According to a recent report, an astonishing 40% of primary school-aged children in the developing world are unable to read, write, or do basic match by fourth grade, which has parents and governments worried about the future.
The report, "Right to Learn", was recently released by Save the Children at the United Nations during a presentation co-sponsored by Women Thrive Worldwide, UNICEF, the UN's Global Education First Initiative, UNESCO, ASER Pakistan, and the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution. The insights in the report come amid the global community's consideration on the next steps to the UN's Millennium Development Goals, the world's largest anti-poverty effort ever, which is set to expire in December 2015. Learning outcomes in many areas remain grossly inadequate for preparing students to reach their professional aspirations as adults despite the current set of goals leading to record numbers of girls and boys attending school. High teacher absenteeism, overcrowded classrooms, poor facilities, and lack of books among others have been reported by advocates and parents from India to Zimbambwe.
"We are facing a real and global crisis in learning," said Meredy Talbot-Zorn, global development manager at Save the Children and co-author of the report. "Parents are frustrated. Right now, we are failing them, and failing children."
"This is a call to action for anyone who cares about the world's children," said Laura Henderson, director of education policy at Women Thrive Worldwide, and a reviewer of the report. "This report brings parents' concerns directly to the world leaders who will shape education priorities around the world."
Parents expecting their children to learn basic skills at school face many barriers for holding schools, service providers and governments accountable, as detailed in the report.
"When the current Millennium Development Goals were being created, parents and advocates from developing countries were largely left out from being able to provide input," continued Henderson. "That can't happen again. World leaders need to be accountable to parents for the quality of education that their children receive."
To get education and learning for children right, Save the Children has included six recommendations for UN institutions and member states:
- Ensure that voices from developing countries – especially civil society – inform the post-2015 framework and surrounding policy discussions.
- Seize the opportunity during the post-2015 negotiations to advance an ambitious equitable learning goal for the next global framework.
- Improve data collection that allows every country to reliably measure progress on learning outcomes and put systems in place to disaggregate data.
- Commit to increased funding and target vital educational resources to the most marginalized groups in countries.
- Improve accountability to local stakeholders by supporting both a global post-2015 equitable learning goal, and participatory, national level decision making to create national targets and indicators.
- Empower all communities with information and transparency on school performance.
"There's just too much at stake for decision-makers not to listen to parents and advocates in developing countries about what needs to be done to improve education and learning for the world's children," said Talbot-Zorn.