Daring to persist while defining education for the future – By Tanvir Muntasim of ActionAid International

After 3 days of celebrating the past, learning from onsite visits and connecting with the academia and young students through a seminar, the final day saw some spirited discussions to chart the way for the future.

In the morning we looked at the Post 2015 goals while trying to be propositional about appropriate indicators. Two key principles guided our reflections. Firstly, as Alan reminded us yesterday, ‘Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.’ Secondly, as Divya emphasized ‘we only measure what we treasure’. Enthusiastic discussions led to some substantial formulations which will be submitted as part of the online consultation on Post 2015 indicators.

180 days remain on the countdown to Incheon, Korea, where the future direction of education will be determined and consensus reached. We are going away with a clear road map. We are aware of  numerous daunting challenges along the way-  aggressive corporate push for privatization, relentless insinuation from powerful institutions like World Bank that education is not a public good, State indifference towards the importance of lifelong learning, chronic negligence to the agenda of the youth, dwindling resources and reductive agenda with an insular outlook on the value and purpose of education. But the participants took heart in the power of solidarity, looking around the room and realizing that they are not alone and working in isolation. We didn’t get bogged down by the magnitude of the challenges, but tried to come up with creative and out of the box solutions. We discussed domestic resource mobilization through progressive taxation while reducing dependence on aid, how we can make the schools ready for children rather than the other way round. Provocative approaches like engaging with the fundamentalist groups and corporate sector (but without compromising our rights based principles) were also discussed and debated.

I realized at the end that ASPBAE has pulled off a difficult task with apparent ease- making its members realize that they are part of something much bigger than themselves without compromising their own vision and identity. ASPBAE has also proved that to successfully evolve to survive and thrive, there is no need for social Darwinism. It can be done successfully in a truly collaborative and participatory manner. It has shown true resilience and flexibility at the face of adversity in the past five decades without losing sight of its vision, and it will continue to grow for a long time to come. Granted, not every issue was resolved. But it is better to go back with difficult but right questions than with easy but wrong answers.

I will be leaving Yogyakarta with fond memories and strong resolve, knowing that an uphill battle lies ahead, but also realizing that we will have staunch friends who are also committed this monumental struggle with the biggest stake of all- a life of dignity for the coming generations on a liveable planet.

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