The Commonwealth in Action: Education

The new Commonwealth Education Ministers Action Group

EMAG Chair Jerome Fitzgerald

The Commonwealth Education Ministers Action Group (EMAG) held its inaugural meeting in London last week. It has been established specifically to translate international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, to practical policy action. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology for The Bahamas and Chair of the group, highlighted that “in spite of all these agenda items and targets [The Commonwealth] is still falling short with regard to outcomes” for education. This is despite the high priority given to educational issues by the Commonwealth, evidenced by the vast number of resources and initiatives produced by the organisation to support governments, policymakers, and teachers.

The group is composed of Ministers from Fiji, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, Solomon Islands, the UK, and The Bahamas, and will provide strategic direction to ensure commitments made at the three-yearly CCEM are delivered. At the 19thConference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (19CCEM) held in June 2015 participants set “Quality Education for Equitable Development: Performance, Paths and Productivity — The 3 Ps” as the theme of the proceedings, looked ahead to the implementation of the SDGs and agreed to form the Commonwealth Education Ministers Action Group.

As CMAG Chair Fitzgerald pointed out, the Commonwealth, and EMAG in particular, needs to “define what it means to have a quality education”. This is particularly important for a network of countries which is home to over one billion people in the Commonwealth below the age of 25 years. Because of this, Deputy Secretary General Mr Maharaj confirmed, “education is the single most powerful instrument in addressing poverty and stimulating growth and development (and) vital for sustained development in our member countries”.

In addition to EMAG there are a number of other positive areas of development:

1. The Commonwealth Accelerated Development Mechanism for Education (CADME) remains a work in progress; recruitment for consultants is ongoing for an instrument about which very little is yet known. Its development was one of the main tasks set for EMAG, and will support countries to harmonise national education goals with the internationally agreed post-2015 agenda.

2. The Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol is an example of how the Secretariat has led the way in setting parameters for international standards with regard to teacher migration. The protocol balances the rights of teachers to migrate internationally, against the impact of losing scarce human resources in developing or low income countries.

3. The Secretariat is engaging in more hands-on, front-line projects like the human rights training programme for teachers in Mauritius hosted by the Ministry of Education last week. The two-day session in Bagatelle presented a toolkit developed by experts from the Commonwealth Secretariat which provides educators with information on general human rights concepts, the goals and aims of the new curriculum, as well as practical classroom activities and role play scenarios for students. The teachers will pilot the toolkit in participating secondary schools over the next few weeks. The Commonwealth Secretariat has been providing technical assistance to the Government of Mauritius through each stage of developing the new curriculum. This initiative forms part of the Government’s response to the Universal Periodic Review.