Nearly 15 years ago, world leaders set a global target of universal education. The goal - to grant every boy and girl access to education across the globe - was sweeping. Yet, while much headway has been made - in the first ten years alone, the number of kids out of school was nearly halved - progress has come to a dangerous halt. Despite achievements early on, including expanding enrollment in pre-primary school, aid to basic education has declined by nearly 20% over the past ten years. Fifty-nine million children still remain out of school. And, while pre-primary school enrollment has grown by more than 60%, half of the world's children under the age of five are still without access - and worse, only 17% of children in low-income countries have early education access.
The case for investing in education is clear: beyond promoting economic growth and curtailing poverty, education also improves health and fosters peace. Nowhere are these benefits more important than in the first few years of a child's life which lay the foundation for cognitive and non-cognitive functions, social interactions and future success. Economically speaking, it is estimated that there is up to an 18% return on investment when pre-primary enrollment increases to 50% in every low- and middle-income country.
We represent three of the leading corporations and nonprofit foundations in the Nordic countries investing in early childhood development and are members of the Global Business Coalition for Education, an organization bringing together the private sector to help deliver quality education to children across the world. The members of the Global Business Coalition for Education support investing in children early to help provide the best possible start in life.
The Nordic countries are global leaders in education with more than 99% of primary school age children in primary school. And Norway, in particular, has emerged as a global leader as the only country out of the top 10 country donors to education to increase its aid over the past five years.
This week, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting the Oslo Summit on Education for Development bringing together international governments, donors, businesses and civil society to make critical decisions that will affect the lives of millions of marginalized children around the world.
We urge the global leaders at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development to expand and improve financing and investment for early childhood development and education.
We call for governments around the world to invest more in their own countries and clearly present the need for early childhood programming. Governments are currently not spending enough money on basic education, especially pre-primary. Globally, only 4.9% of total public government expenditure on education was spent on pre-primary education in 2012. Governments should also allocate more aid to those countries lagging behind on early childhood development and education. And we encourage business leaders and civil society worldwide to complement government efforts to support early childhood development and education.
In September, world leaders will meet again in New York to agree on the Sustainable Development Goals, the next set of global ambitions for 2030 in addition to the existing goals the global community has failed to achieve. Critical to achieving the 2030 goals will be giving children the best start in life by supporting education and development in the early years of life all over the world.
Together we have the opportunity to establish better prospects for the world's children by investing in their future at a scale capable of achieving universal pre-primary education by 2030. This is necessary for business. This is necessary for society. And most importantly, this is necessary for the future of our children.
Jacob Kragh, President, LEGO Education
Sanna Lukander, VP Learning, Rovio Entertainment Ltd.
Maria Bystedt, Acting Global Manager, H&M Conscious Foundation