NGO consultations in the lead up to the 2020 Global Education Meeting: Education for humanity’s sake
UNESCO’s Collective Consultation of NGOs on Education 2030’s (CCNGO-Education 2030) Coordination Group (CG) met on 17 September and 1 October in the lead up to the 2020 Global Education Meeting (2020 GEM).
The coordination group, having collected the voice of their respective constituencies at national, regional and international level, met to provide a civil society lens to the draft 2020 GEM declaration. The Declaration, an agreement on global priority actions to be delivered in the next 12 months to ensure an adequate education response to COVID-19, will be endorsed on 22 October 2020 at the high-level segment of the 2020 GEM.
At the meetings members expressed the necessity for free, quality education for pre-school, school, youth and adults learning in both formal and non-formal settings especially for the most marginalized throughout and beyond the crisis.
Research by the Global Education Monitoring Report has shown that if the international community acts now and invests in remedial and re-enrolment programmes, this could reduce the additional cost of COVID-19 on SDG 4 by 75%.
At the meeting members highlighted the need for education’s public expenditure share to be ensured, for national recovery stimulus packages to include allocations for remediation classes to recover all disadvantaged students’ learning loss and reenrollment campaigns for learners at risk of not returning to learning.
President of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), Refat Sabbah, called on domestic financing solutions and international financing of education to target countries most in need, “these countries should be supported through grants and debt cancellations,” he said.
Internet connectivity and digital commons
Through the work of the Global Education Coalition UNESCO has worked relentlessly on connectivity to internet for learning institutions and on building digital commons, with a view to enabling equitable and inclusive technology-based learning.
The meeting explored the current connectivity gap and members expressed the need for free, equitable and inclusive technology-based learning resources.
“Internet connectivity should be seen as a public good and a 21st century right,” said the CCNGO CG Latin America and Caribbean representative, the General Coordinator of the Campaña Latinoamericana por el Derecho a la Educación (CLADE), Nelsy Lizarazo. To this, the CCNGO CG Asia and Pacific representative, the Secretary General of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE), Maria Lourdes Almazan Khan added, “governments must ensure regulatory frameworks and guidelines for private providers of online education. At the same time, building the capacities of public/government schools to provide quality education through blended approaches – online and offline means.”
Reopening learning institutions
Reopening schools, learning institutions safely, and establishing closer collaboration between the education, health and social protection sectors with plans that are equity-focused, gender-responsive and inclusive and adequately funded is a major part of the COVID-19 Response toolkit currently being developed by UNESCO. This toolkit provides principles to guide governments and communities in taking decisions for learning during and post pandemic.
“There is a need for Adult Learning and Education, ALE, that is not just work-related. Community-based education, inter-generational learning are critical in the response of communities in the pandemic. Support for these should be explicit in the coming period,” said Maria Khan of ASPBAE expressing the need for stronger support of “Community Learning Centres for information dissemination and awareness raising on how to prevent COVID-19 transmission as well as to support education programs such as learning opportunities, re-skilling to enable youth and adults to gain employment and income. Community Learning Centres can also support feeding for early childhood children as well as provide psycho-social support and capacity building for young people and adults.”
World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and Care, Organisation Mondiale pour l’Education Préscolaire (OMEP) represented by its President Mercedes Mayol Lassalle warned, “the COVID-19 education response has not taken into consideration early years development, early years is not a time for distance learning,” to which the President of the UNESCO NGO liaison Committee, Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré added “for humanity’s sake, human contact is needed at all levels especially early childhood but not only, face to face learning where possible must be priotitized.”
Investing in skills development for inclusive recovery, decent work and sustainable development through reskilling and upskilling opportunities for all youth and adults who lost or are at risk of losing their jobs was also focus of discussions, including digital literacy and literacy. The CCNGO CG European representative, Director of the European Association for the Education of Adults (DVV International), Christoph Jost said, “governments must provide non-formal learning opportunities for youth and adults to allow for more inclusive digital and media literacy and health-related education for learners at all ages.”
Support all teachers as frontline workers, involving their representative in decision making and ensuring their personal and professional well-being and professional development needs, including digital and pedagogical skills for differentiated instruction, was also a focus of NGO discussions on 1 October.
National NGO representative on the CCNGO CG, Executive Director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K. Choudhury spoke out for teachers saying “Support the teachers as frontline actors promoting health and hygiene etiquettes inside education institution and in communities, and support their representatives so that they are included in national and local level planning and implementation of COVID responses and recovery plans.”
“Teachers, parents, families, community and governments. This pandemic has shown us that it is together that we must work, build bridges between education, academia, research and health sectors. And that both teachers and parents must be supported to face the challenges of future pandemics and lockdowns closing down our learning institutions,” said Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré UNESCO NGO liaison Committee.
Leading Education 2030 agenda
In conclusion, members of the CG underscored the importance of the 2020 GEM strongly affirming the leadership role of UNESCO in coordinating the SDG4-Education 2030 agenda as codified in paragraph 92 of the Framework for Action; and that measures to enhance global coordination on education in this difficult period of the pandemic should be aligned with the agreed architecture on the SDG4 follow-up which ensures strong leadership of member states, broad multi-stakeholder representation and the institutionalized participation of civil society.
The CCNGO-Education 2030 is UNESCO’s key mechanism for dialogue, reflection and partnership with NGOs working in the field of education, its Coordination Group is made up of 10 elected members, at international, regional and national NGO levels represent a 300 plus NGO network.