Cambodia shares experience of protecting education financing at Global Education Meeting convened by UNESCO to recommit to education during COVID-19

From 20 – 22 October, Heads of State and Government, ministers from over 70 countries and international partners met online in an extraordinary Global Education Meeting convened by UNESCO, the governments of Ghana, Norway and the United Kingdom, and adopted a Declaration expressing strong commitment to protect education financing and outlining measures to safeguard education from the disruption caused by COVID-19.

“At a time when countries are making difficult choices and trade-offs to turn societies around, education must be our top priority, our pillar for recovery. And yet only a miniscule share – on average less than 1% – has been set aside for education and training in national stimulus packages. Financing education is not a cost: it is our most crucial long-term investment. If we do not allocate this funding now, we will face a bleaker future,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, opening the meeting with a minute of silence for Samuel Paty, the teacher assassinated in France on 16 October.

His Excellency (H.E.) Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) participated in a high-level panel on protecting domestic and international financing of education on Tuesday, 21 October 2020. He was joined by Ministers from Benin, Costa Rica, Guyana, Liberia, Palestine, Slovenia, and high-level representatives from Action Aid, Global Partnership for Education and OECD. During the session, H.E. Naron shared MoEYS’s experience of managing education financing and setting priorities during the outbreak of COVID-19.

H.E. Naron spoke about how following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, the MoEYS had to shift focus from the implementation of school reform to school health and the launch of the e-learning programme. He …

The meeting brought together the Secretary-General of the UN, the presidents of Angola, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Portugal, and Rwanda, alongside the prime ministers of Italy, Morocco, Norway and Spain, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Development of Uzbekistan, and SDG Advocate Queen Mathilde of Belgium. Over 65 ministers of education from the five continents took the floor in the meeting to share measures to counter the impact of the pandemic on learning, along with multilateral and regional organizations, the Global Partnership for Education and the Education Above All Foundation, among others.

In their interventions, numerous participants recognized UNESCO’s role in improving global education coordination to accelerate progress towards SDG4. This echoes the Declaration that requests UNESCO to examine and propose strategies to recover and accelerate progress and to strengthen the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee to steer and coordinate global cooperation in education.

The Declaration endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the meeting defines the following priority actions for educational recovery in the coming 15 months:

  1. Taking every measure to reopen schools safely and inclusively;
  2. Supporting all teachers as frontline workers and paying serious heed to their training and professional development;
  3. Investing in skills development from the socio-emotional dimension to gaining competences for new jobs;
  4. Narrowing the digital divide that has shut out education for one third of the world’s students.

In the Declaration, governments and partners state their commitment to:

  1. Maintain or increase the share of public spending on education to at least 4-6% of GDP and/or 15-20% of public expenditure;
  2. Ensure that stimulus packages support measures that will mitigate learning losses and get the most vulnerable back to school;
  3. Increase the volume, predictability and effectiveness of international aid, and
  4. Target aid to countries and populations most in need. including those who are not reached by government programmes.

The endorsed Declaration firmly also condemns recent attacks on teachers, students, and schools and reaffirms the role of education and teachers.

For more information about the extraordinary meeting, visit Education post COVID-19: Extraordinary session of the Global Education Meeting.