Pauline Rose on equity and education

In this short video, education expert Pauline Rose draws on her experience to discuss the importance of focusing on equity in education. She argues that it is of vital importance to put equity on the agenda for the post 2015 goals in relation to education. While the Education for All goals did make reference to equity in the language, they fell short in terms of how achieving equity would be measured, which has left some of the poorest and most marginalised groups in society behind. The education of girls from poor families based in rural areas in particular has not improved. Unlike the Education for All framework, Millennium Development Goals did not have a focus on equity. Post 2015, equity must be at the centre of goals for education, and include ways to measure progress for marginalized groups. The focus on equity in the new goals should not stop at access to school, but should also extend to improving learning. This will ensure that by 2030, all children, regardless of circumstances, have at least nine years in school, and are learning once in school, with no gap between the richest and the poorest.


Pauline became Director of the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) in August 2011. Prior to taking up this post, she was Senior Policy Analyst with the GMR team for three years, leading the research on the themes of governance, marginalisation and conflict. Before joining the GMR, Pauline was Reader in international education and development at the University of Sussex. She has worked closely with international aid donors and non-governmental organisations, providing evidence-based policy advice for the past 20 years on a wide range of issues aimed at fulfilling commitments to Education for All. She has worked on large collaborative research programmes with teams in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Pauline is author of numerous publications on issues that examine educational policy and practice, including in relation to inequality, financing and governance, democratisation, and the role of international aid.


In March 2013, the EFA GMR team released an initial draft for discussion of their proposed post-2015 education goals. The proposed goals emphasised equity, measurability and finance. The proposed goals seek to address the lack of measurable equity targets in previous goals, and the lack of data broken down to shown inequalities within countries, which has in the past let down the poorest, girls, those with disabilities, and those in rural areas over the past decade. The overarching proposed goal is to ensure that by 2030, everyone has an equal opportunity to learn the basics, whatever their circumstances. The draft includes several individual goals, one of which is to eliminate inequalities in education by 2030, taking specific measures to reach those disadvantaged by factors such as gender, poverty, location, ethnicity or disability.

In May 2013, Pauline gave a presentation titled ‘Education post-2015: Equity, measurability and finance’ at an EU Member States Education and Development Experts Meeting in Brussels. In the presentation, she argues that the right to an education, as guaranteed under international and national laws and conventions, must be at the core of development goals. As a right, education should be free and compulsory. It should help people reach their potential and should foster the well-being and prosperity of individuals and society. Ensuring that all people have an equal chance of education, regardless of their circumstances, must be at the heart of every goal. No person should be denied access to quality education because of factors such as poverty, gender, location, ethnicity or disability.

The presentation goes on to explain that the goals should recognise the learning needs at each stage of a person’s life, and that learning takes place in non-formal as well as formal settings. One main goal should set the overall ambition for education as part of a broader post-2015 global framework. This overarching goal should be universally applicable, and divided into individual goals that make up a post-2015 education framework. Each of these individual goals should also be linked with other goals to be identified in the broader global framework. The goals should enable governments and the international community to be held to account for their education commitments. Each goal must have a specific deadline, be worded clearly and simply, be measurable, and have the ambition of getting to zero. The framework should include a commitment to monitoring the goals regularly and rigorously at the global, national and local levels.

The World Education Blog is hosted by the team working on the EFA GMR. It aims to raise fundamental questions about EFA. The authors intend for this blog to be a discussion forum for everyone interested in promoting the right to quality learning. In February 2013 Pauline posted a blog titled ‘Equity in education post-2015: how do we get there?’ In this blog, she discusses how a good education has been voted the top priority in the UN’s online survey on what people want in a post-2015 world, and questions what a “good education” means and how can we set goals that will give everyone a chance to obtain it.

The World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), which gives an indication of how inequality in access to education remains. For example, data from the Democratic Republic of the Congo shows that almost all children from rich families in the capital city, Kinshasa, go to school. By contrast, in the much more deprived, conflict affected region of Katanga, only 55% of poor females have the chance of an education.

A 2013 booklet titled ‘World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE): Inequalities in Education’ gives more details on the impact that gender, wealth and where a child or young person lives has on their opportunities for education and later in life. Data from Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, India, Haiti, Nigeria, Uganda and Yemen are analysed. The data indicates that despite overall progress in more children entering school over the past decade, insufficient attention has been paid to eliminating inequalities in education. The authors advocate for a specific goal to ensure improvements in equity in education. Better monitoring and evaluation is also needed. Improved household data will be essential post-2015 to enable better monitoring of progress for the most disadvantaged children. This will require comparable household survey data to be available on a larger scale, with sufficient observations to allow analysis of sub-groups of the population.

In August 2013, the EFA GMR launched a new website to show how education transforms lives. The website calls on people to take action to ensure education’s central place in all new development goals after 2015. Included on the website is a report titled ‘Education Transforms Lives‘. It states that education lights every stage of the journey to a better life, especially for the poor and the most vulnerable. Education’s unique power to act as a catalyst for wider development goals can only be fully realized, however, if it is equitable. That means making special efforts to ensure that all children and young people – regardless of their family income, where they live, their gender, their ethnicity, whether they are disabled – can benefit equally from its transformative power. Education empowers girls and young women, in particular, by increasing their chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society – and it boosts their children’s chances of leading healthy lives. To unlock the wider benefits of education, all children need the chance to complete not only primary school but also lower secondary school. And access to schooling is not enough on its own: education needs to be of good quality so that children actually learn. Given education’s transformative power, it needs to be a central part of any post-2015 global development framework.

The 2013/14 EFA GMR is on the subject of ‘Learning and Teaching for Development’. It will show how education transforms lives, and that progress in education is essential for the success of post-2015 priorities, including poverty eradication, health, environmental sustainability, governance and women’s empowerment. . It will explain how investing wisely in teachers, and other reforms aimed at strengthening equitable learning, transform the long-term prospects of people and societies. It is expected to give more information on how equity and quality education will be pivotal in the post-2015 agenda. More information can be found on an EFA GMR thematic note.

Pauline can be followed on twitter. She regularly posts on education and the post-2015 agenda using the hashtag #edpost2015 and #educationtransforms.


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