No country has succeeded without educating its people; education is key to sustaining growth and reducing poverty.

Everywhere I go I see the power of education to improve people’s lives. We have ample evidence to demonstrate that broad-based education is associated with a wide range of indicators of well-being, including a nation’s increased productivity and competitiveness as well as social and political progress. Most importantly, education is a basic human right that frees the spirit from chains of ignorance.

We have come a long way on EFA (Education For All), but we still have a long way to go.

Too many people are still excluded from education because of poverty, poor policies and corruption. Countless children are still out of school, and a considerable number of illiterate— the majority, girls and women. Education attainment in perhaps half the Mindanao region, and several of the Visayan provinces, is well below the level required to achieve sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

Why has progress been so slow?

We underestimate how difficult and expensive the progress of achieving EFA is, how long it takes to bring about change. And then, we had a series of unexpected challenges—economic crises, political and economic transitions, the widening of digital divide, civil conflicts and natural disasters. In addition, rapid population growth made the achievement of the EFA goals more difficult.

Yet, the EFA goals are attainable.

We’ve learned some key lessons about what is required to achieve EFA.

Strong political commitment is the cornerstone of success, to promote efficient resource utilization, sustained support for difficult and sometimes contentious policies, and build the necessary institutional capacity. Education policy is most effective when it is developed in the context of a comprehensive sector policy framework. We must pay attention to core education finance issues to ensure that available resources are being used efficiently. Safety nets allowing kids to stay in school are important during crises. And perhaps, most important, we have learned that quality is as important as quantity — simple access is not enough. We must have in place the essential basics: dedicated and well-trained teachers, support for their salaries and teaching resources, and an overall environment conducive to learning. And we now have unprecedented opportunities to harness information technology for teacher training and increased access and quality.

And so, how do we move forward?

We must place education squarely at the core of the national development agenda.

Education must be higher on the agenda of everyone: government, donor agencies, NGO’s, the private sector. Achieving quality education for all can no longer be a responsibility of the Department of Education alone.

No country with a viable and a sustainable plan for achieving Education For All will be unable to implement it. This is a huge challenge and will require effort from all of us. Whether money, people or know-how, we will work with our [partners to make it happen.

Leadership is the key to moving forward.

We need a truly global plan of action. This is a first step, but an essential one— to support those who are committed to achieving EFA goals.

The time for action is now.


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