Right to education and lifelong learning for all, beyond 2015

The right to education and lifelong learning has been discussed at the international arena as human right since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The 1990 World Conference on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien, and lthe subsequent one at Dakar (2000) identified six goals to be met by 2015. Representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations reaffirmed the notion of education as a fundamental human right and urged countries to intensify efforts to address the basic learning needs of all.

Also in 2000, world leaders came together at UN Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs gave a prominent position to education within its framework about universal primary education for boys and girls and promoted gender education by 2015. Unfortunately, the MDGs did not target the educational needs of young people and adults, and is safe to say that this emphasis one ducation of children took attention (and resources) away from the broader focus on education in the EFA goals. In addition, the MDGs overall were not devekloped with wide participation of civil society; and its goals and targets were not articulated incinjunction with existing international agreements.

In 2012, at the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the UN Secretary-General stressed the need of a new set of goals to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development beyond 2015. Since then, a process of consultations and negotiations has  started under the name Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

This year, 2015, we reach the deadline of the MDGs and the EFA Goals. The international education community has joined the discussion of the Sustainable Development Agenda and proposed a set of specific education and learning targets, closely aligned with the education targets proposed and under discussion at the UN headquarters in New York.

The consultations so far have indicated that the orientation of the post-2015 education agenda should be grounded in a lifelong and sector-wide perspective, addressing accessability and results, equity and quality for all – children, youth and adults - from early childhood care and education to higher education and adult learning, encompassing formal, non-formal and informal learning.

In May 2015, the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF 2015) will determine a set of education goal and targets, which in turn will feed the global development agenda to be adopted at the UN High-Level Summit in September 2015, resulting in a single education agenda for 2015-2030.

During the past two and a half years, ICAE has been actively involved in the discussions, negotiations and consultations surrounding the Post-2015 with the objective of positioning youth and adult learning and education at the heart of the sustainable development agenda, and to re-claim its importance within the Education for All movement. The main points have been:

  • Education and Development: it is necessary to address the link between education and development because for us it is an ethical prinicple.We realize the urgent necessity of new vision of development in order to fight poverty, to maximize human capabilities and to ensure harmonious life on earth; to foster other types of education concerned with self- and social-transformation.

Consequently, we think it is urgent to find support in other paradigms, to deal with the "crisis of civilization"; we need other ways of understanding development, along with citizenship education, for social transformation, the valorisation of our cultures, recognising the importance of the relationship among our peoples, without distinction of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, in a context of social justice and democracy. 

  • Education as a Fundamental Human Right: This is a right - which ibncludes lifelong learninge, which member states are obliged to ensure for all people equally and without discrimination. We also think conceptions of education involving privitasation, which reduces education to a commodity, should be abandoned; we must address the imposition of  macroeconomic conditions that undermine investment in education.

This implies relying on transformative educational approaches such as Popular Education, Folkbildning, amongst other critical theories, which encourage people to confront the problems of life individually and collectively. These approaches aim at social transformation and, therefore, rely on democratic education and  knowledge asmeans to promote empowerment.

  • Literacy and learning throughout life As these are essential elements of the Millennium Development Goals and EFA , intersectoral policies should be promoted. The education of young people and adults, including literacy, should be clearly prioritized within international frameworks and national government policies. States and international agencies must show a clear political will and increase resource allocation to ALE,  and must commit to the training of teachers and qualified professionals in this field and to the establishment of appropriate working conditions.


  • Link between education of youth and adults with social movements. The full development of the right to education is linked to other rights and requires both awareness of its importance throught society as well as mobilisation and organisation. ICAE has participated at the World Forums (Porto Alegre, Tunisia), the Assembly of Peoples, also in parallel spaces to the Summit on Climate Change United Nations, at women's movement spaces, etc. where it has promoted the importance of education  - and especially that education of youth and adults  - as a fundamental human right  which contributes to building a just and democratic world. The link between education and social movements is significant.


Within the negotiation process of the Post-2015 agendas, the main challenges for ALE relate to the vision (or lack of one) of education as a human right, and the assurance of pre-existing, agreed and binding international commitments.  Also, we have noted the importance of generating consensus on conceptual debates on key elements of ALE (e.g.: functional literacy, skills for life and skills for work). Also further discussion is needed on measurement (qualitative and quantitate) and the monitoring system for ALE targets.

We are devoted to creating spaces for dialogue and for further understanding of the process, and the role of civil society within it. That is why we are looking forward to the  ICAE World Assembly in June 2015, where we’ll have the opportunity to discuss, with members and partners, the strategies to turn global targets into practical local action. We know, and this is especially true for ALE, that the contribution of civil society organizations is key not only for influencing processes and decision-making, but also for implementation and monitoring.

By Nélida Céspedes, Alan Tuckett and María Graciela Cuervo

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