Education Law Center was honored to be included among the presenters at
Global Seminar, "Optimizing Talent: Closing Educational and Social Mobility
Gaps Worldwide," on December 6-11, 2011. Over 60 education leaders from countries
in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas participated in the seminar.
ELC Executive Director David Sciarra
prepared a paper entitled "Toward Fiscal Equity in the United States" and co-authored
by Drs. Bruce Baker and
Danielle Farrie. The paper is based on the Fair
School Funding National Report Card released by ELC in 2010, and was presented
at the seminar by Molly Hunter of ELC. An updated National Report Card will be
released in April 2012.
The seminar showed that great progress has been made across the world!
Seminar faculty and participants discussed the worldwide status of educational
opportunity and social mobility and recent progress in both areas. They also
explored the various ways in which education is financed and gained insights
from several national and regional examples of the politics and policymaking
necessary to close educational gaps. A few brief samples gleaned from this
six-day, content-rich event follow.
Access to early childhood education and primary education has seen dramatic
improvement, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But continued growth
is needed. UNESCO coordinates the Education
for All (EFA) partners in their efforts to meet goals set in 2000 that 164
nations pledged to meet, including universal access to free, quality primary
education by 2015.
Sixty-seven million children around the world---mostly in rural and remote
areas and the majority girls---had no access to education in 2010. That number
had decreased from 135 million in 2000, during a period of population growth.
Nations classified as low-wealth increased their investments in education
from 2.6% of GDP to 3.5% in only one decade, while their GDP was growing. In
Latin America, education spending moved from 2.7% to 4.9% of GDP in the last
In Shandong Province in eastern China, rural teachers' salaries jumped six-fold
to reach parity with urban teachers' salaries, phased in over a 10-year period.
Shandong also invested in new buildings and technology for its rural schools
and in professional development for teachers, and now assigns more well-prepared
teachers to rural schools. (Shandong Province's population is about 100 million,
about 2 ½ times the population of California.)
In Chile, 70% of those entering college are the first in their family to do
so. But, large inequities remain for low-income children.
Ghana devotes the largest share of its national budget to education at 29%,
which is 5.5% of its GDP. After years of improving access, Ghana has a teacher
shortage and faces a new challenge, providing more high schools for the many
students coming to that point in their education. Ghana recently moved from
the status of "developing" nation to that of "middle-income" nation.
Despite progress, stubborn problems remain.
For example, Roma (gypsy) children in Europe are often segregated or excluded,
even though the European Commission required governments to plan for Roma integration.
Parallels were drawn with the U.S., in this regard: segregated, predominantly
Roma schools are inequitable; they have lower quality teaching, less funding,
and lack other educational resources, not unlike American schools with large
numbers of low-income students.
Seminar faculty warned that it's difficult to generalize across regions of
the world and that context matters. For example, Latin America consists of
a well-to-do group of nations, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica; a
middle group, such as Mexico and Columbia; and a low-wealth group, including
most of Central America, Bolivia, and Peru. Educational opportunities and attainment
and the countries' capacities to improve both vary markedly among these groups.
Similarly, an experienced Asian education expert pointed to great progress
in access to education in Mongolia and Cambodia, but major inequities remain.
In the poorer parts of Asia, high child mortality rates and malnutrition are
In much of the more developed world, income inequality is on the rise. If
these countries are to realize the social cohesion and economic benefits of
better education, seminar faculty advised that they must improve opportunity
for their lower income students. Denmark and Finland are leading the way.
Chaired by Michael Nettles, Senior Vice President at the Educational Testing
distinguished faculty included:
The Honorable Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Minister of Education, Ghana; Mariana Aylwin
and Josef Ritzen, former Ministers of Education in Chile and The Netherlands,
respectively; and, Zhang Zhiyong, Deputy Director of Education, Shandong Province.
Aylwin is now Executive Director, Corporación Educacional Aprender,
and Ritzen is a professor at Maastricht University at MERIT, among other positions.
Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's
Defense Fund, shared the compelling story of her childhood and her life's
work promoting civil rights and improving the life chances of disadvantaged children.
Other advocates among the faculty were Costel Bercus, Chair, Roma Education
Fund, and Junko Miyahara, Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood.
Several acclaimed researchers shared insights that are essential for closing
educational equity and social mobility gaps moving forward, including: Veronica
Boix-Mansilla, Harvard University; Dylan William, University of London; Teresa
Bracho, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Chile; Yusuf
Fayed, University of Sussex; Birger Fredriksen, the World Bank; Nicolas Burnett,
Results for Development Institute; Wang Rong, Peking University; and Cristián
Cox, Catholic University of Chile.
Additional faculty included Maureen McLaughlin, Director, International
Affairs Office, US Department of Education; Mee Foong Lee, Executive Secretary,
European Access Network; Catherine Millett, Senior Research Scientist, ETS; and
Molly Hunter, Director of Education
Justice at ELC.
The seminar was planned and conducted in partnership with ETS, and supported
by the DeVry
Foundation, the Ford Foundation,
and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.