in access and participation in learning.

♦  There is an increased relevance of transversal skills and specialized skills

•  Education systems must be strengthened to equip young people with a new set of skills and competencies required to function in a connected and constantly changing world.

•  Education systems for the future should train learners to be innovative, able to adapt to and assimilate change and be able to continue learning.

•  Education for the future has to go beyond academic achievements and cognitive skills to include ‘transversal’, ‘non-cognitive’ or ‘21st century’ skills competencies.

•  The need for people (youth, adults, and especially women and persons with disabilities) to acquire relevant technical and vocational skills combined with necessary transversal skills for a decent life and work in a rapidly changing world should be fully reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.

♦  Lifelong learning is a key guiding principle for education

•  Lifelong learning requires the provision of multiple learning pathways, multiple entry points and re-entry points at all ages and at all educational levels.

•  The potential and innovative use of new technologies by teachers and students to support lifelong and life-wide learning should also be fully tapped.

•  Those who missed out formal schooling and lack foundation skills such as basic literacy and numeracy should be given special attention in the post-2015 development agenda. While there should be a strong effort to bring back these groups back to school, alternative pathways to quality learning should be supported and recognized.

Responsible and participatory governance and appropriate legal/budget arrangements are important

•  Responsible and participatory governance is required to strengthen transparent and accountable education system, to reduce and eventually eliminate corruption, malpractice, inequalities in access to quality learning and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policy implementation.

•  Legal arrangements and ethical standards should be established to strengthen the commitments of governments and enforce their implementation in terms of allocating appropriate budget for education.

In addition to the above main messages, participants also made recommendations for possible scenarios and options on how to best articulate and position education in a post-2015 development agenda. These include:

•  Education should feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda given its direct relevance to the achievement of all the other development goals.

•  There should be an education-specific agenda which should be in convergence with the education goal in the post-2015 development agenda.

•  The post-2015 development agenda on education should be guided by an overall vision and underlying principles of equity, human rights and sustainability. Quality learning for all should be an overarching, universally relevant goal, with possibility of flexible adaptation in terms of target setting at national and local levels.

The detailed outcome document of the regional consultation is available here.

For more information about the regional consultation, please visit Education Beyond 2015 on the UNESCO Bangkok’s website or contact Margarete Sachs-Israel [m.sachs-israel(at)], Team Leader, Education Research and Foresight Programme, Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by Margarete Sachs-Israel [m.sachs-israel(at)] and Kar Hung Antony Tam [kh.tam(at)].