Earlier this month, I was invited to be a keynote speaker on the theme of "Education for Economic Success" at the Education World Forum, which brought education ministers and leaders from over 75 countries together in London.
Education is fundamental to development and growth. The human mind makes possible all development achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.
Twenty years ago, government officials and development partners met to affirm the importance of education in development—on economic development and broadly on improving people’s lives—and together declared Education for All as a goal. While enrolments have risen in promising fashion around the world, learning levels have remained disappointingly and many remain left behind. Because growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people acquire, not the number of years that they sit in a classroom, we must transform our call to action from Education for All toLearning for All.
The World Bank’s forthcoming Education Strategy will emphasize several core ideas: Invest early. Invest smartly. Invest in learning for all.
First, foundational skills acquired early in childhood make possible a lifetime of learning. The traditional view of education as starting in primary school takes up the challenge too late. The science of brain development shows that learning needs to be encouraged early and often, both inside and outside of the formal schooling system. Prenatal health and early childhood development programs that include education and health are consequently important to realize this potential. In the primary years, quality teaching is essential to give students the foundational literacy and numeracy on which lifelong learning depends. Adolescence is also a period of high potential for learning, but many teenagers leave school at this point, lured by the prospect of a job, the need to help their families, or turned away by the cost of schooling. For those who drop out too early, second-chance and nonformal learning opportunities are essential to ensure that all youth can acquire skills for the labor market.
Second, getting results requires smart investments—that is, investments that prioritize and monitor learning, beyond traditional metrics, such as the number of teachers trained or number of students enrolled. Quality needs to be the focus of education investments, with learning gains as the key metric of quality. Resources are too limited and the challenges too big to be designing policies and programs in the dark. We need evidence on what works in order to invest smartly.
Third, learning for all means ensuring that all students, and not just the most privileged or gifted, acquire the knowledge and skills that they need. Major challenges of access remain for disadvantaged populations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We must lower the barriers that keep girls, children with disabilities, and ethnolinguistic minorities from attaining as much education as other population groups. “Learning for All” promotes the equity goals that underlie Education for All and the MDGs. Without confronting equity issues, it will be impossible to achieve the objective of learning for all.
Achieving learning for all will be challenging, but it is the right agenda for the next decade. It is the knowledge and skills that children and youth acquire today—not simply their school attendance—that will drive their employability, productivity, health, and well-being in the decades to come, and that will help ensure that their communities and nations thrive.
Read the full text of my speech to the Education World Forum here.
The role of the Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education is the Government’s lead advisor on the education system, shaping direction for education agencies and providers and contributing to the Government’s goals for education.
Our purpose and behaviours
We shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes
Ko tō mātou whare mātauranga, he rangatira, he mana taurite ōna huanga
We get the job doneKa oti i a mātou ngā mahi
We are respectful, we listen, we learnHe rōpū manaaki, he rōpū whakarongo, he rōpū ako mātou
We back ourselves and others to winKa manawanui ki a mātou me ētahi ake kia wikitoria
We work together for maximum impactKa mahi ngātahi mo te tukinga nui tonu
Great Results are our bottom line Ko ngā huanga tino pai a mātou whāinga mutunga
In the early childhood and schooling sectors we have responsibility for strategic leadership, policy development and have a substantial operational role.
Our role in the tertiary sector is focused on leadership and setting direction, stewardship and governance and monitoring and evaluation. The Tertiary Education Commission (external link) and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (external link) have a more direct interface with the tertiary education sector.
Our activities come under seven key areas.
Strategic leadership in the sector
We develop strategic policy for the education sector and deliver services to the sector. We undertake education research and analysis and monitor education sector capability and viability. This involves coordination with other sector and government agencies and forums and some cross sector work programmes.
Support and resources for the community
We deliver policies, programmes and services focused on improving the community’s knowledge of and participation in the education system. This involves working with parents, iwi, and Pasifika advisors and community groups to get greater participation in education, providing information to enable decisions to be made about education options and providing education programmes for stakeholders to support the education system.
Support and resources for education providers
We ensure that education providers have the resources and support they need to deliver services to students, which includes administering a range of legislative and regulatory controls, determination and delivery of funding and other resources, providing services that support the governance, management and operation of education providers, and monitoring and intervening in providers that are at risk in relation to financial viability, student achievement and participation.
School property portfolio management
We have responsibility for all education property owned by the Crown. This involves managing the existing property portfolio, upgrading and improving the portfolio, purchasing and constructing new property to meet increased demand, identifying and disposing of surplus State school sector property and managing teacher and caretaker housing.
Support and resources for teachers
We support teachers’ and principals’ professional leadership, learning and teaching which involves the development of national guidelines, providing curriculum statements and achievement standards, resources to support teaching, learning and assessment and professional leadership and providing professional development programmes, scholarships and awards. The Ministry also administers the teachers' payroll.
Interventions for target student groups
We deliver policies, resources and services focused on targeted students groups’ or individuals’ participation in education which includes targeted interventions, specialist support services, funding and other resources and special education services to children and young people with special learning and developmental needs.
Strategic leadership in the tertiary system
We deliver policies and services focused on our leadership role in the tertiary sector. This includes the development of strategic policy for the tertiary sector and international education, undertaking relevant research and analysis, and monitoring the performance and capacity of Crown entities. We also represent the education sector internationally.
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