The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education for All (EFA) goals have been the catalyst for progress in ensuring access to education. Since governments first endorsed these goals in 2000, around 45 million children who previously did not have access to education have enrolled in primary school and gender parity in primary education has improved significantly. With 2015 deadlines fast approaching, the world must now assess the considerable work that remains to be done and negotiate an ambitious yet achievable successor framework.
It is now widely recognized that we are facing a global crisis in learning. 250 million children -- or a staggering 40 percent of the world's primary school age children -- are unable to read, write, or demonstrate basic numeracy by fourth grade.2 It is the poorest, most marginalized children, including those living in areas affected by conflict, who are most at risk of being out of school or being in school but learning very little.
As we draw closer to the MDGs deadline, there is growing consensus amongst UN-led thematic, country and global consultations that the focus must move from enrolment to learning. Today, the conversation is not just about whether a child gets a seat in the classroom, it's about what they learn when they get there -- as well as before they arrive and after they leave. For that reason, an equitable learning agenda must be central to the post-2015 development framework. This should extend beyond a narrow focus on inputs, such as the need for books and teacher training, to include processes for stimulating learning, measuring learning outcomes, and bolstering accountability to local stakeholders.