Global Resources

No child forgotten: education and inequality post 2015

Author: Will Paxton, A. Davis
Publisher: Global Campaign for Education
Publication Date: Jan 2014

In 2000, the world came together to agree the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an historic agreement that represented a global commitment to improving the life chances of the poorest people of the world. Education, through the targets set in MDG2 (To ensure that by 2015, all children will be able to complete primary schooling) and MDG3 (To eliminate gender disparities in all levels of education), was central to this vision. Yet, for all the good achieved by the MDGs, in many areas progress to reach the stated goals began too late, and left behind many millions of children. In order to assess the reasons for this, and to highlight the lessons that must be learned for the implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development paradigm, the Global Campaign for Education have published this policy document which culminates in suggestions for a post-2015 framework, and policy ideas that can ensure no child is left behind in the future.


Chief among those left behind by the MDGs were the poorest children in society, especially girls. In Nigeria education inequalities based on socio-economic factors actually worsened during the MDGs, with just 34%of the poorest children completing primary education in 2008 compared to 65% five years previously. While progress has been made since in this regard, the poor were by no means the only children left behind. Globally, girls, children living in rural areas, children with disabilities, and other disadvantaged groups such as orphans and street children were disproportionately neglected by the achievements of the MDGs. This was due to the lack of incentives to focus on girls from deprived and marginalised groups, which led to governments and aid agencies targeting the easiest to reach over the hard-to-reach disadvantaged children.


To ensure the same mistakes are not repeated, it is crucial that the lessons feed into new policy frameworks that systematise incentives to reach and help the poor, marginalised, and disadvantaged in ways that go beyond quantitative targets. To this end, it is recommended that governments focus on five key characteristics when designing and implementing education policy: high quality teaching with targeted support for the most marginalised; fair and targeted school funding systems; quality pre-school provision that is inclusive of the poorest and most marginalised communities; targeted poverty reduction strategies linked to schooling (e.g. welfare payments dependent on school attendance); and transparent information and data that makes inequalities visible to all. To ensure these policies leave no children behind in efforts to achieve the SDGs, it is also vital that data collection be mandated concerning gender ratios, socio-economic divisions, and that accounts for disabled child access and rural versus urban access to education.