The progress made to date indicates that the MDGs relating to education are still eminently achievable. By 2015 it is still possible that every girl and boy in the world will attend and complete primary school.
Look at the current levels of aid for basic education, and the estimated extra sum per year of $5.6 billion (11) needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015 might seem problematic. But achieving the goals is largely a matter of priorities.
The outpouring of sympathy and private charity all around the globe in the wake of the Asian tsunami suggests that there are renewed opportunities for the world to put the demands of common humanity above the assumptions of business as usual – and for governments to be held to the promises that they made at the Millennium Summit.
There are already three major initiatives in the field straining to achieve the educational goals, each complementing the other:
- The Fast-Track Initiative spearheaded by the World Bank, focusing on low-income countries;
- UNICEF's '25 by 2005' Initiative, focusing on eliminating gender disparities in education;
- The UN Girls' Education Initiative, a broad partnership aiming to improve the quality and availability of girls' education.
At national and local levels, moreover, there is now a vast level of expertise and experience of what works and what does not that can be brought to bear on this problem if only the impetus and the resources were directed where they are needed.
Among the most important policies and strategies to be employed in pursuit of education for all must be the removal of school fees and related charges. This is one of the transformative measures that can help countries achieve a quantum leap in school participation rates.
A close and constant eye should be trained on the interim targets, and leaders called to account if they are falling short in their commitment. But let no one use the interim indicators to claim that the goal of universal primary education is beyond us. It is realistic, it is affordable, it is achievable. And it is our children’s birthright.