World Education Forum 2015

World Education Forum 2015

19-22 May 2015, Incheon, Republic of Korea

Equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030

Transforming lives through education


The World Education Forum 2015 will provide a unique platform for global leaders in education, ministers, policy-makers and representatives of civil society, teachers, experts and the private sector to take stock of achievements and shortfalls in the implementation of the EFA goals and education-related MDGs, and to agree on a joint position for the education goal and targets in the post-2015 development agenda, which will be adopted by UN Member States at a Summit in September 2015. It will also be an opportunity for the international education community to chart the way for the implementation of the post-2015 education agenda through a Framework for Action.

Elissa Bogos-Save the Children

National governments have mandated UNESCO since 2011 to “initiate deliberations with Member States on the EFA objectives to be defined for the post-2015 period”.  The international community has been at work, taking part in broad and inclusive consultations among education partners and stakeholders. This culminated in the Muscat Agreement, adopted at the 2014 Global EFA Meeting in Oman, representing a shared vision of education for the future.

This important agreement informed the standalone goal and targets on education proposed by the UN Open Working Group and decided by the UN General Assembly as the basis for integrating sustainable development goals into the post-2015 development agenda. The UN Secretary-General’s subsequent Synthesis Report proposes one universal and transformative agenda for sustainable development, underpinned by rights, that is people-centred and planet-sensitive.


5 Key Themes on Global Education

Right to Education

Ensure equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030.

Education is a fundamental human right and occupies a central place in human rights, as it is a right in itself and indispensable for the exercise of all other human rights.  As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which marginalized children, young people and adults can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully in communities and society.

Inspired by the moral foundations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to education is enshrined in a number of instruments. The right to education has been strongly affirmed in international law, most importantly in the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960).

The World Education Forum (2000) reaffirmed education as a fundamental human right, and set objectives for achieving EFA goals based upon political commitments by the international community to achieve the right to basic education for all.  The Millenium Declaration (2000) affirmed by world leaders the same year and reaffirmed at the UN Summit in 2005 form an agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives. Two of them echo EFA goals 2 and 5: MDG 2  and MDG 3.

WEF-2015 will take stock of what has been achieved since 2000 and build the path to Education for All to 2030.

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Equitable access and learning, particularly for girls and women, must stand at the heart of the post-2015 agenda to unleash the full potential of all people.

The World Declaration on Education for All, adopted in Jomtien, Thailand (1990) and the Dakar Framework for Action (2000) set out an overall vision: universalizing access to education for all children, youth and adults, and promoting equity.  This means being proactive in identifying the barriers that many encounter in accessing education opportunities and identifying the resources needed to overcome those barriers.

Equity in education is the means to achieving equality. It intends to provide the best opportunities for all students to achieve their full potential and act to address instances of disadvantage which restrict educational achievement.  It involves special treatment/action taken to reverse the historical and social disadvantages that prevent learners from accessing and benefiting from education on equal grounds.  Equity measures are not fair per se but are implemented to ensure fairness and equality of outcome.

Girls and women still constitute the majority of out-of-school children and illiterate adults, and their learning opportunities are compromised by a number of in-school and out-of-school factors.




An inclusive education not only responds and adapts to each learner’s needs, but is relevant to their society and respectful of culture – a two-way dignified process. 

Inclusion is about putting the right to education into action by reaching out to all learners, respecting their diverse needs, abilities and characteristics and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the learning environment.  It should guide education policies and practices, starting from the fact that education is a basic human right and the foundation for a more just and equal society.

Inclusion is both a principle and process, arising from a clear recognition that exclusion happens not only from education but also within education; it requires adapting and or transforming the education systems at large, notably the way in which schools and other learning settings adapt their learning and teaching practices to cater for all learners with respect to diversity. This requires attention to a wide range of interventions, among them the curriculum, the nature of teaching and the quality of the learning environment. It means schools and learning settings should not only be academically effective but also friendly, safe, clean and healthy and gender responsive.

Inclusion requires adopting a holistic approach to education from early childhood onwards to incorporate the learning concerns of marginalized and excluded groups and addresses the four pillar of learning (learning to know, to do, to live together and to be).

The World Conference on Special Needs Education in Salamanca, Spain (1994) was the major impetus to an inclusive education. The Conference proclaimed that “regular schools with (an) inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all…”.

This vision was reaffirmed by the World Education Forum meeting in Dakar, 2000. The Forum declared that Education for All must take account of the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged, including working children, remote rural dwellers and nomads, ethnic and linguistic minorities, children, young people and adults affected by HIV and AIDS, hunger and poor health, and those with disabilities or special needs.

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Quality Education

Good quality education, provided by trained and supported teachers, is the right of all children, youth and adults, not the privilege of the few. 

©UNESCOThe World Declaration on Education for All (1990) was emphatic about the necessity of providing education for all children, youth and adults that is responsive to their needs and relevant to their lives.  This paved the way for the concept of quality expressed in terms of needs based criteria. Addressing the crisis in quality learning requires redefining what education systems are for.  The skills, knowledge, values and attitudes that learning and teaching promote must reflect and respond to the needs and expectations of individuals, countries, the global population and the world of work today.  Not only teaching basic skills like reading and math, but encouraging critical thinking and fostering the desire and capacity for lifelong learning that adapts and shifts in local, national and global dynamics.

Teachers are key to improving learning.  They have a powerful impact on the quality of student learning.  However, many countries, particularly the developing countries, are facing an acute shortage of qualified teachers, while serving teachers are paid poorly (and sometimes irregularly) and, because of the scant qualifications needed to enter, suffer from low social and professional status.

Quality learning is not only essential for meeting people’s basic needs, but is also fundamental in fostering the conditions for global peace and sustainable development. All young people need to learn in active, collaborative and self-directed ways in order to flourish and contribute to their communities. Along with the basics, they need to acquire attitudes, values and skills as well as information. Their teachers, peers, communities, curriculum and learning resources must help prepare them to recognize and respect human rights globally and to value global well-being, as well as equip them with the relevant skills and competencies for 21st century employment opportunities.

To achieve this, it is not enough to measure what learners learn: it is essential to target the classroom experiences that fundamentally shape student learning, and emphasize the range of skills required for lifelong well-being and societal cohesion.

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Lifelong Learning

Every person, at every stage of their life should have lifelong learning opportunities to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their aspirations and contribute to their societies. 

The Belém Framework for Action refers to lifelong learning as “an organizing principle of all forms of education”.

“The entire education system is designed to facilitate lifelong and ‘lifewide’ learning and the creation of formal, non-formal and informal learning opportunities for people of all ages… The concept of lifelong learning requires a paradigm shift away from the ideas of teaching and training towards those of learning, from knowledge-conveying instruction to learning for personal development and from the acquisition of special skills to broader discovery and the releasing and harnessing of creative potential. This shift is needed at all levels of education and types of provision, whether formal, non-formal or informal.” (source: UNESCO Education Strategy 2014-2021)

The acquisition of knowledge, skills, competences that lifelong learning should enable is not limited, in its conceptual understanding, to that of foundational skills, but also encompasses a larger panel of skills, bearing in mind the emergence of new skills deemed critical for individuals (as learning to learn, skills for global citizenship, entrepreneurial skills, and other core skills).

A skilled population is the key to a country’s sustainable development and stability. As a consequence, policy attention to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is increasing worldwide.

Lifelong learning is about meeting the diverse and context-specific learning needs of all age groups, including the acquisition of basic literacy technical skills through both formal education and effective alternative pathways to learning. Adult learning and education, TVET and literacy, all represent significant components of the lifelong learning process.

Two ground-breaking reports on lifelong learning by UNESCO (Learning to Be, Faure Report1972; Learning: The Treasure Within, Delors Report, 1996) articulated fundamental principles of lifelong learning. The Belém Framework for Action now also affirms the role of lifelong learning in addressing global educational issues and development challenges.

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