The SDC's support for the right to education

Article, 12.12.2017

Some 264 million children and young people worldwide have no access to education. UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/18 examines what various stakeholders must do to help tackle this problem. In this interview, education expert Sabina Handschin explains what the report means for the SDC.

A group of children walking to school in a mountainous region.
According to the UN, only 33% of children in developing countries complete compulsory education. In Afghanistan (photo) the figure is only 22%. © SDC

From the SDC's perspective, what is the core message of this year's UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report? 

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals state that all children have a right to equitable, quality education. Numerous stakeholders must do their part to ensure that children in developing countries are also able to exercise this right: first and foremost the state, but also schools, teachers, parents, international organisations, donor countries, civil society, the private sector and others. The report examines who is responsible for what and how the various actors in education are to be held to account. For the SDC, this is a key issue because in developing countries the state alone is often unable to ensure the right to education for all. What's more, according to the UN, ensuring that all children in developing countries can complete their schooling will require closing the current annual global educational financing gap of USD 39 billion. This should give us pause for thought, especially in light of the fact that the overall financial volume of international support for basic education has been declining in recent years. 

To what extent does the SDC take the notion of shared responsibility into account in its educational efforts? 

The SDC's strategy on basic education and vocational skills development, which was presented in the spring of 2017, is fully in line with the UNESCO report. For the 2017–20 period, the SDC has increased its financial resources for basic education and vocational skills development by 50%. In our partner countries, we work together with various stakeholders to help state education systems implement the right to education. For example, we support the work of school inspectors. We also work with non-governmental bodies such as non-governmental organisations which help to strengthen education systems. We also work with the private sector and promote its involvement in vocational skills development programmes for young people. And we are working to ensure better coordination among donor countries. The ultimate goal is to strengthen existing systems.

Headshot of Sabina Handschin
Sabina Handschin, SDC education expert. © SDC

Can you give some concrete examples? 

Switzerland is active at all levels. It is working within the Global Partnership for Education and other international forums to ensure that donor countries make funds available to improve education systems and that these funds are used in line with the education policies of the partner countries. In Mali, for example, we are helping to develop the planning capacities of decentralised education authorities. And we are also training teachers in several countries. We are thus helping governments ensure that all children can attend school and actually learn something useful. In Bangladesh we are setting up, together with private sector partners, a state coordination centre for vocational skills development. But children's education is also the responsibility of parents. In order for parents to understand how important it is to send their children to school, they have to be aware of their own role in their children's education. That's why in Afghanistan, for example, we are providing training for parents' councils known as shuras. And in humanitarian crisis regions the SDC is helping to ensure that children can attend school and don't become a 'lost generation'. It is the responsibility of the international community to make sure that this doesn't happen. 

How will the report affect the SDC's future educational efforts? 

To begin with, the report confirms that the SDC's strategy is on the right track: all actors must be reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure that the goal of education for all becomes a reality. The report also helps us to look more closely at accountability in the field of education. For example: What are the responsibilities of donors, the private sector, parents and teachers? And how can we help them to assume their responsibilities? I want us to examine the SDC's activities from this perspective – so that in the future Switzerland can contribute even more effectively to ensuring that all children exercise their right to education.

UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/18

264 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 17 worldwide have no access to education. In developing countries, only 33% of children complete compulsory education. The education they receive is often very poor: some 60% of students in sub-Saharan Africa cannot read and write even after finishing primary school. 

UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report 2017-18, entitled 'Accountability in Education: Meeting our Commitments', examines the contributions that authorities, schools, teachers, students, parents, international organisations and the private sector must make to ensure equitable, quality education for all.

The report, which will be presented in Bern on 13 December 2017, calls on governments to:

  • Establish accountability mechanisms for schools and teachers which are constructive, enhance the quality of education and do not entail an additional burden in day-to-day work;
  •  develop regulations guaranteeing that education systems do not discriminate and provide good-quality education;
  •  allow citizens to legally challenge failures in the education system (in only 45% of countries is the right to education justiciable);
  •  communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the education system in a transparent manner and evaluate them with the actors involved.

The annual Global Education Monitoring Report regularly assesses global progress towards the Education 2030 Agenda, which is part of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.