A post-2015 youth perspective: It’s make-or-break time for education

UntitledBy Naim Keruwala

I came across this picture on my Facebook timeline a couple of days ago. It captures very well the state of education in many countries, where government schools providing free education are inadequate and quality of education is extremely poor.

In India, where I live, the government is going berserk to enrol children in schools and higher education institutes but quality has suffered badly, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012 published by Pratham, a non-government organization. The enrolment rate has risen but so has the dropout rate. Over 75.2% of all children enrolled in Standard 5 in government schools could not do simple division problems.

Education-after-2015-logo9Globally, 61 million primary school age children are still out of school. More than 56 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa aged 15-24 have not completed primary school. In Tanzania, of 48 schools assessed, not even a single student could pass the primary school exam.

Primary education is vital for the inclusive growth of a country – and the individual. If you haven’t got primary education – because there were no schools or you went to a school that was dreadful – you don’t have an initial platform to stand on. It is the chief source of social mobility but it is not accessible to astonishingly large proportion of the poor.

Education, one of the basic rights of an individual, has become a distant dream for many; “quality education” has become a niche product accessible only by the elite. This has resulted in an extremely high skill deficit especially in developing countries, creating social malaise.

The OECD projects that India will produce 24 million graduates by the end of this decade, however:

  • an earlier survey by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) found that only 39.5% of all graduates in India were viewed as employable
  • only 10% of graduates from business schools in India manage to get hired
  • a study by Aspiring Minds showed that India produces more than 500,000 engineering graduates a year, but barely 3% of an assessed 55,000 graduates were viewed as ready to be employed without extra training.

The problem is not just in India or developing countries; Harvard Business Review estimates that by 2020, the worldwide shortage of highly skilled, college-educated workers could reach 40 million.. “Even America is neither producing enough college graduates to sustain a robust workforce, nor fulfilling its national promise of economic opportunity for all,” writes Daniel Greenstein.

There are more youth in the world now than ever before, and most of them are concentrated in developing countries. With less than two years to achieve the Education for All goals and the Millennium Development Goals, now is the time to start planning for Education Post 2015. The focus needs to switch to quality of education and skills training for youth that can lead to meaningful employment.

Two major steps are required post-2015:

  1. By 2030, all children and youth should complete primary and lower secondary education which enables them to meet measurable learning standards and acquire relevant skills so they may become responsible, productive members of society.
  2. Corporations should conduct an inventory of skills and create a detailed estimate of the kinds and amounts of skills they require. Based on these needs, they should conduct skills training programs, and diploma and certificate courses in partnership with government agencies.

Public-private partnerships and participation of youth in policy decisions regarding education and skills development should be the mantras for education post-2015. I agree with Pauline Rose that “Education needs its Bill Gates” but I would add that “Education also needs its Martin Luther King Jr” – education needs funds and equity.

Naim Keruwala was a member of the international editing team for the youth version of the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report. He is a project consultant (governance) at Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries & Agriculture, a core team member of YUVA Unstoppable and an alumnus of AIESEC.

Email: naimkeruwala@gmailcom | Twitter: @Naim_K



  1. Hi,

    I was thinking this might be of interest to you—and every a propos of what you have written here (without highly qualified teachers, the certification that an education system confers in dubious):

    Teacher Professional Development in Crisis: How Can We Give Teachers in Fragile Contexts the Learning They Want and Need? is a three-month online special forum hosted by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) at http://www.ineesite.org/en/blog/teacher-professional-development-in-crisis-series. The forum brings together international experts, practitioners and teachers to share PD-related research, ideas and strategies so we can gather in one space our collective understanding of effective professional development to begin to shift the narrative around professional development from “quantity” and “scale” to quality and impact.

    The forum will include weekly contributions by professional development specialists who work in a variety of global settings who will discuss:

    · Problems and solutions in teacher professional development (TPD) and continuous professional development (CPD)

    · Best practices, case studies and models of effective professional development supported by research

    · Ways forward to bring high-quality professional development to teachers across the globe, with an emphasis on developing countries, fragile contexts, and low-income environments

    The forum is being organized and facilitated by Mary Burns, Education Development Center (USA) and James Lawrie, War Child (Netherlands) with the support of Peter Transburg (INEE). The forum will also support French, Spanish and Portuguese-language discussions for those who are more comfortable in these languages.

    The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) is a global network of over 8,500 practitioners and policy makers based in Paris. It promotes the right to quality education and safe learning environments in emergencies and post-crisis recovery.

    Though the term, “fragile,” is typically defined as a governance issue and used in an international context, I think some of the areas in which many of you work and the issues you confront—inequity, poverty, family and community violence, and marginalization–also make for “fragile” environments. So I hope you will share your thoughts and experiences as well.

    How to Participate

    1. Go to the following website and create an account (it is free): http://www.ineesite.org/join (Unless you belong to one of the organizations listed, under “Organization/Affiliation,” check Other). You cannot participate unless you are in the INEE network.

    2. The URL for the discussion is: http://www.ineesite.org/en/blog/teacher-professional-development-in-crisis-series (or go to http://www.ineesite.org, select Blog, and then Teacher Professional Development in Crisis)

    3. Each Monday (from February 4-April 29, 2013) a guest author will post on a particular issue related to teacher professional development. If you wish to comment (we hope you will) you will have to log in in order to comment.

    4. Feel free to upload and share any evidence-based professional development related-resources that demonstrate effective professional development.

    Thank you and we look forward to your participation. Please disseminate this to colleagues whom you think may be interested, cross-post to any appropriate blogs/discussion lists, share your own resources on effective professional development, and/or write me (mburns@edc.org) with any questions you may have.

    Mary Burns


  2. I wish the students in America could read this article and realize how lucky they are to be in a country that gives them so many more opportunities. Getting education out to all the children in developing countries is going to be a challenge but it should be one of the most important things for the future generations.

  3. This article is the most truthful and to-the-point article I have read on education in a long time. Living in Nigeria, I share the same dilemma as the author. Public schools here are worse than terrible and private schools are strangling parents to death. If ever there was a way to control population growth, it is with the fees that private schools charge. It is terrible; we are facing illiteracy levels not seen in decades. I will be watching for everything this author has to say on education, he has an excellent grasp on the problems.

    1. Thanks you very much for the kind words Marina. I will try my best to bring out these problems and probable solutions through my research

  4. Yes Marina Osoba, evein in the Northern part of Nigeria, some people do not even attend the Government school especially the girls. I remember some couple of them when i went for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Things must be done.

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