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Education goals remain elusive in more than 70 countries

 

November 13, 2002 - Some 83 countries are on track to achieve Education For All (EFA) by the deadline of 2015 set at the World Education Forum in Dakar (Senegal) two and a half years ago. However, on present trends, more than 70 other countries will not make it, and some are even going backwards. This is the conclusion of the 2002 Education For All Global Monitoring Report: Is the World on Track? launched by UNESCO in London earlier this week.

“This report shows that while, in many countries, good progress towards the goals set at the Dakar Forum is being made, in many others it is insufficent. It reconfirms the Forum’s diagnosis that almost one third of the world’s population live in countries where achieving the EFA goals remains a dream,” says Professor Christopher Colclough, an eminent British education and development expert who is also Director of the Report.

The Dakar Forum agreed on six goals, which were considered to be essential, attainable and affordable, given strong international commitment and resolve. Those goals are: to ensure, by 2015, that all children of primary school age would have more access to and complete free schooling of acceptable quality; that gender disparities in schooling would be eliminated; levels of adult illiteracy would be halved; early childhood care and education would be expanded; learning opportunities for youth and adults would be greatly increased; and all aspects of education quality would be improved.

According to the 2002 Report, 28 countries, accounting for over 26 percent of the world’s population, may not achieve any of the three measurable Dakar goals: universal primary education (UPE), gender equality and the halving of illiteracy rates. Two-thirds of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, but they also include India and Pakistan. Another 43 countries, covering 35.6 percent of the world’s population, risk falling short of at least one of these three goals.

At current rates of progress, the Report states, UPE is unlikely to be reached in 57 countries (see tables). Forty-one of these countries, including some Central and East European nations, have even been moving backwards. The goal of gender parity was supposed to have been met by 2005. The Report points out that girls’ enrolment improved in all regions during the 1990s: 86 countries have already achieved gender parity and another 35 are close to doing so. However, 31 nations remain at risk of not meeting this goal even by 2015. Finally, unless a much greater effort is made, a total of 78 countries will not be able to halve their rate of illiteracy by 2015. These include four of the world’s most populous countries, Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan, which alone account for 61 percent of the world’s illiterate adults.

The Report also finds that the cost of providing Education for All has been underestimated, partly because the high cost of HIV/AIDS and conflict on education has not been taken into account. According to the report, HIV/AIDS alone will add US$975 million to the annual bill for achieving UPE. Similarly, at least 73 countries are dealing with internal crises or are engaged in post-conflict reconstruction, greatly increasing the costs of achieving education for all, and recent history, states the report, suggests that at least four or five countries are likely to face major complex humanitarian emergencies over the next decade.

To meet the expense, major education and economic reforms will be required in many countries, along with a significant increase in budgetary resources available for basic education. Nevertheless, increased external aid will also be needed to close the financing gap. Previous estimates of the likely aid requirements have fallen short by about 50 percent, and according to the report, an extra $5.6 billion will be needed annually to achieve the UPE and gender goals alone. However, the Report clearly shows a startling decline in the real values of both total and education aid between 1990 and 2001 (see tables). Total bilateral aid to education, for example, which accounts for 70 percent of all such financial support, fell by 16 percent over the decade. This fall is partly explained, it says, by conflict, the inability of national institutions to absorb funds rapidly and the reluctance of some governments to reform education systems and policies.

The Report questions some aspects of aid programmes which provide budget support to countries with well-designed poverty reduction strategies and credible EFA plans. The problem with this approach, says the Report, is that it tends to reward those countries with a stable political culture and a developed policy tradition, and exclude other countries that are in most urgent need of support. This situation, states the report, “needs to be reversed: instead of the countries with the weakest policy environments receiving least attention from the international community, they actually must receive most attention.”

Another contributing factor to the difficulties of achieving the Dakar goals is the looming global teacher shortage. According to the report, an extra 15 to 35 million more teachers will be needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Three million extra teachers are needed for sub-Saharan Africa alone. Contrary to most other parts of the world, pupil teacher ratios have been rising again in recent years to a regional average of 40 students per teacher, compared to 25 per teacher in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Arab States and North Africa.
The annual Education For All Global Monitoring Report is prepared by an independent, international team based at UNESCO in Paris (France) as part of the follow-up to the Dakar Forum. It is funded jointly by UNESCO and multilateral and bilateral agencies, and benefits from the advice of an international editorial board.

“The Global Monitoring Report is an indispensable tool for the entire EFA movement,” states Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO. “The careful and accurate monitoring of progress towards the achievement of the EFA goals must be the foundation of not only improved understanding but also more effective action. By providing reliable data, rigorous analysis and cogent argumentation, the Report is a safeguard against complacency and a stimulus to do better.”

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Countries at risk of not achieving one or more of the Dakar goals

Countries at risk of not achieving universal primary education (UPE) by 2015 Total = 57

Bahrain, Barbados, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyztan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Syrian Arab Republic, The Former Yugoslav Rep. of Macedonia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zambia

Countries at risk of not achieving gender parity by 2015 Total = 31

Angola, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Grenada, India, Iraq, Lao P.D.R, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Togo

Countries at risk of not halving adult illiteracy
by 2015 Total = 78

Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia


Bilateral Average Annual Official Development Assistance Commitments for Education, 1990-2000 (constant 2000 $US millions)

As with total aid, the trend of bilateral aid flows to education has been downwards - from around US$5 billion at the start of the decade to less than US$4 billion by 2000. France, Japan, Germany, United States and United Kingdom accounted for between 75 and 80 per cent of all bilateral aid commitments to education between 1990 and 2000 (see below). With the exception of Japan, where commitments remained relatively unchanged, real commitments to education for the ‘big five’ countries declined dramatically between the early and the late nineties. The United States, for example, cut its official development assistance for education by 58 percent, the United Kingdom by 39 percent and France by 22 percent. Even smaller donors slashed their education aid. Switzerland reduced its development assistance for education by 63 percent.