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Deputy Secretary-General addresses Education World Forum

10 January 2012
Ransford Smith: The importance of global and local partnerships in bridging development gaps in education

"Collaboration, mutual support and the adaption of technology to local circumstance through partnership are all part of positively impacting lives" – Ransford Smith

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith on 10 January stressed the importance of global and local partnerships in bridging development gaps in education.

Speaking at the three-day 2012 Education World Forum in London, UK, Mr Smith said that all Commonwealth countries had a contribution to make in advancing development goals, through sharing new ideas and best practice.

But he noted that the resources, skills and staffing to implement these may not easily be available in some countries. In this area, collaboration and partnerships cannot be emphasised enough, he said.

“An important part of our role in the Commonwealth is to support our diverse members and to ensure that innovative ideas can be adapted in varying circumstances,” he told delegates.

The annual Education World Forum is the largest global gathering of education ministers and focuses on future practice in education.

This year, it takes place ahead of the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in August in Mauritius on the theme ‘Education in the Commonwealth: Bridging the gap as we accelerate towards the Internationally Agreed Goals’.

The meeting will include forums for teachers, youth, post-secondary education and stakeholders, enabling a wide cross-section of citizens and interests to engage in dialogue and to share their views with ministers, Mr Smith said.

In his speech, he noted the pivotal role of education in society, describing it as “a cornerstone of both development and democracy". But education can only do this when it is available, accessible and relevant and of a high quality, he said.

While some progress has been made in reaching internationally-agreed education goals, much remains to be done. In the Commonwealth around 30 million primary age children are still out of school and almost two-thirds of these are girls. The Commonwealth Secretariat continues to focus on these issues.

The trend towards increased demand for secondary education has profound implications for governments and their capacity and ability to deliver on quality, said Mr Smith. The Secretariat has partnered with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa to strengthen the supply and quality of teachers on the continent.

Collaboration with the wider Commonwealth family, with its diverse resources and expertise, offers the potential for member countries to take a new course in tertiary education, he said.

To this end, the Secretariat works with organisations such as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, and other development partners.

Through its partnerships with international and regional organisations, professional bodies, civil society and the private sector, the Secretariat seeks to foster sustainable change in human and social development.

The Deputy Secretary-General cited a joint initiative with COL, the World Bank, Microsoft, the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network, UNESCO and the Government of Guyana towards using ICT effectively to support high quality education and learning in Guyana.

“Collaboration, mutual support and the adaption of technology to local circumstances through partnership are all part of positively impacting lives,” he said.

The session was also addressed by Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO, who told the forum: “Education brings sustainability to development. Investing in education is investing out of the crisis.”