Missed education targets 'a wake-up call'

UNESCO, the United Nations agency for promoting world peace through education, arts, science and culture, reports this week that many countries will miss their sustainable development goals on education.

The Global Education Monitoring Report, released on World Education Day (January 24), themed this year around transforming education to build a more sustainable and inclusive future, is a “wake-up call for the world’s leaders” responsible for ensuring equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.“It is critical that nations hold themselves accountable to their commitments for their children,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.“However, almost halfway to our deadline, the process has shown that, even by their own assessment, most countries are not expected to get close to the 2030 goal.”
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Progress made, but further to go

The report shows that Latin America, the Caribbean, Central and Southern Asia are on course to achieve universal early childhood education.Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Western Asia will not achieve this goal. It is estimated that roughly two in three children will be enrolled in early childhood education by 2030, up from less than half currently.

All regions will meet or be very close to achieving universal primary education. Yet challenges remain in sub-Saharan Africa where 8% of children of primary school age are still predicted to be out of school in 2030 (down from 19% currently). Secondary school completion rates in all regions are predicted to improve. They are expected to reach 89% at lower secondary and 72% at the upper secondary level by 2030.

Covid's impact on sustainable development goals and education

Yet with education still disrupted across all age groups from pre-school to undergraduate, Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, warned that these “nationally determined targets do not yet take into account the possible impact of Covid-19 on education, which we know has significantly slowed down and may have even rolled back progress on education.”Analysis published at the end of 2021 by McKinsey highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on education in the US. It shows that equity in education has been hit by the pandemic, with potential impacts on life chances, social mobility and opportunities in the future workplace. The management consultancy's article, Covid-19 and education: a K-shaped recovery, reports most students remain behind in maths and reading, but some students more than others. “For example, students in majority-Black schools remain five months behind their historical levels in both mathematics and reading, while students in majority-White schools are now just two months behind their historical levels, widening pre-pandemic achievement gaps.”

Levelling up and education

In the UK, data collated and analysed by Katie Beynon and Dave Thomson for FFT Education Datalab, an independent education research body, shows that Year 11 students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have missed the most school since the start of Year 10 (excluding the January-March 2021 lockdown).“The 18.5% of sessions missed by disadvantaged pupils is the equivalent of around eight weeks of school, again excluding last year’s lockdown. Other pupils missed an average of 11.5% of sessions, or around five weeks of school.”By region, and pertinent to the government’s levelling up agenda, there is a north-south divide, with the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber having more schools where Year 11 pupils have missed many sessions. Schools in southern regions tend to have more schools where Year 11 have missed fewer sessions.Uneven patterns of absence add to concerns disadvantaged pupils suffer from poorer access to the internet and laptops to catch up with work or access remote lessons.Publishing the data as UK headteachers pushed the the government to reveal its plans and adaptations now for the summer 2022 GCSE and A Level examination sessions, FFT Datalabs recommended “against this backdrop, it is vital that exam mitigations put in place by the DfE act to level the playing field.”

Read more international education and schools news here.

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