Education and Professional Training

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Multilateral education and vocational training initiatives

Education, training and professional inclusion are the keys to development and one of the priorities of the development assistance provided by France, which on average grants almost 15% of its official development assistance (ODA) to the sector. This was also one of the international community’s priorities as part of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the health measures put in place have led to school closures in over 190 countries, affecting over 1.6 billion students all over the world. These school closures will lead to much missed education for students, which in some case will be difficult to catch up on. But they will also result in increased malnutrition among children, who have missed out on school meals during the confinement (370 million poor children have missed out on these meals during the confinement periods), and increased difficulties and discrimination against girls.

The progress made towards achieving quality education and lifelong learning opportunities is therefore at risk of stagnating and even slowing. The financing of education, via national financing and international assistance could suffer major cuts due to the current economic and health crisis. Against this backdrop, France reaffirms the importance of education for sustainable development and strengthening the resilience of States and societies.

A strategic choice

Supporting the education of young generations is a strategic choice to support sustainable and inclusive growth and the reduction of inequalities.
It is also one of the conditions of the demographic transition of developing countries and a factor in social cohesion. Education and training increase the skills of people in all sectors of the economy, whether modern, tradition, urban or rural. They help produce a higher standard of living and facilitate inclusion in the economy, particularly for young people. Setting up a development strategy centred around education and training also encourages gender equality and helps fight against the marginalization of the most vulnerable populations.

The French approach aims to develop continuous actions in the education-training-inclusion components. This helps children to develop essential skills via equal access to a basic quality education, promote the acquisition of professional and cross-cutting skills through training and employment policies and mechanisms, and to renew higher education and research abilities.

An inclusive choice

This is an inclusive choice, for a specific vision of life in a society in which men and women are born free and with equal rights, but can only exercise these rights through universal access to knowledge, language, expertise and ideas. Education is crucial to personal development, participation in civic life and access to a decent job and is a key factor in the resilience of societies, based on an educated, integrated social body which is part of a collective project. In the face of increasing inequalities and threats to peace and stability, education plays a role in all countries in the need to open up to others, in creating global citizenship and an understanding of the contemporary global world and its economic, technological and ecological transformations.

An inseparable choice from the promotion of Francophonie

There is an essential relationship between French, a language of openness and development, and education. France, which plays a key role in the spread of the French language, which is taught to 120 million students by half a million teachers, has with the International Organisation of La Francophonie a special responsibility towards the international community in this regard.

France is fully committed to Francophonie organizations which are active in the areas of education, including CONFEMEN (Conference of the Ministers of Education of French Francophone countries) and its Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems (PASEC) for the assessment of primary education, and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) (Francophonie University Association) for teacher training. It also supports the implementation in 2021 of a “Francophone Education Alliance”, shaped by the Secretary General of the OIF, the aim of which is to coordinate the educational work implemented by the various bodies and organizations of the Francophonie and its Member States.

Official development assistance, a bilateral and multilateral implementation instrument

The Interministerial Committee for International Co-operation and Development (CICID) meeting of February 2018 made education one of the five priorities of France’s external action.

The share of education in France’s total official development assistance, at 13% per year, or €1.3 billion in 2018, reflects this priority status. Bilateral aid comprises about 80% of the amount, with 20% in multilateral assistance.

The French strategy is implemented at bilateral level by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) via State operators, including the French Development Agency (AFD) and Expertise France, as well as through tools directly overseen by diplomatic posts, such as the French solidarity fund for innovative projects (FSPI).
French bilateral aid was €1.1 billion in 2018, including €1 billion in donations and €700 million in loans. It also includes both direct financing from the MEAE, including grants and tuition fees, and financing passing through the AFD or other State agencies. In 2018, €206 million in bilateral aid was channelled to the 19 priority countries for French ODA, including €53 million to the Sahel region.

France’s actions at both bilateral and multilateral level help achieve SDG 4. They seek to:

  • Supporting universal access to a base of fundamental skills;
  • Supporting the development of skills and training for strong, sustainable and inclusive growth;
  • Encouraging access to decent jobs for young people.

Achieving gender equality in education and the empowerment of girls

Although parity in education has been reached on a global level, major local, regional and national disparities still remain.

On average, parity has only been achieved in:

  • 2 out of 3 countries at primary schools,
  • 1 out of 2 countries in lower secondary education,
  • 1 out of 4 countries in upper secondary education,

There are still 130 million girls in the world who are not attending school. Gender equality within and through education is thus far from being achieved. According to UNESCO, a further 11 million girls are at risk of not returning to school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

France supports access to quality education for all girls, by including gender-related issues in the design and implementation of educational policies such as:

  • school environments free from gender-based violence,
  • proper health and hygiene facilities,
  • curriculums free from sexist prejudice,
  • teacher training on gender issues.

Furthermore, France supports the fight against early pregnancies and marriages, access for all girls to comprehensive sex education, and the involvement of women in education.

“Beijing +25: Generation equality begins with adolescent girls’ education” produced by France, Plan International France and UNESCO
This publication, which demonstrates the importance of educating adolescent girls in order to move forward with the visionary agenda of the Beijing Platform for Action and the achievement of the sustainable Development Goals, sets out recommendations for the Generation Equality Forum, to be held in June 2021.

Download the publication

View the video launch for the publication

The Gender at the Centre Initiative

In 2019, led by the French government, the G7 launched the Gender at the Centre Initiative in collaboration with specialized international organizations for planning educational policies and gender issues in education.

The initiative thus had two lead agencies, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIPE). The two agencies are working in close collaboration to ensure consistency in the implementation of the programme, in particular thanks to their complementary skills, knowledge and approaches. The Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF also play a supporting role in certain components of the programme.

The initiative, which will initially last for three year, is designed to support eight pilot projects in Africa in their efforts to achieve equality in the education sector: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

France’s is the initiative’s leading donor, contributing €4.5 million from a total of €7.5 million financing. Other donors include Germany, the European Union and Italy.

For more information

Sustainable Development Goal 4
Incheon Declaration
Education 2030 Framework for Action

Updated: February 2021