These are busy days in Washington DC with the World Bank (WB) – International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings going on. We are witnessing a very enriching debate around the post MDGs process and the impact of the global economic crisis on the path to growth of developing countries.
But today I’d like to focus on another discussion taking place in these meetings: the one around education. Yesterday I took part in the Learning for All Ministerial Roundtable, where we proposed concrete steps to accelerate progress toward ensuring that all children can go to school and learn. The debate focused on those countries which have the most children out-of-school, namely: Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan. As a former Minister of Education I have difficulties to accept that despite of the significant investments, there is little progress in reaching global education targets. In those countries there are still 61 million children without access to basic education.And the list goes on. That is why the European Union is strongly committed to supporting worldwide access to education as a preliminary condition for development. The European Commission alone currently provides support to education in 48 countries. As an example, in Bangladesh, EU-funded projects are helping to deliver text books to schools, to recruit 15,000 teachers and to provide quality primary education for over 400,000 of the hardest to reach children, with the help of NGOs.
There have been other improvements. Since 2004, thanks to the Commission support, more than 9 million pupils have been enrolled in primary education, more than 720,000 primary school teachers have been trained and more than 85,000 new female students have been enrolled in secondary education.
But we cannot be complacent. While in Washington, I have also announced that on May 23rd I will host a High Level conference on Education and Development in Brussels to further strengthen the momentum of the importance of education in development and its role in the post-2015 agenda. I expect this conference to be a key opportunity to continue our hard work on education as it will bring together partner countries, representatives from EU Member States and other development partners. To name but a few: European Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva, International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, and Androulla Vassiliou, Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Gordon Brown (United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education), and Her Highness Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands (UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development).
I firmly believe that education has the power to turn the course of human development from poverty to improved living standards for all. There is an urgent need to accelerate progress to reach the Millennium Development Goal related to education and get all children in school and learning. And I hope we will succeed.