Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, Dr Ahmed Rashid Beebeejaun
Barely three years to the deadline for the Internationally Agreed Goals (IAGs) - the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) - Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM), has expressed concern that 23.3 million primary school-age children are still out of school in Commonwealth countries.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM), held in Pailles, Mauritius, the group revealed that 775 million adults globally still could not read and write, out of which over 460 million are in Commonwealth countries, two-third of these being women.
It also acknowledged that despite the significant increase of access to education, quality and equity still represented common challenges across all Commonwealth countries. To address these challenges systemically, the ministers stressed the importance of education as a fundamental human right, critical to advancing Commonwealth values of democracy, development and respect for diversity.
According to the conference, unless robust advocacy for the pivotal role of education post-2015 is made in the economy, for society, for democracy and for development, it could lose its place in the global priorities. It made a case for teacher professional standards and school leadership as part of efforts to improve quality education, while observing that the post-2015 development framework should include knowledge and skills that would enable young people to meet 21st century requirements.
The ministers called for standard frameworks, which could be applied nationally and regionally and stressed the importance of not only maintaining, but expanding the core work of the education section leading up to 2015 and beyond, in view of the serious challenges in access and quality faced by many of the members.
The conference also acknowledged the need to reform the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the need for greater emphasis on impact, focus, value-for-money and capacity building in its education programmes.
The event was declared open by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, Dr Ahmed Rashid Beebeejaun, who stressed the importance of education as the driver of economic growth and development of human capital.
The host minister, Dr. Vasant K Bunwaree, who presided over the conference, focussed on the primacy of education in a knowledge-driven world.
In a remark, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, emphasised the pivotal role of education, saying: “There can be no question that education is central to all sustainable democratic, social and economic advances.”