DELEGATES FROM 180 COUNTRIES TO EXAMINE NEW CHALLENGES,
"BEST PRACTICES" IN EDUCATION
Geneva (Switzerland), September 4 (N°2001-92)
- When education ministers and delegates from more than 180 nations convene
to discuss new challenges and critical policy choices at the 46th
International Conference on Education (5-8 September 2001, Geneva), they can
look back on a past decade shaped by both positive and negative trends in
* Since 1990, the world's illiterate population has declined only
slightly from 895 million to 875 million today. If the status quo in
education policy continues, one in every ten young adults (15-24 years old)
will be illiterate in ten years time.
* Donor aid devoted to education accounts for 2% of education spending
worldwide. Between 1990 and 1997, donor aid for education actually declined
(from US$3.64 billion to US$3.55 billion).
* The UN estimates that, on average, an additional $7 billion dollars per
year must be spent over the next decade in order to educate all the children
in the world - less than the amount Europeans spend annually on ice cream.
* In South Asia, nearly three-in-five women are still illiterate today
(compared to one-in-three men). Of the estimated 875 million illiterates
worldwide, some 580 million (or two-thirds) are women and girls.
Since 1990 several positive trends also have emerged:
* Primary net enrolment ratios in the Latin American and Caribbean region
have risen from 84% in 1990 to 94% in 1998, in the process halving the
out-of-school child population from 11.4 million to 4.8 million. During this
same period, developing countries as a whole increased net enrolment for
children of primary school age from 78% to 82%.
* Over the past decade, the working-age population (15-64 years) in every
region of the world has expanded more rapidly than the population of
children below the age of 15. As fertility rates continue to fall over the
coming decades, many countries in both the developed and developing regions
will have an opportunity to better meet the educational requirements of
* Since 1990, literacy rates for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa
have risen from 41% to 54% of the population, while in Arab States they have
climbed from 37% to 50%.
* Among 15-24 year olds, little or no gender disparity exists in literacy
rates in Latin America & the Caribbean, East Asia and Oceania as well as
the Europe and North
* America regions. In addition, women now make up nearly half (48%) of
students enrolled in higher education worldwide.
This year's International Conference on Education - organized by the
International Bureau of Education (IBE) of UNESCO - will draw attention to
some 100 "Best Practices" in education from around the world,
particularly initiatives that might be transferable from one region or
context to another. These include South Africa's "40 schools
project" to directly assist victims of violence and involve both
teachers and students in the promotion of national reconciliation; Canada's
school curriculum for Nunavut, a newly self-governing Inuit territory; and
Malaysia's Mobile Internet Unit's effort to reach even the country's most
rural and remote communities.
The unifying theme of the conference is: "Education for All for
Learning to Live Together". Conference delegates - including around 80
Ministers of Education - will examine and debate practical policy options on
six timely themes:
1. Adapting school curricula to the ethical dimensions of rapid
scientific and technological advances. A workshop - organized by UNESCO and
the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, La Villette, Paris - will further
discuss science education reform, basic science teaching, methodologies for
interdisciplinarity, and other themes.
2. Designing curricula to combat social exclusion and violence. The
Ministry of Education of Argentina and the Institut Universitaire d'Etudes
du Développment (IUED, Geneva) will organize a workshop to discuss how the
content and processes of formal education may relate to social exclusion and
patterns of violence.
3. Introducing educational initiatives that narrow the digital divide. A
workshop - funded by the governments of Norway and Finland - will advocate
policy choices that narrow the gap between the information rich and poor,
and explore the potential new technologies have in improving learning,
teaching, quality, management and delivery of education.
4. Integrating language-teaching policies and other strategies to broaden
understanding. A workshop - financed by the Ministry of Education of the
Netherlands - will highlight ways to balance requirements for mono-lingual
national curricula with the challenge of improving minority and
foreign-language teaching at school.
5. Shaping curricula to recognize cultural and linguistic diversity. A
workshop - organized with the Intercultural Bilingual Education Training
Programme for the Andean Countries - will focus on the integration of
cultural diversity into the teaching of common values and democratic
6. Citizenship education: learning at school and in society. A workshop -
funded by the Danish Ministry of Education - will examine the role of
schools in preparing young people for active participation in and analytical
judgement of the democratic process, as well as education's role in
defending common values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human
The conference also aims to focus the attention of policy-makers on a
global action plan that commits governments to carry forward the most
ambitious inter-UN agency campaign ever launched to eradicate illiteracy and
achieve universal, quality Education for All (EFA) targets by 2015, in line
with a framework for action adopted in April 2000 by more than 180 nations
at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will chair a special meeting,
beginning at 9.30 a.m. on September 8, on the involvement of civil society
in promoting Education for All.
Press Conference: Sir John Daniel, head of UNESCO's Education Sector;
Martine Brunschwig Graf, chief of the Department of Public Education of the
Republic and Canton of Geneva; and Cecilia Braslavsky, director of the IBE,
will meet the press on September 4 at 9.30 a.m. at the Palais des Nations.
For further information, journalists may contact Ms. Nadia Sikorsky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
at tel: (41 22) 917 78 25 - fax: (41 22) 917 78 01 or the UNESCO Bureau of
Public Information's Press Service (email@example.com) at tel: 06 14
69 53 72 - fax: (33-1) 45 68 56 52.