by Matthew McLaughlin, Noor Fatima and Chris Zhou
in partnership with the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group (CIEPWG)
Published: June 27, 2017
As Canadian children celebrate the end of another school year, 263 million children and youth across the world never got the chance to go to school, nor will they likely next year.
In recognition of this deprivation of human rights, 14 young leaders from across Canada and around the world converged earlier this month in Ottawa to advocate for international education. This workshop was organized by the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group (CIEPWG) and took place concurrently to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) board meetings. The GPE is the only multilateral organization dedicated to global education; it coordinates multiple stakeholders to strengthen education systems in developing countries and achieve education for all. The aim of the workshop was to enable youth participants representing a range of Canadian NGOs, the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, and the GPE to discuss key challenges in global education today. From a Guyanese representative discussing barriers to accessibility to a former Somali refugee sharing her experience as a resident of the Dadaab camp, a variety of unique perspectives shaped an informative, robust debate on the critical areas of education in protracted crises and gender-responsive education.
Our dialogue culminated in writing and presenting a Call to Action urging the Canadian government, as well as other governments and organizations, to work toward a future with access to quality education for all. Some specific issues we advocated for include planning a Youth Summit, timed to coincide with the G7 next year here in Canada, and to explore opportunities to strengthen youth engagement within the GPE and other education governance structures. We also called for increasing education spending to a minimum of 4% of countries’ humanitarian aid budgets and 15% of their international development budgets. Furthermore, we emphasized the need for intersectional gender-responsive education sector plans and policies that recognize education as a lifelong process.
Education is central not just to Sustainable Development Goal 4, but to all of the SDGs. It does not merely allow us to survive, but also to thrive. As youth who have been fortunate enough to receive excellent education, we cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring quality access to education for all children, adolescents, and youth. Collectively, we pledged to raise our voices for the future of global education. For only education can create an equitable, peaceful world.
Ottawa Youth Call to Action for Global Education
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Two hundred sixty-three million children and youth are out of school. Seventy-five million of these children are living in fragile and conflict-affected places with an increasing number living in protracted crises. Over half of these children and youth are girls. Accessibility rates are particularly low in secondary school. Of children who are in school, many are not learning because of poor quality education.
As youth who have had the privilege of receiving quality education, we believe the following:
- All children and youth have a fundamental right to education.
- It is crucial that education be prioritized in long-term development, especially in protracted crises.
- High-quality education should be physically and socially accessible to all, without regard to race, gender, ability, religion, political persuasion, age, geography, sexual identity, or socioeconomic status.
- An intersectional feminist lens must be applied to global education policies and programming.
We wish to see all governments, including that of Canada, make specific commitments to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, a goal that ensures inclusive, safe, quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. All decision makers should and must empower children, adolescents, and youth with life skills and a full spectrum of education, and they must ensure that youth from all walks of life have an influential voice at all levels of policy-making processes.
To achieve this goal, we are making these calls to action:
- Affirming that children need more than basic primary education, decision makers should incorporate life skills in primary education. Policies must also reflect the full educational spectrum as lifelong learning includes pre-primary, secondary, tertiary, and vocational education.
- We call upon G7 leaders to make global education a central theme for the upcoming G7 Summit, hosted here in Canada in 2018.
- We call on governments, including donor and developing country partners, the Global Partnership for Education, and Canadian and International NGOs to take steps to create meaningful opportunities for youth participation and representation.
- As part of its planning for the G7 Summit, we call on Canada to organize a “Y7”—a Youth Summit—to occur concurrently with the G7 to provide a platform for youth to participate in policymaking.
- We further call for the Global Partnership for Education to create a Youth Advisory Group and to continue to explore opportunities to strengthen youth engagement within the Partnership.
- We appreciate the leadership Canada has shown on various international development fronts. However, a more cohesive initiative is required to advance global education. We call on Canada to demonstrate further leadership in policy and programmatic discussions to address the implementation of education plans in protracted crisis situations. Canada must lead in developing new ways to bridge the humanitarian and development divide so that children in protracted crises can be reached most effectively.
- We specifically call for an increase in education spending to a minimum of four percent of the humanitarian aid budget. This should include funding for longer-term, sustainable projects for education in protracted crises.
- We reaffirm and applaud Canada’s commitment to a feminist international assistance policy that supports the empowerment and rights of women and girls. Educating women and girls can leverage Canada’s recent investment in sexual and reproductive health and rights and is key to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals.
- As part of that commitment, we urge Canada to scale up investments in girls’ education through continued and increased programming in intersectional gender-responsive education sector plans.
- The barriers to education are not just in schools, but also in families and in the workplace. Therefore, policies and programs need to ensure that young people, especially young women and girls, are empowered to work with their local leaders and decision makers to understand specific barriers in their communities.
- We call on all donor governments, including Canada, to commit to spending a minimum of 15 percent of their international development assistance on education, in line with the levels recommended in the Education Financing Commission Report.
- All governments should increase investments in education through bilateral and multilateral channels including the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait.
- We call on all G7 countries, including Canada, to increase their levels of investment to the Global Partnership for Education in the upcoming replenishment cycle.
- We look to Canada to play a leadership role in increasing its international development assistance spending in the 2018 budget and in future budgets.
We, the young people of the world, must always have free access to quality education. Youth are not simply the beneficiaries of education; we are partners in creating a better world. Youth do not need to be given a voice—we already have one. What we need is platform of education from which our voices can be heard.
We call upon all youth around the world to stand with us to make global education a priority. It is time to make noise and to make change. Only through collective action and a unified voice, both from your generation and from our generation, can we make this work. Education, Feminism, and Financing: these are the key pillars in our construction of a better world.