The pace of the discussions on the post-2015 agenda in education is accelerating. In these discussions, the attention of many actors and stakeholders is shifting from a pure quantitative focus on access and participation in formal education to include an increasing concern for the quality and relevance of education, with a particular focus on the importance of learning outcomes and their social distribution.
In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, several countries have made advances in reducing the number of out of school children, through reforms, policy developments and innovations in service provision. Turkey is an example of a country that has made impressive advances in enhancing participation rates of marginalized children in education, particularly girls, in improving data collection systems on children out of school and in improving learning outcomes. Other good examples (Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal) come from the European Union (EU), which has launched a movement to reduce the numbers of Early School Leavers.
Despite the progress made across the region, striking inequities in levels of educational attainment and outcomes persist across the region. Thus, increasingly countries in the region see it as their priority to close equity gaps in both access to and outcomes of education.
To close equity gaps, education systems must better address the unfinished business of MDG 2 and focus on improving access and completion in basic education while at the same time ensuring the quality and relevance of learning. Inclusive education systems are those that respond to the needs of each and every child and thus reduce exclusion. To address the needs of marginalized children and adolescents, partnerships must go beyond the education sector and be built at the system-level across sectors.
The voice of learners – particularly youth – needs to be incorporated in order to design, monitor and ensure the effectiveness of education reforms and initiatives.
In today’s environment of limited financial resources, it is more imperative than ever that governments renew their political commitment to inclusive and quality education, exchange their experiences and lessons learnt, and work collaboratively toward developing networks and creating opportunities for horizontal cooperation. The focus of the planned Ministerial Conference will be on promoting cross-country exchange and collaboration on closing equity gaps in education participation and learning.
 Defined as young people aged between 18 and 24 years that have completed ISCED level 2 (lower-secondary education) or below and are not currently enrolled in education or training.