State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Education, Sustainability and the post-2015 Development Agenda

13544562363_90fec7710c_zStarting in 2016, a new series of global monitoring reports will examine the state of education, using the framework of the anticipated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are to be finalized by the UN in September 2015. The first report in this series, the 2016 Report, will focus on “Education, Sustainability and the post-2015 Development Agenda.”

The 2016 report faces a number of challenging tasks. First, it must establish the parameters of a new monitoring framework for the post-2015 education goal and its targets. It also needs to address the many ways in which education and other development sectors are reciprocally linked. And finally it should reflect ongoing developments in governance, financing and intersectoral integration, which are likely to impact policies and progress in education in the years to come.

As the Concept Note describes, the 2016 report will evaluate progress in all countries for each of the new education targets. Since the new education agenda will likely recognize a life-long learning approach, the new report will emphasize the array of learning opportunities throughout life – from early childhood to adolescence and through adulthood – in both formal and non-formal education settings. However, monitoring opportunities for skill acquisition, adult learning and non-formal education will be particularly problematic. As the new targets will aim to be universally relevant rather than focused only on low income countries, the 2016 report will discuss education trends, practices and policies for countries at all stages of development.

The second big challenge revolves around the nexus between education and development. What is the nature and scale of evidence that can shed light on how sectors are interrelated? Considerable research has accumulated on the intersection between some sectors; between others, there are large gaps in knowledge. The report will focus on the four pillars of sustainable development: economic empowerment, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and good governance. More challenging will be the basis for determining which strategies, policies and programmes significantly influence the economic, social, environmental and political priorities of the new sustainable development agenda.

Two rounds of consultations were held as part of the development of the 2016 Concept Note, prior to the ongoing, online public consultation. An initial consultation with distinguished UK academics, NGO representatives and DFID colleagues yielded an improved focus on the lifelong learning approach; the highlighting of adult literacy, skills and higher education; the implications of aiming for universality of coverage and the challenges in achieving it; and a focus on building on the lessons learned from the past 15 years. A second round of informal consultations was held with practitioners and scholars affiliated with the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the USA. These consultations with development experts outside education, led by the Special Advisor appointed for the 2016 report, Dr. Radhika Iyengar, helped clarify how to address links between education and sustainable development. In particular, experts commented on the importance of specifying education’s role in advancing the post-2015 SDG agenda from a cross-sectoral perspective.

The 2016 report undoubtedly sets forth an ambitious agenda. Dialogue on the Concept Note represents an opportunity for the international community to help the team translate concepts and ideas into actionable research. The GMR invites your careful reading of the Concept Note and welcomes concrete feedback on issues, research topics and perspectives that should be included in the 2016 report. Please provide your inputs on the following website:

The public online consultation process will continue until 28 January 2015. We would be happy to receive your contributions as comments on the blog, or through links to research reports, policy papers, evaluations, and other documents or datasets you would consider useful for the GMR team.

If you’d prefer to email your comments, or you have attachments of documents or data to share with us, please send them directly to with “2016 report consultation” as the subject heading. Much thanks for your interest and support.

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