Ministers of Education from the five BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – agreed to join forces with UNESCO to support education progress globally through coordinated actions and advocacy during a landmark consultation organized on the margins of the 37th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris on 6 November.
“Your countries have enormous potential individually to influence global education trends – this power is multiplied through collective action, through the experience you can share, through your growing roles as development partners, and through the new approaches you are developing for international cooperation,” said UNESCO’s Director-General at the opening of the consultation.
It is the first time that Education Ministers from BRICS countries have come together to discuss collaboration among themselves and jointly with UNESCO in the field of education. This takes forward significantly the Declaration by BRICS leaders at their 2011 Summit in Sanya, China, which recommended establishing a BRICS-UNESCO Group to explore opportunities for collaboration within the areas of UNESCO’s mandate.
Speaking as Chair of the BRICS Group, the Minister of Higher Education and Training of South Africa, Blade Nzimande, said there was consensus among all five countries on the importance of scaling up cooperation between BRICS and UNESCO in education.
This commitment was taken a step further by the proposal to convene a meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education prior to every BRICS Summit and each gathering of UNESCO’s General Conference, a suggestion put forward by the Brazilian Minister of the Education, Aloizio Mercadante, whose country will Chair the BRICS Group in 2014. Ms Bokova stated that “a firm commitment to education in the Declaration of the 2014 BRICS Summit would provide a very strong foundation for collective action”.
Data collection, learning assessment, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and ICTs in education were identified as priority areas for BRICS-UNESCO cooperation. Emphasis was also given to the role of BRICS in driving global education progress, both through expanded collective assistance to least developed countries and through joint efforts to promote education in major international fora, such as the G20, and in discussions on the post-2015 development framework.
The Minister of Education of China, Yuan Guiren, signalled the potential of BRICS to strengthen synergies, develop new methods of international support and significantly raise the profile of education on the global agenda. The diversity among BRICS in terms of education and demographic trends was recognized as an important strength of the Group, providing a rich and broad raging source of knowledge and experience that UNESCO could help share for the benefit of countries worldwide.
The centrality of education to development, growth and employment, and the urgency of deepening cooperation in order to address common challenges, was underscored by all BRICS Ministers. “Education could not be more important on the agendas of our countries” the Minister of State of Human Resource Development of India, Shashi Tharoor, affirmed.
“Strengthening education is key to our growth. We have a common interest”, urged Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.
Representing a milestone in both the BRICS partnership and UNESCO’s collaboration with the Group, Ministers agreed to establish a mechanism for permanent cooperation in education and invited UNESCO to play a central role in supporting their collective action.
Ms Bokova welcomed the outcome as giving major new impetus to efforts to reach the 2015 Education for All goals and charting new approaches to international cooperation in education. “The BRICS group shines light on a new world that is emerging, on a new map of dynamism, cooperation and action,” she said.