Address To High-Level Global Education First Initiative Panel Session

  • Speech, check against delivery

Thank you Henry (Mr Henry Bonsu).

A fortnight ago the Australian Government released a new strategy for Australia's aid investments in education.

The strategy sets out how the Australian Government will work with our partner countries to help them deliver comprehensive and high-quality education services.

Consistent with the 2030 Agenda, achieving universal participation is a priority of our strategy, with a focus on girls and children with disabilities.

Despite global progress, many children are still denied the opportunity to attend school and of those who do, many are not learning enough to obtain work or go on to further study.

Through implementation of our new strategy, Australia will contribute to ensuring that more children, particularly girls and children with disabilities, participate in school for longer, and acquire the skills needed that they need to build their future.

Australia recognises that without concerted global effort to reach the most disadvantaged children, universal education will remain out of reach.

Our education strategy promotes working with country partners to translate inclusive policies on paper to practice in the classroom.

In Fiji, for example special schools have largely been the only option for children with disabilities but they are few and far between.

Australia is working closely with the Fijian Ministry of Education to promote access for children with disabilities to mainstream education. Five demonstration schools across the country are piloting ways to enable children with disabilities to participate in all school activities on an equal basis with others.

I think we must also look for innovative approaches to target those who are left behind.

We know that girls' participation can be impeded by distance from school, particularly where parents are concerned for their safety when travelling to and from school.

In Afghanistan, Australia has supported more girls to be educated closer to home, and with female teachers, by investing in community schooling approaches as well as funding teacher training for ninth grade female graduates to teach at local primary schools.

We think that better data is critical to ensure that no child is left behind. Efficient and well-targeted interventions depend on accurate data to tell us which children are being excluded, where they are, and what specific barriers prevent them getting the education opportunities they deserve.

Disaggregated data across the range of marginalised groups, including gender, poverty, ethnicity, disability and locality, at a national-level is absolutely critical.

So Australia has entered into partnerships with the United Nations Statistical Division and the Washington Group on Disability Statistics to develop a set of general disability measures, suitable for use in national censuses.

This will provide basic information on people with disabilities throughout the world to develop more effective policies and interventions.

As a former education minister, I am particularly delighted with the emphasis on learning in the Sustainable Development Goal for Education.

Marginalised groups face specific barriers to learning, not just physical access to a school. It is the opportunity to learn, and gain skills for life, that makes an investment in education pay off.

I was struck by Gordon Brown's comments about displacement and refugee children in Syria. We are also committed to the No Lost Generation Initiative to ensure that children receive education in that region.

Australia will invest in quality across the education system, from early childhood services that help get all children off to the right start, through to the post-school training needed to develop relevant, job-ready skills.

Critical to achieving education for all children is sufficient and targeted financing.

Governments must mobilise domestic resources and prioritise spending on education.

Innovative financing approaches are also required. Governments need to work in partnership with families of course, but also with the private sector, communities, civil society and development partners.

Education is a powerful tool to place in the hands of young people.

It works to overcome disadvantage that may exist due to poverty, gender, or disability.

An education for a child benefits not only the individual, but their community and their nation.

Australia is proud to be a Global Education First Initiative Champion Country, as a tangible demonstration of our commitment to all children the world over receiving the benefits of a quality education.

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