Inclusive early childhood education in Canada: Working from the ground up

By The Honourable R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Northwest Territories, Canada, and former Chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada

Canada has been a long-standing partner of UNESCO and its mission to ensure that member states prioritize investing in early childhood care and education (ECCE). In early July, I was delighted to lend my voice to the launch of two new UNESCO ECCE reports. The reports call for inclusive early childhood care and education for all, and serve as foundational documents for the development of a much needed new Global Partnership Strategy — or “GPS” — for Early Childhood, to be launched on December 6, 2021. This GPS for Early Childhood is a new international agenda designed with development partners and UNESCO member states to support governments to overcome pre-existing barriers to providing effective early childhood care and education services, as well as to flexibly address new challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: Pioneer Library System

It is vital to accompany the GPS initiative with greater training and support for early educators, more inclusive curricula that create a sense of belonging for all children, increased collaboration with non-governmental organizations, and greater financial support. These are the world’s youngest. They deserve a fair start.

Canada looks forward to continuing to contribute to the new Partnership Strategy to find solutions that make a difference. We know that we will not make progress towards the global education goal by working in silos.

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How innovation can support 70 million teachers

By the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030

Innovation has always been critical to improve the quality of education and make it more equitable and inclusive of marginalised groups. Teachers can play a pivotal role in innovating, but only if their educational systems give them the necessary support.

Image credit: Business Images

The value of innovation has traditionally been unrecognised – but after the educational disruptions and widespread school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is firmly back under the spotlight. Historically, educational innovations have been tied to digital technologies and that continues to be true, as exemplified by over half the examples collated from 166 countries for a recent study. However, the experience of the last two years shows how reliance on technology risks amplifying inequalities in skills and access to devices and infrastructure. Use of EdTech in sub-Saharan Africa increased during the pandemic, but at the start of the pandemic an estimated 82% or 216 million learners had no access to household internet.

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Is learning improving fast enough in Africa?

By Silvia Montoya, Director, United Institute for Statistics, and Martin Gustafson, Stellenbosch University  

The role of the UIS is not just to collect and disseminate country-level statistics, but also to promote the quality and comparability of statistics while building statistical capacity at the regional and country level. In line with these objectives, a new UIS report offers new insights into the successes and challenges relating to the monitoring of learning proficiency in Africa.

Credit: Eva-Lotta Jansson

The report is aimed primarily at those with an interest in measuring learning proficiency and in interpreting proficiency statistics. This report is a tool that aims to support the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) in its efforts at “capacity building for data collection, management, analysis, communication, and usage” as well as SDG 4.

Comparable measures of learning proficiency, in particular in developing countries and over time, remain scarce, and their reliability is often questionable. This reflects the fact that many methodological, funding and political hurdles stand in the way of progress. Yet there has been substantial progress, and the very process of developing the required measurement systems has helped bring about a stronger focus on the urgent need to improve learning proficiency, as both a human right and a social development imperative.

Available statistics for SDG indicator 4.1.1, on minimum learning proficiency, confirm that learning levels are low across most of Africa compared to the rest of the world. However, they also point to especially large improvements in recent years. While over a third of the African trends are 3 percentage points or greater in absolute terms, this is true for just 10% of the trends in the rest of the world.  This finding relies largely on data from the francophone PASEC assessment programme, which recently published results from its 2019 round that included 10 countries that had also participated in the 2014 round.

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Environmental education policy in New Zealand is not reaching schools

He Pākehā ahau

Nō Airani, nō Ingarangi, nō Kōterani, nō Bohemia, no Moravia hoki ōku tūpuna 

I whānau mai ahau i Whakatāne 

I tupu ake au i Rangiora 

Kei Waiheke tōku kāinga ināianei 

He whaea ahau 

He kaiako ahau 

Ko Sarah Hoult tōku ingoa 

I am Pākehā. My ancestors came from Ireland, England, Scotland, Bohemia and Moravia. I was born in Whakatāne. I grew up in Rangiora. My home now is on Waiheke Island. I am a mother. I am a teacher. My name is Sarah Hoult.

Five years ago, I wrote a dissertation entitled ‘The Place of Environmental Education in New Zealand Schooling: Policy, practice and possible futures’. In those five years, I have seen little positive progress from ‘the top down’, but a growing sense of urgency and energy from the ‘flaxroots’. Recent attendence of Education International Asia Pacific’s online conference, ‘Mobilising Educators for Climate Change Education’ motivated me to re-engage with what I see as the most pressing issue in education.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The GEM Report’s new country profile for New Zealand on Climate Change Communication and Education hosted on its PEER website, provides a thorough summary of climate change in current/recent legislation and policy. The report highlights that there is no requirement for teacher training programmes to provide climate change education, and that ongoing professional development for teachers is inadequate. Some curriculum resources are available for motivated schools and teachers to use. The profile reflects the findings of Rachel Bolstad for NZCER (New Zealand Council for Educational Research): while there is some support for New Zealand schools to actively engage with climate change, the onus to take active steps sits with individual schools, teachers, or students.

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A promise kept: more than half of countries set SDG 4 national benchmarks

By Silvia Montoya, Director, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), and Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report

Two years ago we argued in this blog for enhanced collaboration between national, regional and global education stakeholders based on a shared understanding of progress towards SDG 4 through benchmarks. This blog reports on the progress made.

In 2015, the Education 2030 Framework for Action called on countries to establish “appropriate intermediate benchmarks (e.g. for 2020 and 2025)” for SDG indicators, seeing them as “indispensable for addressing the accountability deficit associated with longer-term targets” (§28). This was in line with the UN Secretary General’s 2014 synthesis report, which also called for benchmarks, underlining that gauging progress, within a ‘culture of shared responsibility’, would require alignment between the four levels of monitoring of the 2030 Agenda: global, regional, thematic and national.

Why are benchmarks needed?

While global targets can be standardised, national starting points differ. Without benchmarks assigned by countries themselves, there is no agreed way to assess whether they are making sufficient progress relative to expectations. These ‘nationally determined contributions’ have been used in the climate change agenda to effectively rally countries in recent years.  The SDG 4 benchmarks bring this approach to education.

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When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures

By Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

“I didn’t need to be involved in household work earlier but now as I’m sitting at home, I must take up household chores. Yes, if I had a brother, he would not have to do household work, he would just roam around. But I have to get involved in housework because I am a girl,” said a 16-year-old girl from Bangladesh

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures. Not only did they lose access to education, but also to the myriad benefits of attending school, at an unparalleled scale. Educational disruption of this extent has alarming effects on learning loss and school dropout. Beyond this, it poses threats to gender equality, including effects on health, well being and protection that are gender specific.

Drawing on evidence from about 90 countries and in-depth data collected in local communities in Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali and Pakistan, the UNESCO Global Study When schools shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures brings to the fore that girls and boys, young women and men were affected differently by school closures, depending on the context. It shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in and benefit from remote learning.

As expressed eloquently in the quote at the start of this blog, the Global Study found that, in poorer contexts, girls’ time to learn was constrained by increased household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities:

“My father is a farmer. He sometimes asks me to help him in the field. But he didn’t ask me to join him when I had school. But now I do not go to school, so I go to the fields to help him with his work.” – Interview, boy, age 17, Bangladesh.

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Call for proposals for the 2022 GEM Report Fellowship programme is now open

The 2022 GEM Report Fellowship offers an opportunity to be part of a select group of scholars and researchers, collaborating with the GEM Report team on one or both aspect of its core objectives: 

(1) to monitor and report on progress in the SDG 4 on education and education-related aspects in other SDGs;  

(2) to report on the implementation of national and international strategies to help hold all relevant partners to account for their commitments as part of the SDG follow-up and review.

The 2022 Fellowship edition will be the fourth round of the Fellowship programme, adding to a growing, diverse network and community.

Criteria for selection include originality, potential to influence the global education agenda, analytical rigour, feasibility of analysis within the time frame and research that highlights equity and accountability.

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How schools don’t prepare young people for the future

By youth sexual and reproductive health advocates, Ruben Avila, Director Sin Control Parental and SheDecides Young Leader, Mexico, Amanda Filipsson, CSE-Educator and Board Member at from the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU Malmö), Sweden, Ana (Anuki) Mosiashvili, International Coordinator of Advocacy and Partnership at Y-PEER Network, Muhammad Rey Dwi Pangestu, Project Manager, Rutgers WPF Indonesia and Anesu Mandenge, Social Work student, Zimbabwe

This week, five agencies of the United Nations confirmed that despite some progress around the world, most countries are failing to provide children and young people with quality and sustainable sexuality education. This news is a reminder of the urgent need for life-changing and potentially life-saving education, said the UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini.

We agree. For many, it is a matter of life and death. Among girls aged 15-19, there are 10 million early and unintended pregnancies a year, 3 million unsafe abortions, and maternal conditions are the top cause of death. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) can prevent this. Young people from all countries and all regions have been standing up and saying this for years.

We are not only calling for CSE because it can save our lives, although it does; but because it helps us make deliberate, respectful and well-informed decisions about our health, sexuality and relationships.

CSE is a holistic, age-appropriate, multidimensional learning process that takes place over many years. It builds personal and social competencies, like critical thinking, risk assessment, problem solving and the ability to consider multiple perspectives.

Investing in CSE is investing in us, in children and young people. We can maximize our education potential by eliminating the confusion around menstruation and contraception, and by eliminating social factors that challenge our well-being, like discrimination, violence and child marriage.

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TCG 8: Improving monitoring of SDG 4 through country collaboration

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UIS and Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report

The eighth meeting of the Technical Cooperation Group (TCG), set up to develop the monitoring indicators of the Education 2030 agenda, took place yesterday. As this blog describes, the group presented the many pieces of work being carried out to improve data collection on SDG 4 and develop new methodologies and practices for comparing and analysing progress at global level, while it discussed new working arrangements to increase country involvement and ownership.

The TCG has finalized methodologies for all SDG 4 indicators

Since its creation in 2016, working by consensus and led by the UIS, the TCG has developed and endorsed clear methodologies for all education indicators, enabling clear reporting on the progress against all SDG 4 targets. As the below time chart shows, the number of indicators reported increased from 29 in 2017, to 37 in 2019 and 43 in 2021.

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New PEER country profiles on climate change education

By Anna Cristina d’Addio and Daniel April, GEM Report

Fifteen years ago, the influential Stern Review, the first to quantify the costs of tackling climate change, noted that ‘educating those currently at school about climate change will help to shape and sustain future policy-making, and a broad public and international debate will support today’s policy-makers in taking strong action now’. Yet knowledge about  climate change communication and education (CCE) practices in in different countries still remains incomplete even today.

Timed with the COP26 held currently in Glasgow, a new evidence base of 20 national education profiles on the issue is being launched today on the GEM Report’s PEER website covering all regions in the world[i]  and income levels. This work is the result of a collaboration between the GEM Report and the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) project. A second set of 50 profiles will be published in time for the COP27, along with a policy paper analysing global trends.

The aim of the country profiles on climate change communication and education is to provide a comparative perspective of the progress countries are making towards the realization of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, namely Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) and SDG target 4.7.

Complementing the work carried over time by UNESCO and in particular the analysis presented in its ‘Learn for Our Planet’ report, the profiles cover climate change contexts  (relevant government agencies, laws, policies, and plans, terminology and budget); climate change education (policy, curriculum, teacher education and assessment) in primary and secondary education; higher education; teacher education; TVET and adult education; climate change communication (public awareness; public access to education; public participation); and climate change communication and education monitoring.

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