In September 2015, the international community unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), to respond to the “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Of the 17 SDGs, one is dedicated to education (SDG 4), thus reaffirming the role of education as a key driver of sustainable development.
SDG 4 is the result of three years of intensive and broad consultative process driven and owned by Member States and guided by the EFA Steering Committee. Following a series of consultations and conferences with a broad range of stakeholders, the Muscat Agreement was adopted at the Global EFA meeting in May 2014 to inform the global education goal and its associated seven targets and three means of implementation. This process culminated in the Incheon Declaration, which represents the commitment made by the education community to Education 2030 and adopted on 21 May, 2015 at the World Education Forum (WEF) held in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Finally, the Education 2030 Framework for Action was also agreed upon at the WEF to provide guidance for implementing the Goal. It is the only SDG to have such a guidance.
While the education-related MDGs focused on quantity (e.g. high enrollment rates) only to see the quality of education decline in many societies, SDG 4 represents the first attempt by the world community to focus on the quality of education – of learning – at all levels of education and training, within a lifelong learning approach.
The region has been actively participating in the global process, first by reflecting on the Education for All (EFA) achievements, challenges and recommendations through National 2015 EFA Reviews. These EFA reviews showed that the Arab region made commendable progress overall and undertook serious and significant efforts towards achieving the MDGs. However, uneven quality of education and learning persists. Wide disparities within and between Arab States exist on MDGs indicators essentially due to political instability, directly or indirectly.
In order to collectively examine the status of EFA achievements and recommendations from regional perspectives, Ministers of Education, senior technical officials and regional and international development partners met in January 2015 at the Arab Regional Conference on Education Post-2015 and agreed on the key messages of the region beyond 2015 EFA, known as the Sharm El Sheikh Statement. These regional perspectives effectively informed the global agenda of education. Following the adoption of the SDGs in New York in September 2015, the Arab Member States met again in December 2015 in Cairo, Egypt to discuss the operationalization of the Education Agenda in the region and agreed on a regional roadmap for implementation.