The second edition of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) presents the latest evidence on global progress towards the education targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With hundreds of millions of people still not going to school, and many not achieving minimum skills at school, it is clear education systems are off track to achieve global goals. The marginalised currently bear the most consequences but also stand to benefit the most if policy-makers pay sufficient attention to their needs. Faced with these challenges, along with tight budgets and increased emphasis on results-oriented value for money, countries are searching for solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list.

The 2017/8 GEM Report shows the entire array of approaches to accountability in education. It ranges from countries unused to the concept, where violations of the right to education go unchallenged, to countries where accountability has become an end in itself instead of a means to inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning for all.

The report emphasises that education is a shared responsibility. While governments have primary responsibility, all actors – schools, teachers, parents, students, international organizations, private sector providers, civil society and the media – have a role in improving education systems. The report emphasises the importance of transparency and availability of information but urges caution in how data are used. It makes the case for avoiding accountability systems with a disproportionate focus on narrowly defined results and punitive sanctions. In an era of multiple accountability tools, the report provides clear evidence on those that are working and those that are not.

Whilst the importance of equality and inclusion in tackling out-of-school children is now widely recognised, the extent to which discrimination, in all its forms, contributes to the denial of primary education, and the potential for the rights to equality and non-discrimination to offer solutions, are currently underexplored. This report seeks to fill this gap by (1) identifying the ways in which inequality and discrimination underpin children’s lack of access to and completion of primary education, through illuminating the discriminatory nature of the barriers and challenges children face in this context; and (2) exploring ways in which equality law may be used to tackle this problem, looking in particular at equality law approaches to advocacy and strategic litigation.