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Improving Inclusion, Innovation and Implementation:
The G7 Education Ministers at Kurashiki

Caroline Bracht, Senior Researcher, G7 and G20 Research Groups
May 17, 2016

Over the course of the 20th century, education went from being a topic not suitable for multilateral engagement to being a commonly accepted conversation at the global level. Since 1977 the G7/8 leaders have contributed to its governance both within their own countries and internationally by making concrete commitments, providing resources, participating in international conferences and creating multilateral measurement tools. Commitments have been made to support educational initiatives to pursue a variety of overall societal goals. Some initiatives have addressed a desire to improve social efficiency by preparing individuals adequately for the labour market; other commitments have attempted to increase democratic and civic participation among citizens. Still others have aimed at achieving more economic equality and a more fair distribution of wealth.

The G7 ministers of education met at Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture in Japan on May 14–15, 2016, for the first time since meeting in Moscow on June 1–2, 2006. T hree main themes stood out in the resulting G7 Kurashiki Education Ministers' Declaration. The first was a response to the mass migration of refugees from Syria and other countries experiencing conflict at present into G7 members. The G7 ministers used this opportunity to reframe education, titling a section of the declaration "The New Role for Education." The goal is to use education to counter the complex global challenges of unemployment, poverty  and inequality, and to facilitate social inclusion and respect for common values. This use of education as a practice of cross-cultural understanding and acceptance can also contribute to decreasing the radicalization of small segments of the population in the receiving countries. In the ministers' words, "education helps transform societies so that no one is excluded." They committed to make every effort to "achieve equitable and quality education for all people."

The second theme has been dealt with directly and comprehensively before at the G8's St. Petersburg Summit in July 2006 with the publication of Education for Innovative Societies in the 21st Century. Now in 2016, ministers referred to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Everything. Technology was framed positively for the most part, with attention to the well-known fact that it causes shifts in the labour market both creating and removing jobs. Their response was to improve links between education/training and employment in a technology-intensive world. The ministers pledged to make every effort to achieve equitable and quality education for all people, highlighting that literacy in information and communication technologies is an indispensable skill for children and that all deserve connectivity.

The third theme tied the first two together with its focus on the on-the-ground implementers, namely the teachers. Ministers recognized that in order to achieve these advances, teachers must be on board, be well resourced and remain abreast of the increasing breadth of their responsibilities and the overall societal goals and role for education. Ministers committed to collaborate to support the professional development of teachers to acquire cultural and global competencies.

Now that the ministerial meeting is over, implementation must begin. Enhancing international and G7 cooperation was emphasized throughout the communiqué. The ministers committed to sharing information in multiple areas, and to engaging in cross-cultural dialogue to promote research, studies and international exchanges. Ministers often referred to the 2015 Incheon Declaration and the new Sustainable Development Goals, and they welcomed the Education 2030 Framework for Action adopted by the global education community alongside with the 38th UNESCO General Conference. Finally, and importantly, ministers set out the Guiding Principle of G7 Education Ministers outlining how the commitments will be put into practice on a global scale.  This forward-looking communiqué concluded by announcing the next meeting of G7 education ministers under Italy's presidency in 2017. The G7 will thus become a good landing spot for policy makers after a year of progress.

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Caroline Bracht
Caroline Bracht, M.Ed., is a senior researcher for the G20 Research Group, G7 and G8 Research Group, BRICS Research Group and Global Health Diplomacy Program, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She has researched and written on G20, BRICS and G7/G8 compliance, specifically on development, climate change and energy commitments. She has recently co-authored articles entitled "Generating Global Health Governance through BRICS Summitry" in Contemporary Politics and "Connecting Climate Change and Health through Global Summitry" in World Medical and Health Policy. She was the lead researcher for a project commissioned by the International Labour Organization on the G20's implementation of the commitments in the Seoul Development Consensus. Caroline leads the group's work on education, social policy, health and compliance.

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