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Words of welcome
from Svein Osttveit,
Executive Secretary of the
International Consultative Forum on Education for All
  The World Education Forum, in Dakar, Senegal (26-28 April 2000), to which these pages are devoted, provides the world community with a wonderful opportunity for making a difference in education. More than 180 countries have in the past year participated in the most in-depth evaluation of basic education ever undertaken and a series of regional conferences across the world are currently examining the results of this global assessment.
  Building on the findings of the assessment, the World Education Forum is expected to adopt a new Framework for Action, which will redefine strategies and set clear operational goals to help nations meet the basic learning needs of all by 2015.
  The present situation demands urgent action. Some 100 million primary school-age children are out of school. Almost 900 million adults are unable to read danger warnings, or sign their name. Many millions more in industrialized and developing countries alike have serious problems reading a document or filling in job application forms. On top of that, many of the children in school today are not receiving a quality education, and too many repeat classes and finally drop out.
  Yet almost ten years ago, the stage seemed set for change when the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand, addressed these problems. Some 155 governments, 33 intergovernmental organizations and 125 non-governmental organizations pledged to provide primary education for all children and to massively reduce adult illiteracy by the year 2000.
  While some countries have made considerable headway, many more have not managed to make good on their commitment. Progress has been slower than expected. The reasons often put forward for this is a lack of trained teachers, facilities or funds, irrelevant curricula, as well as a set of more complex social, economic and cultural factors.
  However, the good news is that global consensus has been forged around the centrality of education to more sustainable human development, and the advantages to societies of educating girls and women are now widely acknowledged. New synergies are beginning to develop around more comprehensive school governance systems and the need to involve a broad set of actors in educational planning and practice. Now, adequate resources to implement that consensus must be found.
  National leaders and development agencies must prepare themselves for the reality that attaining the goals of Education for All will require increased financial commitments. They also need to take seriously the fact that existing resources are not being used well. Today, lack of good quality data on education and weak management and planning hamper sound decision-making and reform efforts in education in too many countries.
  The challenges for the coming years are immense but not insurmountable. We need to reach the millions of poor children, youth and adults living in extremely difficult conditions. We need to address the problems of exploitation, violence and AIDS and to counter their impact on many populations throughout the world. We need to re-think educational institutions, channels and partners so that health and other social welfare programmes are integrated in ways better suited to the requirements and conditions of these people.
  Let us make sure that words are matched with collective action and commitment at the World Education Forum in Dakar next April. Together we can make education take off in the new millennium.
Svein Osttveit
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