Bulletin on EFA action worldwide No.48

(24 July 2003)

    Welcome to UNESCO's electronic news bulletin on Education for All.

    EFA flagships and international initiatives under scrutiny

    EFA flagship programmes and initiatives are increasingly finding their place in the education for all movement because they advance education issues of particular concern. However, further clarification on their role and functions, how they link to each other and how they fit into the EFA drive in countries and regions is needed.

    This was one of the main conclusions of the fourth meeting of the Working Group on Education for All, a technical advisory body bringing together 57 representatives of the main EFA constituencies and some 20 observers. The two-day meeting ended yesterday at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris and showed, according to John Daniel, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education "a very encouraging spirit of teamwork and a high level of activity".

    Participants welcomed the diversity of initiatives but pointed to a certain overlap between them, a lack of funding and inadequate links with national planning processes and development frameworks such as UNDAF and PRSPs.

    Panel discussions focused on the following four key international initiatives:
    1. The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), led and coordinated by UNICEF;
    2. The Fast-Track Initiative, in which the World Bank plays the leading role;
    3. HIV/AIDS and Education, in which UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) is a key actor; and
    4. The United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012), for which UNESCO is the lead agency.

    In the background document, prepared by UNESCO with inputs from EFA partners, a flagship programme is defined as "a structured set of activities carried out by voluntary partners, under the leadership of one or more UN agency, to address specific challenges in achieving the Dakar goals."

    "These flagships form," Daniel said, "an armada that sails broadly in the same direction - towards education for all." He informed the meeting that the 2003 EFA Global Monitoring Report will provide an assessment of the role of flagships and promised that UNESCO would prepare a short document highlighting their features and advantages and how countries can tie into them.

    In his opening address, UNESCO's Director-General, Koichiro Matsuura, welcomed the increasing interest and attendance of representatives of multilateral agencies, donor countries and civil society in the Working Group. He was particularly pleased to have, for the first time, the Forum of African Parliamentarians for Education (FAPED) represented at the meeting.

    Subject to the approval of the General Conference at its next session in October, UNESCO is looking forward to some modest real growth in its budget for the next biennium, he announced. These extra funds will be used to assist twenty countries identified by the 2002 EFA Global Monitoring Report as being at high risk of not achieving the EFA goals.

    Related documents:

    * Address by UNESCO's Director-General, Koichiro Matsuura:

    * Powerpoint presentation on EFA Flagships by John Daniel, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education

    * Background paper "EFA Flagships: Multi-Partner Support Mechanisms to Implement the Dakar Framework for Action"

    The urgency of girls' education

    Time is running out for girls' education, with only two years to the 2005 deadline of putting equal numbers of boys and girls into school. Participants at the session on the UN Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) agreed that all actors should make as much noise as possible and as often as possible to advance this cause.

    According to the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2002, some fifty countries are not on track to reach the gender parity goal. A survey presented by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) of 11 national plans showed that most of these plans had not sufficiently addressed gender parity.

    The United Kingdom's development agency, DFID, reported on progress made at the international level: girls' education is now established as an institutional priority for partner organizations, international collaboration has been strengthened, the acceleration strategy for 25 selected countries is in place and bilateral donors have increased their funding.

    Some participants pointed to the need to shift attention from the international to the regional and national levels. Others saw the need to strengthen the linkages to the Fast-Track Initiative by, for example, including girls' education in the Initiative's assessment guidelines and between UNGEI and the other flagships. More accurate data, the abolition of school fees and increased involvement of communities in policy-making were other measures proposed.

    UNICEF, as the lead agency for UNGEI, sees the 2005 deadline as a "watershed target" that will ensure accountability for what has been done and not been done and set a platform for sustaining the momentum towards 2015.

    Related documents:

    * Country Report : Accelerating Progress on Girls' Education in Bangladesh
    by Kazi Farid Ahammed / Development Ministry of Primary & Mass Education Bangladesh

    * UNGEI: Accelerating Progress on Girls' Education by Desmond Bermingham, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID)

    * Accelerating Progress on Girls' Education by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)

    * Understanding UNGEI as an EFA Flagship by Cream Wright, UNICEF

    Pushing forward the Fast Track Initiative

    The first global funding scheme for EFA - the Fast Track initiative (FTI)- is a positive 'learning-by-doing' exercise. It needs to pick up pace, building on experience and feedback.

    Participants agreed that work should continue in the 18 selected countries, while simultaneously inviting those who meet the criteria - i.e. sound education sector plans and commitment to poverty reduction - to join. "Our 2005-2015 deadlines are fast approaching, we cannot afford to be cautious," one participant commented.

    The initiative was praised for creating dynamic processes at both international and national levels. "We needed this initiative to make our aid to education credible," a donor representative said. In addition, donor coordination and harmonization of procedures have improved. At the national level, countries have greater incentives to prepare credible plans and strategic frameworks, which will accelerate their progress towards of the EFA goals.

    But the picture is not all rosy. Participants identified several shortfalls:

    1. The current focus on universal primary education is too narrow. All six Education for All goals need to be addressed, as they are inter-linked. The issue of equity must be part of the process; focus on increased efficiency is not enough.

    2. Civil society participation is crucial and FTI needs to promote the involvement of grassroots organizations and build their capacity to make their role more effective. Participants also stressed that participation alone is not enough -- civil society input must be reflected in the final plans.

    Lastly, aid to education remains insufficient to meet the funding gap in low-income countries. Recent commitments do little more than reverse the 1990s decline in aid to education.

    Related documents:

    * The EFA Fast Track Initiative: Experience to Date and Next Steps by Barbara Bruns of the World Bank

    * Tracking Progress of the Fast Track Initiative: A review of the FTI and indicative framework for education reform by
    Pauline Rose, Centre for International Education, University of Sussex

    * The FTI experience in Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education

    Literacy: the key to other EFA goals

    One in five adults cannot read or write and some 113 million children are not in school. Literacy campaigns of the past have largely failed to reduce illiteracy levels.

    The UN Literacy Decade (UNLD) (2003-2012) is an opportunity to tackle illiteracy, for literacy is the key to a better quality of life and essential to meeting some of the other Education for All goals. It aims to create literate environments vital for achieving EFA. Participants at this session agreed that if UNLD is to be successful it must be country-driven. Some argued that many governments had already withdrawn from literacy, leaving it largely up to the NGO community. Rapid ministerial groundwork is needed in those countries that have yet to set up national literacy or UNLD mechanisms. And indeed what mechanisms need to be set up?

    Literacy has the potential to affect all the other flagships and should therefore feature prominently in poverty reduction strategies and in all development initiatives. Indeed, participants argued that it should have pride of place on the agenda of the Fast Track Initiative.

    Capacity building was needed to assist countries in calculating the costs of literacy per capita. This will involve comparative research and developing criteria for assessment. Indeed, assessment and research are neglected areas. One participant referred to the "secrecy" of literacy, because he added: "we know nothing about it." How many illiterates are there? Who are they? Where are they and what literacy programmes work? Better quantitative and qualitative data are required.

    Finally, not only was donor funding to literacy considered a requirement, but this funding should reach down to the national and local levels.

    Related documents:

    * Brazilian Education for All Policy by Lucia Helena Lodi, Department Director Ministry of Education of Brazil

    * Improving Livelihoods for the Poor: The role of literacy by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID)

    * United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD: 2003-2012) by Aicha Bah Diallo, UNESCO's Deputy Assistant Director-General for Education

    Turning the tide on the HIV/AIDS epidemic

    HIV/AIDS is the "deadly nexus" in the development agenda: increasing poverty, reducing equity, weakening human rights, undercutting education and undermining good governance, explained Gudmund Hernes at the special HIV/AIDS session. He painted an extremely grim picture of current infection rates. "It is not leveling off, it is becoming truly global," he added. Some 42 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2002 and some of the most affected countries are approaching a state of social breakdown.

    HIV/AIDS is wiping out decades of investment in education and human development. Teacher shortage and increased pressure for children to drop out to care for sick adults are only a few examples of its impact. "Children and youth are at risk on an unparalleled scale," he added. In some countries more than a third of the 15-year olds will die of AIDS-related illnesses in coming years.

    Hernes stressed the importance of preventive education. "If it is done right, it works. If it is done now, it has long-term impact. If it is done massively, it can turn the tide." Preventive education is about changing attitudes and behaviours. Teachers need training, good materials, a supportive environment, a receptive community and political commitment. The importance of respecting traditional cultural values in reaching out to populations was stressed. The Working Group proposed the following measures to increase the effectiveness of preventive education.

    . Existing structures and organizations should be used (i.e. community-based groups);
    . Top-down strategies should be avoided, unless prior broad consultation has taken place;
    . Good practices should be identified and shared with others;
    . The teaching of preventive education should be improved;
    . Preventive education should start early, before young people are sexually active.

    Related documents:

    * EFA vs. HIV-AIDS by Gudmund Hernes of the International Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO

    New directions in monitoring and assessment

    The EFA Global Monitoring Report aims to foster a sense of international accountability towards commitments made in Dakar, said Chris Colclough, the report's Director. Monitoring, advocacy and communication play vital roles in raising education's profile on the political agenda, he told the Working Group meeting, before going on to remind participants that the Dakar Framework for Action called for a mechanism to leverage political commitment to EFA and mobilize resources. The Monitoring report, based on a broad research exercise, is a response to this call. In one year, the report has become "a major authoritative international source", he said.

    One major concern though is the lack of recent and reliable data. This is particularly true for literacy. More than two out of five countries have provided no literacy data in close to twenty years. Where data are available, they are neither comparable nor complete, said Benedicte Terryn of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. She explained that currently most national literacy statistics are based principally on a mix of self-declarations and educational attainment proxies. These measures are notoriously unreliable since declaration by oneself or by a household head is highly subject to bias.

    The Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP) is an attempt to address these issues. Its aim: to develop a methodology for assessing literacy in developing countries and building statistical capacity in the area of surveys and literacy assessments. Ultimately it should lead to better literacy interventions.

    Related documents:

    Developing the EFA Global Monitoring Report by Christopher Colclough, Director of the Report

    Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP) by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics

    The increasing influence of civil society

    The influence of civil society organizations is growing, explained Anne Jellema of the Global Campaign for Education. She was referring to the unprecedented success of the World's Largest Lesson on EFA, which mobilized 1.8 million people during the Global EFA Week 2003. She informed the meeting of how the campaign intends to build on this positive experience for next year's EFA Week. Carlos Zarco Mera of the Collective Consultation of NGOs on EFA, presented an overview of the work of this growing network which counts more than 600 NGOs.

    Related documents:

    The Big Lesson: What Lessons for EFA? by the Global Campaign for Education

    Outcomes from the Annual Assembly in Porto Alegre by UNESCO's Collective Consultations of NGOs in EFA

    Planning for the Third High-Level Group Meeting

    In the final session, Abhimanyu Singh, Lead Manager of the UNESCO Dakar Follow-up Unit, drew attention to the forthcoming Third High-Level Group Meeting (New Delhi, 11-12 November 2003). The agenda of this event is closely aligned to the 2003 EFA Global Monitoring Report on gender and EFA. He invited participants to use their influence to ensure that participants to this gathering were from the highest level.

    This EFA update was prepared by Anne Muller (a.muller@unesco.org) and Teresa Murtagh (t.murtagh@unesco.org), assisted by Mari Yasunaga (m.yasunaga@unesco.org) and Satoko Yano (s.yano@unesco.org)