In 2000, more than 180 countries pledged their commitment to working towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets for global development to be completed by 2015. These included the eradication of world poverty and worldwide access to primary education. Whilst much progress has been made, several challenges remain. Only last year there were 58 million children across the globe missing out on basic education and a staggering 250 million children of primary school age still cannot read or write. There is still much to be done.
In light of this, the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals – a result of the Rio+20 Conference held in Brazil in 2012 - are the newest building block upon the foundations established by the MDGs. Based upon the same underlying principles, they are a revitalised set of global targets to be achieved by 2030 which build upon the progress and challenges from the last 15 years. Within the 17 ambitious goals education plays a key role and APIE is encouraged to see a particular focus on the quality of education and to ensuring equal opportunities for all.
Quality education: key to achieving sustainability
The importance of high quality education cannot be overstated. Education reduces poverty, increases gender equality, supports economic growth and provides a strong framework for the long-term stability of developing countries and their international relations. This is why improving the quality of education across the globe remains such a key part of international development; the Sustainable Development Goals testify to this in Goal Four:
To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
For APIE, quality education is our main focus. In Rwanda, our project Umubano Primary School is the first stepping stone on the road to ensuring this goal is realised. By training teachers to deliver a dynamic education, students gain irreplaceable skills such as critical thinking and problem solving which ensure life-long learning. By providing practical placements for trainee teachers and in-house training for current staff, we ensure they are able to equip the next generation with the skills they need to thrive in a global world. Umubano Primary School is a microcosm of high quality education, for both teachers and students. As confidence grows in the practical, interactive and child-centered methods of teaching and learning, the positive effects will be disseminated more widely as teachers reach out to new schools and share their experiences and knowledge.
Inclusion, equity and opportunities for all
The Sustainable Development Goal on education breaks down into smaller targets with specific timelines. For example, Goal 4.2 aims to ensure that all children are prepared for primary school through a minimum of one year’s quality early childhood (nursery) education. Although this is still an emerging field in Rwanda, at Umubano Primary School there are 80 students falling into the early education bracket (under 5’s). Teachers are using interactive and child-centered learning to ensure these young children build a strong foundation for future learning. We will continue to develop this aspect of Umubano Primary School so we can lead the way in advocating the importance of life-long learning.
Another component of the overarching goal on education is ensuring equal access to education and vocational training for the most vulnerable, such as those with disabilities. With 1 in 3 children out of school because of disability, this is an incredibly important initiative to ensure equal opportunity for all. Umubano Primary is innovative in its infrastructure – it is fully equipped for disabled access and caters for several disabled students and those with special educational needs. While this is a relatively new in Rwandan schools, we are already seeing this model of inclusion being replicated beyond Umubano so that access for all children, regardless of background and circumstance, will continue to improve.
Sustainability : 2030 and beyond
As sustainability becomes the buzz word of the international development agenda, we are encouraged to see the global community taking stock of the importance of quality education in transforming lives. We hope that the learning from Umubano Primary School continues to be shared so that innovations from the inside out continue to impact on teacher training and school development more widely. Now that quality, inclusive education has a stronghold, we hope that those 58 million children out of school, and the 250 million who cannot read or write, will be the ones writing the next global agenda and making a positive impact on their world.