No sustainable development without education: Thai launch of 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report
Education and development work of late Thai King celebrated at national launch of 2016 GEMR
“Sustainable development for all will not become a reality if we neglect education,” said Thammasat University Professor Somkit Lertpaithoon at the recent Thai national launch of the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report, “Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all.”
“Education is an important tool for change and can build just futures that encourage citizens to take part in society and lifelong learning,” said Dr Lertpaithoon.
The Thai national launch of the GEMR, held in early February, brought together more than 100 participants from the Ministry of Education, academia, private sector, civil society organizations and UN agencies to discuss the GEMR’s findings, particularly education’s role at the heart of the sustainable development agenda.
The launch opened with a tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, whose words and work over his decades-long reign were testament to his belief in this crucial link.
Deputy Minister of Education Mom Luang Panadda Diskul paid tribute to the late King by highlighting his work in education development and, in particular, his emphasis on the role of teachers in preparing future generations to participate meaningfully in society. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development resonates with the themes of much of His Majesty’s efforts, which focused on self-sufficiency and sustainability.
UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim said achieving this ambitious agenda requires governments to be accountable for the commitments made to education and to ensure that education systems respond to the expectations and real needs of people, our society and our planet. He commended Thailand’s provision of 12 years of free education, while emphasizing that education development must occur in concert with social, human and environmental development and that all of these advances must factor in sustainability.
DATA SHOULD INFORM POLICIES
The 2016 GEMR provides evidence on the gaps and progress in education, offering insights, recommendations and standards for advancing the SDG4-Education 2030 agenda.
In her presentation at the Thai GEMR launch, Maki Hayashikawa, Chief of UNESCO Bangkok’s Inclusive Quality Education (IQE) Section, said the new agenda marks an important step forward with its emphasis on completion relative to participation. She also stressed that it requires a major shift in monitoring and reporting on inequality to ensure that no one is left behind.
She pointed out that only 14% of young people complete upper secondary school in low income countries. The scope of the agenda has now been expanded to include more than 263 million children, adolescents and youth who are out of school. Southern Asia is the sub-region with the most out-of-school youth of upper secondary age in the world, accounting for 69 million (48% of the global total). Moreover, 62% of children not in school in the sub-region are expected never to enroll – that number rises to 81% among girls.
Myriad factors fuel disparities in education, Ms Hayashikawa noted, including socio-economic background, gender, geographic location and disabilities.
Knowing about such inequalities is powerful, but not enough, she said. A mechanism is needed for countries to be able to learn from each other’s advances in addressing these challenges.
“Data should inform policy as much as possible,” Ms. Hayashikawa said, emphasizing the need for disaggregated data to address disparities. That is a challenge, she said, as data for only half of the 43 indicators needed to monitor SDG4 are available in Asia-Pacific countries.
Most countries face difficulties in monitoring all SDG4 targets, particularly 4.3 (access to affordable technical, vocational and tertiary education), 4.4 (increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship) and 4.7 (ensure all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE INCLUSIVE?
Inclusive education’s role in contributing to a learning society and sustainable growth was the focus of a panel discussion at the launch.
Professor Surichai Wankaew, Director of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said that in a world of rising competition and rapid changes, gaps between people, groups and countries are widening, giving rise to exclusion. He questioned whether education was helping to promote the inclusive mindset needed amid these challenges. “Our education system is too rigid,” he said, “it has become a barrier to actual learning.”
The number of out-of-school children (OOSC) and disparities between the rich and poor were highlighted by Dr Kraiyos Patrawat, Policy Specialist, with the Quality Learning Foundation (QLF). “[In Thailand], the situation is normally one where many kids are not entering school at the assigned school age,” he said. “What’s more, the poorest provinces in Thailand receive the least amount of funds for their education system.
“Only 5% of the poorest children at the bottom 20% have a chance of entering school. However, 100% of children who fall under the richest quintile, all enter school – 100% and 5% is a 20-fold difference,” said Dr. Patrawat. He urged the government to ensure that support be proportional to learners’ needs.
Assistant Professor Tida Tubpun of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Learning Sciences and Education expanded on this theme, asking, “What is fairness? It does not mean that all learners receive the same support. Rather, it means that all learners receive the support they need in order to succeed.”
The 2016 GEMR noted that people with disabilities are among the most marginalized and excluded groups worldwide; Asst Prof Tubpun touched the challenges they face in Thailand.
“When we refer to people with disabilities, there is a sense of pity and sympathy. There is this notion of donating money to them. Instead, we should be supportive and give them the same opportunities as all other people,” she said, stressing the need for improved measures to educate teachers and parents alike on special needs education.
Sommai Parichat, Managing Director of Matichon Public Company, encouraged participants to get to the root of the issue at hand by asking “What causes inequalities?” Lack of education or of learning opportunities, mistreatment, or misplaced values and ethics all factor in, he suggested, emphasizing the need for education that teaches tolerance, compromise, respect and moral values.
MOVING FORWARD WITH CHANGE
Panelists suggested that the broad, holistic and aspirational SDG4-Education 2030 agenda requires intersectoral work, dialogue and collaboration. To properly address educational issues, one must also address other interlinked sectors such as health, culture and the economy. Education technology should also be leveraged to address issues on the ground where possible.
To reach the marginalized, decision-making should not be top-down only, said Asst Prof Tubpun. “We need to start with buy-in from the ground level. If people are not convinced, change cannot happen,” she said.
Mr Parichat took a more provocative stance, saying, “Education is born from freedom, and thus, education must function from a foundation of freedom.”
Prof Wankaew said that educational contents and educational institutions themselves must be scrutinized to determine whether they pose barriers to sustainable development. “What will drive us forward? If we don’t change, then we also become the problem,” he said.
The national launch of the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report in Bangkok was co-organized by the Ministry of Education, Thailand, Thammasat University and UNESCO Bangkok – Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education.
To download the full and summary report, visit: http://www.unescobkk.org/resources/e-library/publications/article/the-2016-global-education-monitoring-gem-report-education-for-people-and-planet-creating-sustain/
Download: 2016 GEM Summary Report (Thai language)
Download: Thai Fact Sheet (2016 GEM Report data)