Lines. They're comforting, understandable, and logical. They can connect two things or divide them. In dividing, a line creates two spaces. Two realities. The reality under a line is usually unacceptable. The reality above the line is acceptable. The line becomes a minimum standard.
The US$1.25 (PPP) poverty line is perhaps one of the world's most recognisable lines. (Although is appears set to be changed by the World Bank). It has become a rallying point for leaders, advocates, and communities. It represents an economic minimum on human dignity and survival. Below the line is extreme poverty. Above the line is still poverty, but it is not extreme. It is estimated that 1 billion people live under this line in extreme poverty, and that extreme poverty can be ended by 2030.
This line has been shaped by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the MDGs shaped by this line. World leaders are meeting between 25-27 September 2015 in New York to agree and commit to the new set of goals as the MDGs expire. The replacement Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently have Goal 1.1 set as, "By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day".
A new line is being drawn in education that also includes a dollar figure.
The MDGs focus in education was on universal primary schooling, which was achieved in just over half of the countries that signed up to the Education For All goals. Financing has often fallen short. Led by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), #FundEducation is the new rallying cry with the line being drawn at $1.18.
The GPE estimates that $1.18 is the average cost of a day's education for a child in a developing country from pre-primary to the end of secondary school. This means a child who starts pre-primary in 2015 will cost their government $1.18 per day for 13 years for a total cost of $5419.33. An estimated 88% of this $1.18 will be financed by developing countries' education budgets. The GPE argues that the financing gap is, therefore, only $0.14 per child per day. Or a total cost of $629.78 per child.
The Education Line is complemented by social media materials and campaigning, which, like the poverty line (i.e Live Below The Line), focuses on comparisons and empathy. "What can you get for a $1.18?" asks a dedicated website. It presents a grid of nine images, and 10 seconds to choose your answers. There is also a short YouTube animation video that is, you guessed it, 1:18 in length.
In the animation video, the consequences of education, and of literacy, are expounded. Skills, independent life, economic livelihood, and "escape poverty for good". What can only be described as a finger with arms, legs, and eyes, grows has he walks up stairs constructed of books. At the peak, a doctor's stethoscope appears around the finger's lack of a neck. The consequences of the gap - the $0.14 - are also highlighted. "It is the difference between a girl attending a school or not or a teacher having forty or eighty students in their classroom", says the voice over.
However, advocates at New York's UN Summit are pushing to shift the focus of the global education agenda. Lifelong learning opportunities for all is a central theme of the current phrasing of the education goal in the SDGs. That is, lifelong learning opportunities for children, youth, and adults. The MDGs and previous agenda focused almost exclusively on primary education for primary-aged children.
The creation of the Education Line and #FundEducation campaign continues the previous agenda with an expanded mandate of post-primary education. Although it fits within the overall lifelong learning concept, the #FundEducation campaign doesn't favour lifelong learning opportunities for all. Rather, it favours formal education from pre-primary to secondary for children aged 5-18. This tension between two quite different education agendas is unlikely to ease with global commitment to the SDGs.