Education for girls is one of the best investments you can make. Just ask the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, or the UN special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown. Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, has been spearheading a global call for world leaders to dedicate more funding for girls’ education, so they have the opportunity to complete secondary school.
All of this comes when the future of girls has reached a potential tipping point, with the Sustainable Development Goals due to be decided in September.
Ahead of the Oslo Education Summit this week the Malala Fund released a new report, urging leaders to think about the importance of education, particularly for the 60 million girls globally who are denied one. The report, Beyond Basics: Making 12 Years of Education a Reality for Girls Globally, makes recommendations for exactly what needs to happen over the next two months, based on the costings of the Education for All Global Monitor Reports.
Here are the top five things you need to know…
1. We must learn from the past
Fifteen years ago, the Millennium Development Goals provided a blueprint for global development. The goals supported incredible progress, such as reducing the number of out-of-school children from 100 million to 57 million, but there are many areas for improvement, particularly when it comes to the missing focus on girls. The issue is that the MDGs focused on goals that were readily achievable, rather than ambitiously pushing for a total end to global poverty.
Just as with the Girl Declaration, the Malala Fund report recognises and identifies that “without fully funding universal access to 12 years of good quality primary and secondary education, the vision of the sustainable future to be agreed in September cannot be achieved. The world will be robbed of the tremendous potential of girls eager to learn and to lead.”
We have a once-in-a-generation chance to change the world, so let’s do it right and make sure girls are included in the SDGs from the outset.
2. Girls must be at the heart of universal education plans
Both the background paper to the Malala Fund report and the report itself call for much more investment in education. Malala Fund’s recommendation is to finance 12 years of free, universal primary and secondary education by 2030 and work this into the SDG targets.
To do this, the report recommends governments target those who’ve traditionally been left behind – girls.
3. More money must be dedicated to education
In order to provide girls with what they need to thrive, governments and donors must dedicate more money to their education.
World leaders need to take bold steps and think differently about how and what they spend their budgets on. The report identifies the total cost of 12 years of universal education to be $340bn a year. To meet this need, there’s a shortfall of $39bn that needs to be made up. Countries need to allocate a greater portion of their overall budget to education, and any education plans must be complemented by a global roadmap, agreed by all.
4. Education must be universal
After accepting her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo at the end of 2014, Malala returned to Norway for the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. She told the summit: “We must be willing to make the same efforts to secure primary and secondary education for the poorest and most marginalised girls and boys as we would for our own children.”
In other words, girls living in poverty should not be given fewer opportunities to succeed than their counterparts in more developed nations. It’s time to level the playing field and apply high global standards on education for everyone, everywhere.
5. Nothing is impossible
The case studies in Beyond Basics demonstrate the impact that 12 years of education would have on girls. In Zaatari camp in Jordan, 16-year-old Syrian refugee Mezon went tent-to-tent encouraging girls to go to school after developing a passion for education. She says it all: “I think education is the focal point for everything. With education, we can solve anything. And when we look for opportunities for work, we can get a better job if we get educated. That motivates me to continue.”
Malala has inspired the world because her story is extraordinary. For a teenage girl to take on the Taliban, get shot, survive and then win the Nobel Peace Prize while continuing to champion education for girls, all before the age of 18, is nothing short of incredible.
Now, just imagine what this kind of thinking – that nothing is impossible – could do when applied to ending global poverty and ensuring girls everywhere get the education they deserve.
If the inspirational message doesn’t sway you, we’ll leave you with the evidence: If all girls had 12 years of education, child marriage would drop by 65%, early births would fall by 59% and child deaths under the age of five would decrease by 49%.