Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged the E-9 countries of the UNESCO to align and integrate their initiatives of 'Education for All' with the SDG-4 to achieve the goal of universal education.
"As we have stepped in the era of SDGs, we have to align and integrate our initiatives and strategies with the 'SDG-4' (Education-2030) taking along the lessons and achievements of MDGs and EFA," she said inaugurating E-9 Ministerial Meeting at Hotel Radisson here today.
"We are living in a world where we depend on each other despite our diversity in culture, religion, race and language. Education can play a bridging role in promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and friendship," she said adding that education also gives the foundation of right values and dynamism of aspirations and required competencies.
The E9 is a forum of nine countries to achieve the goals of the UNESCO's 'Education for All' (EFA) initiative. The "E" stands for education and the "9" represents nine countries: Bangladesh., Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.
E-9 initiative has become a forum for the countries to discuss their experiences related to education, exchange best practices, and monitor EFA-related progress.
Representing over half of the world's population and 70% of the world's illiterate adults, the E-9 forum was launched in 1993 at the EFA Summit in New Delhi.
Education Minister and new chairperson of E-9 Nurul Islam Nahid, Minister for Primary and Mass Education Advocate Mostafizur Rahman spoke among others, on the occasion while Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova was in the chair.
Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training of Pakistan and outgoing chair of E-9 Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, presented the progress report from last meeting of the forum held in November 2014 and handed over chairmanship to Bangladesh's education minister.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the SDG-4 aims mainly at ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning while E-9 has become a common platform of North-South-South cooperation in the context of the new Global Education 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
"Keeping these global aspirations in mind, I hope, the esteemed educationists and policy makers present here will revitalize the past efforts and deliberate adjustments and new orientations for these nine countries sharing their aspirations, commitments, and priorities based on SDG 4- Education 2030," she said.
"E-9 ministerial meeting in Dhaka gives us a historic opportunity to collectively explore our response towards achieving SDG-4," the prime minister said.
Highlighting Bangladesh's success in achieving most of the MDGs Sheikh Hasina said the MDGs guided us for development efforts over the last decade and a half. It also helped achieving gender parity in the area of education which has also been a key element in the newly formed SDG-4, she said.
"Ensuring equitable and quality education, we believe, Dhaka meeting will lead the E-9 countries to effective learning outcomes as stated in SDG-4," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said inclusive, equitable and quality education and lifelong learning by 2030 might prove challenging to achieve. But we have to overcome the challenge by sharing our respective initiatives, practices and plan of action for future.
"Concerted efforts would give us the most effective results. E-9 has to work in close cooperation for that," she said.
In this regard the prime minister highlighted the present education policy of Bangladesh saying all strategies and policies with regards to education are being formulated according the well-consulted policy framed in 2010.
Under those policies, she said, steps were taken to bring poor students under stipend schemes, allocate additional resources to small ethnic, physically-mentally challenged and other disadvantaged groups, strengthen partnerships with private sectors/NGOs in hard-to-reach areas, increase scholarship programs for secondary and tertiary education, emphasize on technical and vocational education and improve quality and ensure inclusiveness of general education as well as lifelong learning.
Innovative methods and means include application of information technology in learning, interactive classes, use of open and distance learning system were adopted, she said.
Pointing out the initiative of her government to introduce one-year pre-primary education for children the prime minister said pre-primary books are being published in mother languages keeping in mind the students' right to learn in their mother tongue at their early stage.
"This has increased enrollment rate at primary level to around 98% and reduced dropout rate to 20% in 2016 from around 47% in 2011. Distribution of free textbooks at the very first day of school has also contributed to this success," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said over 2.25 billion textbooks have been distributed since 2010 to the students at primary and secondary levels, setting probably the example of the largest of its kind in the world.
Sheikh Hasina said education has been Bangladesh's national priority since the independence. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took some bold and visionary steps for the new country with a policy of universal education.
"Reaping benefits of those visionary steps, Bangladesh is now ready to face the challenges of achieving inclusive and equitable education of quality and lifelong learning by 2030," she said adding that education is one of the areas receiving her government's highest budgetary allocation.
Laying importance on enhancing quality of education, the prime minister said special emphasis must be given on teachers' education and training programmes.
"Attracting competent teachers for teaching is important," she said adding that considering the challenge, a qualified workforce for teaching profession, policy options and incentive plans should be explored for motivation.
Expecting timely and pragmatic recommendations and pathways from the E-9 meeting for realising the SDG-4, the prime minister hoped that the Dhaka meeting would start the process of sharing the best practices, devising action plan and programmes, finding new modes of partnership as well as welcoming regional and international dialogues on education.
She also expressed her firm optimism that E-9 countries would work together for a connected and knowledge-based North-South-South in this process.
The journey of the E-9 countries towards quality with quantity education in light of SDG-4 will start from this meeting and 'Dhaka declaration' would come to be a source of our inspiration, the prime minister hoped.