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The findings > Thematic Studies> Demographic Challenges>Part 2
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2. The demographic challenge to education for all
If education is to provide, in the longer term, part of a successful answer to population growth and other societal problems, it will first be necessary to develop education systems capable of bearing the burden of hopes and expectations that are being placed upon them. In the short term, the pressure of population growth on education systems, together with the paucity of resources, are the dominant issues in the developing countries.
Achieving universal basic education can represent very different challenges for different countries, depending on the human and financial national resources that can be mobilised as well as the rate of population growth and the age structure of the population: the resources necessary to achieve universal basic education may be substantial in a situation where the population is very young and where this young population is growing rapidly - as is the case in many African countries. Often, the largest efforts to expand basic educational provision are required precisely in those countries that have the least resources to meet the challenges, considering in particular that it is not enough just to create more study places but the quality of educational provision must be simultaneously ensured.
The preceding section has illustrated broad trends in demography and economic development and the impact that education can have on them. This section examines the implications these trends have on education, focusing on progress made after Jomtien towards universal basic education. The analysis is based largely on a few key quantitative indicators, that focus mainly on primary schooling (although secondary education and literacy are considered as well) rather than the more complex and less measurable dimensions of non-formal education, such as life-skills education for youths and adults, as well as basic education conveyed by the media.
1.1 Global progress towards universal basic education
Whereas in the long run education tends to reduce population growth rates, the developing countries are currently confronting the challenge of accommodating a rapidly growing school age population, while also facing severe shortages of resources.
Despite demographic pressure, educational progress has been substantial in many parts the developing world.
Nevertheless, in many parts of the developing world educational progress has been substantial over the 27-year period between 1970 and 1997. Estimated adult literacy rates in the world rose from 63 to 78 per cent during this period. World total enrolment at the primary level increased from 411 million in 1970 to 542 million in 1980, and to 668 million in 1997. This growth took place exclusively in the developing world, which is the theatre of 97 per cent of the world's population growth, where primary enrolment increased from 313 million in 1970 to 579 million in 1997.
Fig. 2.1: Global enrolment trends in primary education, 1970-1997
Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999, Table II.S.3
Developing countries have also spent increasing shares of national income on education.
Developing countries have also spent increasing shares of a generally growing Gross National Product on education. Additionally, much has been invested to explore new instructional methods and new delivery systems, both in the formal and non-formal sectors of learning. However, these efforts have been insufficient to provide every school age child in the world with a quality place in school.
Ten years ago, the Jomtien conference drew attention to the major gaps that still separated many countries from achieving universal basic education. These comprised more than 100 million children, including at least 60 million girls, not having access to primary schooling; more than 960 million illiterate adults, two thirds of whom were women; another 100 million children and countless adults failing to complete basic education programmes; millions more satisfying the attendance requirements but not acquiring essential knowledge and skills. Today, those children will have become adults and many of them are now asked to shape the future of their countries, but the question is whether fewer of today’s children and adults suffer from educational and therefore social exclusion.
Since Jomtien total enrolment in primary education has grown in all developing regions.
Between 1990 and 1997, primary education enrolments in all developing countries, taken together, grew by about 72 million pupils. In the seven years following Jomtien, the primary education total enrolment grew at almost double the pace than that observed during the 1980s.
Southern Asia and Eastern Asia and Oceania are the two regions that were most effective in expanding enrolment over the period 1990-1997: a combined total of more than 41 million. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average annual growth went from about 1.4 million pupils during the 1980s to 2.4 million during the 1990s. A major effort was sustained by the group of the 48 least developed countries, where 15 million more pupils enrolled in primary education between 1990 and 1997, with an average annual increase of 1 million enrolments higher than in the previous decade.
Fig. 2.2: Total enrolment in primary education, 1980-1997
Source: 1999 UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, Table II.S.3
These results illustrate not only that developing countries have undertaken huge efforts to progress towards the goal of universal primary education, but also that rates of progress are increasing.
Policy strategies range from decentralisation and the building of new partnerships …
Many of the less developed countries organised national policy meetings on Education for All in the early 1990s and several of them adopted EFA policies and plans. Decentralisation has been one of the responses to the common need of expanding access to schooling (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, 1996b). Some African countries south of the Sahara, for example, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, adopted measures to give more responsibility to local communities for basic education. Several Latin American countries, in order to better adapt schools to local needs, are now defining a core curriculum that leaves space for subject matter geared to the local environment. Attempts have been made in this region also to grant schools more autonomy. China’s decentralisation of education was mentioned at the mid-decade review in Amman as one successful example of shared ownership between all levels of government including village communities.
Decentralisation called for new partnerships for the provision of basic education. The Primary School Development Programme in Sri Lanka offers an example of targeting the expansion of enrolment and the enhancement of the learning environment by means of close cooperation between government officials, schools and parents. The Sudan’s Basic Education Project for the Internally Displaced Children is an example of a partnership that involves the central government, UN agencies, NGOs, religious institutions, bilateral aid agencies and the displaced communities, with the aim of providing some schooling to a population of two million children highly heterogeneous from the linguistic and religious points of view comprised in the war-torn zone. The Pratham Mumbay Education Initiative in Mumbay (former Bombay) is an example of a partnership among educators, community groups, corporate sponsors, and government officials that succeeded, among other things, to revamp over 1200 primary schools. Finally, school cluster projects in several East Asian countries exemplify partnerships among neighbouring schools to share resources and expertise.
As it was stressed at the Amman mid-decade review, neither decentralisation nor the building of new partnerships are easy to attain, but if properly managed they may increase the capacity of education systems to achieve Education for All goals. The process of decentralisation implies on the one hand the training of community actors for enabling them to participate in the educational development and on the other the establishment of monitoring and accountability structures to assess and follow up the way responsibilities are shared and carried out.
… to introducing instruction in the mother tongue …
Introducing mother tongue instruction in the early years of schooling, as well as in non-formal education programmes and in adult literacy courses, was pin pointed as another strategy making basic education more accessible and effective. This was also found to be one of the elements characterising a number of countries from all of the less developed regions that have succeeded to universalise primary education (Mehrotra 1998). In many developing countries there are from six to 400 local languages or more. In many cases, for promoting national unity as well as for facilitating administration and commerce, one language has been adopted and this is also the language of instruction but has often nothing at all in common with the local language. According to the estimates of a pilot study commissioned by UNESCO and UNICEF on the conditions of primary schools in some of the least developed countries, in nine out of fourteen countries, more than 80 per cent of the pupils were being taught in a language different from that used at home, and in seven countries their proportion was higher than 90 per cent (Schleicher et al. 1995). Conversely, research findings have documented the link between instruction in the mother tongue and learning achievement, demonstrating that, in order to become literate in the dominant or official language students must start to read in their mother tongue (Shiefelbein, 1994). This approach was promoted in several African countries South of the Sahara (such as Benin, Mozambique and Senegal), in Asia, as well as in Latin America, where intercultural bilingual education gained legitimacy to the point that several countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay, changed their constitutions to make provisions for bilingual education. Most countries in Latin America that have introduced education in the mother tongue in the early grades report not only better attendance but also "an improvement in educational quality, a more harmonious emotional development of the child and closer ties between the school and the community" (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, 1996b).
… to diversifying schooling and to making primary education free.
Other policy measures aimed at increasing access and retention ranged from diversifying schooling (such as in India and Bangladesh where millions of children have been reached through "home schools" and "community schools" staffed by para-professional teachers, or in Burkina Faso where satellite schools and non-formal education centres were introduced to expand access in rural areas, or in Guatemala where 1,000 community schools were set up in 1997), to stimulating the demand for schooling (such as through the "reading for all" festivals and demonstration of educational technology in Egypt) and undertaking the task of sensitisation of parents to the benefits of education and promoting non-formal programmes run by local community for drop-out children (such as the National Programme on Poverty launched by the government in Mongolia), to offering the full primary cycle in as many schools as possible (such as in the Philippines) given that it was found that dropout rates were highest in centres that did not offer all primary grades. Finally, some countries made primary education free during the 1990s, such as Malawi in 1994 and Uganda in 1997, although in this case the resulting massive expansion of primary enrolments should be evaluated taking into account retention and completion rates and achievement outcomes.
As a result net enrolment ratios increased…
As a result of these concerted efforts, net enrolment ratios reflect a positive development, showing that overall growth in enrolment outpaced the growth of the primary school age population. The net enrolment ratios presented in the following chart represent the proportion of the official primary school age group, which varies from country to country depending on the age of entry to and the duration of primary education, actually attending school.
Fig. 2.3: Estimated net enrolment ratios of children of primary school age, 1980-2000
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1999 estimates and projections, Table S1.
Between 1980 and 2000, the net enrolment ratio of children of primary school age rose in all developing regions taken together from 75.7 to 84.8 per cent. During the 1990s, some progress was observed in each of the less developed regions; the most remarkable changes were observed in Latin America and the Caribbean and Southern Asia, where net enrolment ratios increased by 6.3 and 6.1 percentage points respectively. In Sub-Saharan Africa the net enrolment ratio increased by 3.6 percentage points, while during the 1980s it had decreased by 1.3 points. Finally, the least developed countries taken together increased their net enrolment ratio by 5 percentage points between 1990 and 2000, against an increase of 0.7 points during the preceding decade. The increase of the shares of the child population enrolled in school in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Southern Asia and in the group of least developed countries is even more remarkable since it has occurred against the obstacles posed by a continuing and sustained growth of the school age population.
… although marked variations remain within regions and countries.
It should be noted, however, that considerable variations exist within the same region and in many cases even within the same country, with rural enrolment lagging significantly behind urban, or with marked disparities between provinces or states, as for example in India where 9 out of 10 primary school age children go to school in Kerala, while in Bihar only half do (UNICEF, 1999).
Several factors, including demography, are slowing down the pace of progress.
Several factors account for the difficulties met by several countries to progress towards universal primary enrolment, as well as the other EFA goals, at the desired pace.
In Sub-Saharan Africa drought, famine, internal conflicts and political instability in many countries were compounded with a population growth that, increasing at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent, remains unsustainably high. While in one of the Sub-Saharan regions, Southern Africa, the total fertility rate declined sharply to 3.4 births per woman, Middle, Eastern and Western Africa have the world’s highest fertility, with total fertility rates ranging from 5.5 to 6.2 births per woman on average. This, together with the economic pressures from debt repayment and unfavourable terms of trade, slowed the economic growth to less than 2 per cent for the region as a whole and increased the number of people living below the poverty line.
In the Arab States region an annual rate of population growth of 2.6 per cent, second only to that of Sub-Saharan Africa was coupled by an economic recession at the beginning of the decade and a decrease in oil prices on the world market later, imposing a heavier burden on resources, especially in the poorer countries. Moreover, the Gulf War in 1991 and the sanctions against Iraq as well as conflicts in Algeria, Sudan and the West Bank and Gaza disrupted education.
Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the largest economic disparities between rich and poor, and indigenous and impoverished populations face difficulties in getting access to quality education.
In the region of Eastern Asia and Oceania several countries including Indonesia, Mongolia and Thailand, went through economic and climatic crises that threatened educational progress and made it impossible for poor families to pay for their children’s education. Other countries, such as Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam and Myanmar that have gone through years of conflict in their recent history, continue to experience poverty.
In Southern Asia nearly half of the population lives in dramatic poverty, with less than one dollar a day. Child labour is a persistent problem, being both a cause and a consequence of low enrolment and high dropout rates.
The absolute number of school children of primary school age that are not enrolled offers an indication of the gap between EFA goals and current realities in equipping all of today’s children and tomorrow’s adults with the minimal educational skills needed to, among others, survive, develop, live and work in dignity, participate in development and continue learning.
Based on the 1999 UNESCO estimates and projections, the number of out-of-school children of official primary school age was 95 million in 1990 and 93 million in 1995. It is expected to decline further to 88 million in 2000 and 79 million in 2010.
Fig. 2.4: Estimated number of out-of-school children of primary school age, 1980-2000
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1999 estimates and projections, Table S4b.
The number of out-of-school children decreased sharply in Eastern Asia and Oceania but also in Southern Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Conversely it increased in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States. An increase is also observed in the least developed countries, where the number of out-of-school children grew by 2.5 million in the five-year period from 1990 to 1995. But what proportion of this change is due to a real change in enrolments and what is, conversely, due to the impact of population dynamics?
In some regions progress is hindered by a continuing increase in the child population while in other regions the child population is now stabilising or starting to decline.
The following charts juxtapose the numbers of primary school age children enrolled and out-of-school and the total population of children of primary school age, thus putting the expansion in enrolment and the changes in the out-of-school population in perspective with the changes in the size of the corresponding school age population.
Fig. 2.5-2.10: Primary school age population, primary school age enrolled children and primary school age out-of-school children, 1980-2010
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1999 estimates and projections, Tables S4a and S4b.
In Eastern Asia and Oceania the number of out-of-school children decreased between 1980 and 1990, mostly as a result of the decline in the primary school age population. But when the primary school age population began to increase again during the 1990s, the number of out-of-school children continued to decline and it is estimated that 99 per cent of the primary school age population is currently enrolled in school.
In Latin America and the Caribbean the growth of the primary school age population is projected to become nil by the year 2000, with the consequence that from that moment onward every additional place created in school will be a definite step towards the goal of universal primary education. Based on these estimates and projections, the number of out-of-school children is expected to decline from 4.4 to 3.3 million between 2000 and 2010, their percentage decreasing from 6 to 4 per cent.
The situation is different in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and, to a lesser extent, in South Asia. In these regions, the achievement of universal primary education has been hindered by the growth and age-structure of their populations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South Asia throughout the 1980s and 1990s efforts to increase primary enrolment ratios had to work against a growing school age population and according to projections this will still be the case at least up to 2010 for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, while in South Asia the primary school age population is projected to stabilise during the first decade of the new century. Demographic structures were and are such, that a relatively small economically active population has to generate the resources needed to provide education and other basic social services to a large and growing youth population. Therefore, despite the efforts made in these regions, shown by the fact that enrolments grew significantly during the 1980s and even more during the 1990s, the number of out-of-school children increased in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Arab States, as well as in the least developed countries taken together during the 1990s. The situation is particularly dramatic in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is estimated that the number of out-of-school children is currently of 42.8 million and is expected that it will amount still to 42 million in 2010, although these figures correspond to a percentage decrease from 38 to 31 per cent. With current fertility rates the school age population (5-14 year old) of Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to total to 230 million by 2015 (Ellison 1999), making it a huge if not seemingly impossible task to achieve education for all.
If the completion of primary education can enable people to take care of their own and their family’s hygiene, nutrition and health, further education is required in order to participate effectively in today’s knowledge-based economies and societies.
Also in secondary education, enrolment grew faster after Jomtien than before…
Total enrolment in secondary education grew by 83 million throughout the world between 1990 and 1997, of which 74 million were in developing countries. As was the case for primary education, in secondary education too, the 1990s witnessed a growth in enrolment at about twice the pace of that observed during the decade leading up to Jomtien, indicating the effort sustained by governments to expand participation in education beyond primary school age.
Source: 1999 UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, Table II.S.3.
… outpacing the growth of the population at the age of secondary schooling.
Positive trends in net enrolment ratios during the 1990s confirm that, in general, enrolment of secondary school age youth has grown faster than the relevant population in the decade following Jomtien. These secondary net enrolment ratios relate the number of pupils of the official secondary school age group, irrespective of the level of education in which they are enrolled, to the corresponding population of official secondary school age.
Fig. 2.12: Estimated net enrolment ratios of secondary school age youth in primary and secondary education
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1999 estimates and projections, Table S2.
However, up to half of the secondary school age pupils are enrolled in primary education …
These percentages, however, include a substantive number of secondary school age youth enrolled in primary education as repeaters or late entrants, as shown in the following chart.
Fig. 2.13: Estimated number of secondary school age youth enrolled in secondary education and primary education and out-of-school, 1980-2000
Source: Calculated from UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1999 estimates and projections, Tables S5a, S5b and S2bis.
In all regions except Eastern Asia and Oceania the expansion of education at the level of secondary school age youth has been partially hindered by population growth. Moreover, because of the internal inefficiency of education systems, in some countries more than half of the enrolled pupils of secondary school age are, in fact, enrolled in primary school, as repeaters or late entrants. It is only in Eastern Asia and Oceania that, between 1990 and 2000, the expansion of secondary school age enrolments was coupled with a reduction of the number of secondary school age pupils enrolled in primary education, indicating an increased efficiency of the education system, facilitated to an extent by a decline of the secondary school age population between 1980 and 1990.
… so that, in many developing countries, primary education remains the only educational opportunity for the majority of children.
Overall the proportion of the official school age population actually enrolled in secondary education continues to be low. In the year 2000 it was estimated to be higher than 50 per cent only in Eastern Asia and Oceania (55 per cent) and the Arab States (51 per cent). In Latin America and the Caribbean and in Southern Asia only 44 and 43 per cent respectively of the official school age population are enrolled in secondary school. In Sub-Saharan Africa their proportion does not reach one quarter of the population (24 per cent) and in the least developed countries taken together, it amounts to only 18 per cent.
Based on these estimates, primary education remains the only educational opportunity for more than 80 per cent of the school age population in the least developed countries, for more than 75 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and for a percentage ranging from 45 to 57 per cent in the other developing regions. Although this situation is likely to change with time, it is now crucial that primary education be able not only to actually welcome all of these children but also to answer the basic learning needs of tomorrow's adults.
If it is true - as the Amman Affirmation states - that, "in all societies, the best predictor of the learning achievement of children is the education and literacy level of their parents", then investments in adult education and literacy will be investments giving high returns for societies.
Adults' literacy rates are associated with the educational attainment of the school age population.
The children of educated parents are likely to be better educated. Such findings are well known in industrialized countries, but it has also been shown that in developing countries, the children of parents who have at least attained basic education perform better in school.
The literates are not, of course, a random sample of the population. In most countries, literacy is associated with more urban dwelling places, a higher degree of involvement in the modern economy and greater exposure to the mass media - the written media, obviously, but also radio and television. The impact of literacy on behaviour, including fertility patterns, probably reflects something more than education alone. Looked at in another way, however, the impact of education may be greater than estimated.
Literate members of society tend to be the innovators and communicators.
A good deal of research suggests that the literate members of a community tend to be the innovators and communicators. Their knowledge and attitudes, therefore, have an influence on others. Levels of literacy within a population, thus, constitute a reflection of the level of development and performance of the education system and of the country as a whole and can serve as an indication of the human potential that can further promote social, economic and cultural development.
Literacy rates grew but the number of illiterates remains constant because of the impact of population growth.
At the time of Jomtien, over three quarters of the world adult population had become literate, the percentage of literates having increased by 6 percentage points since 1980, when it was 69 per cent. In absolute numbers, the adult literate population (aged 15 years and over) in the world rose by about 700 million between 1980 and 1990, going from an estimated 2 billion to 2.7 billion (UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, 1999). The number of literates rose further during the 1990s, reaching an estimated 3 billion in 1995 and an estimated 3.4 billion in 2000 (79 per cent), and is projected to reach 4.2 billion in 2010 (83 per cent). Despite this remarkable expansion, there remains a large illiterate population and its size did not change substantially during the 1990s. Some 882 million adults in the world were illiterate in 1990 and their number is estimated not to have substantially changed by the year 2000, totalling 876 million. Of these, 865 million live in developing countries: 429 million are in Southern Asia, 146 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, 68 million in the Arab States, 185 million in Eastern Asia and Oceania and 42 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Fig. 2.14: Estimated number of literates and illiterates aged 15 years and over, 1980-2000
Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999, Table II.S.1, and UNESCO Institute for Statistics database.
While the population of those who are literate is growing faster than the population of illiterates, implying that educational progress is generally outpacing population growth, a significant minority continues to be left out.
The chart illustrates how the efforts of governments to reduce illiteracy had to work against the growth of populations, so that despite the remarkable increase of literates, the illiterates did not decrease correspondingly. In fact, illiterates became fewer in absolute numbers only in Eastern Asia and Oceania, where their numbers dropped from 233 million in 1990 to 185 million in 2000. In all other developing regions their number either remained constant or rose slightly.
Translating these numbers into rates, the percentage of illiterates in the adult world population aged 15 years and over is estimated to have decreased from 24.8 to 20.6 between 1990 and 2000.
Fig. 2.15: Estimated illiteracy rates (population aged 15 years and over), 1980-2000
Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999, Table II.S.1.
In the least developed countries taken together, one adult in two is still illiterate, that is, lacks the basic reading, writing and numeracy skills essential to develop their own potential and to actively participate in society. In the year 2000, among the developing regions, the problem of illiteracy is particularly serious in Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, with estimated percentages of illiterates of 46, 40 and 39 per cent respectively. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, illiteracy rates exhibited a pronounced decline between 1990 and 2000, falling from 51 to 40 per cent and from 49 to 39 per cent, respectively. If current rates of progress can be maintained they are projected to decrease further to 30 per cent by 2010, in both regions. Conversely, Southern Asia seems to have fallen behind the other two regions in the pace of the reduction of illiteracy, by crossing the 50 per cent literacy threshold only in 1995 and being projected to still have a 39 per cent illiterate adult population in 2010. One of the challenges in this region is to find cost-effective ways of providing basic education to vast numbers.
In two regions, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Asia and Oceania, the rate of illiteracy has dropped to under 20 per cent. As might be expected, at this point in time, progress tends to be slow, since all of those that can be readily reached and easily served will have already become literate. Those who remain illiterate are likely to reside in locations that are difficult to reach or that present other disadvantages. Special efforts will be needed to reach and serve them.
With regard to developed countries, although literacy problems are on a different scale from developing countries, they do exist. In 1995/1997, a comparative study of adult literacy in 17 industrialized countries indicated that between 10 and 20 per cent of the adult population had difficulties with basic reading, writing and numeracy tasks (OECD/Statistics Canada, forthcoming). Increasing attention is therefore also being paid in developed countries to the problem of functional illiteracy.
Fig. 2.16: Change in estimated number of illiterates and illiteracy rates between 1990 and 1997 (1990=100)
Source: Calculated from UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999, Table II.S.1.
Declines in illiteracy in most developing countries fell short of the Jomtien target …
If illiteracy rates decreased in all of the less developed regions, the decline did not progress at the pace targeted at the WCEFA in 1990. It is only in the developed countries that the decline in the illiteracy rate during the 1990s approached 50 per cent, whereas in the developing countries taken as a whole the illiteracy rate declined by just about 20 per cent. In Eastern Asia and Oceania, which is the developing region that progressed most on the road to eradicate illiteracy, the illiteracy rate was 33 per cent less than in 1990.
… but successes in some countries indicate that the target can be reached if the policies are right.
The slow pace in the reduction of illiteracy rates was probably due, among other things, to the priority given by governments to increasing primary school enrolments, although a few countries have undertaken large efforts to raise adult literacy levels. Namibia, for example, launched the National Literacy Programme in 1992, with the target of increasing the adult literacy rate from 65 per cent to 80 per cent and the efforts succeeded to a large extent, given that, based on UNESCO statistics, the adult literacy rate by 2000 is estimated to be 82 per cent. In Benin, the council of ministers approved in 1992 a special budget heading for adult education and a decree was issued to establish a national literacy council. In South Africa a nation-wide "learning units campaign" was launched in 1996 under the adult basic education and training plan, aiming at providing literacy instruction. The Total Literacy Campaigns in India, carried out as a partnership between the central government's National Literacy Mission and state governments, operated through a capillary work of social mobilisation. Also NGOs played an active role in promoting literacy and out-of-school instruction in many countries.
Gender disparities are one of the obstacles that hinder achieving universal basic education and all world conferences during the 1990s, from Jomtien, to the ICPD, to the conference on women held in Beijing in 1995, stressed the urgent need to close the gender gap, "both as a matter of equity" - as it is stated in the final report of the mid-decade EFA meeting held in Amman in 1996 - "and as the most effective means for responding to demographic pressures and promoting development". However, the Amman Affirmation described the progress towards this goal as "excruciatingly slow" during the first half of the 1990s and reaffirmed the education of women and girls as the "priority of priorities".
In all regions gender disparities in primary education are still large …
Based on the 1999 estimates and projections of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, in 1990 some 57 million of out-of-school children of primary school age were girls. In the year 2000 their number is estimated to have decreased to 52 million. The share of girls in the primary school age out-of-school population went from 60 to 59 percent during this same decade. When the least developed countries are considered alone, however, the number of out-of-school girls of primary school age is estimated to have increased from 19 million in 1990 to 21 million in 2000, going from 54 to 56 per cent.
The following chart compares net enrolment ratios by gender, considering the absolute gaps between girls' and boys' enrolment ratios.
Fig. 2.17: Gender gap (M-F) in estimated net enrolment ratios of primary school age, 1980-2000
Source: Calculated from the 1999 estimates and projections of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Table S1.
… but there is considerable regional and between-country variation.
For all regions, significant gender gaps in enrolment ratios remain. However there is considerable regional variation. Disparities are more pronounced in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where they currently amount to more than 12 and 9 percentage points respectively. The regions where the gender gaps in primary school age enrolment are lowest are Eastern Asia and Oceania, where this gap is currently closing, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Southern Asia, as well as the Arab States and Eastern Asia and Oceania witnessed a reduction of the gender gap during the 1990s. Conversely, for Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the least developed countries the gaps are estimated not to have changed or to be slightly larger in 2000 than they were in 1990.
The overall trend for Sub-Saharan Africa masks wide variations among countries. In Benin, Chad and Togo, the gender gap in net primary school age enrolment ratios between boys and girls exceeded 20 percentage points, during the 1990s. In some cases the disadvantage of high inequalities disfavouring girls sums up with the disadvantage of overall low enrolment ratios. Based on the 1999 provisional estimates and projections of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, in Chad, for example, almost one in two children of primary school age and almost two-thirds of girls are currently out-of-school. In Togo the overall out-of-school ratio is lower, 25.5 per cent, but the gender gap is even larger, with 11 per cent primary school age boys out-of-school and more than 40 per cent girls. In some countries, (including Gambia, Malawi, Niger, Senegal and Togo) the gender gap decreased during the 1990s, while in other countries it increased. Among the African countries south of the Sahara that have taken special measures to promote the education of girls are Benin, where girls in rural areas were exempted from paying school fees, and Burkina Faso, where pregnant girls were allowed to attend classes, while the African Girls' Education Initiative works with governments and communities in over 20 countries to boost girls' enrolment.
The data from several countries suggest that once they are enrolled girls tend to stay in school longer, with a higher proportion than that of boys reaching Grade 5 or the final Grade of primary school. In some countries, this was the case already before Jomtien, whereas in other countries retention rates of girls outpaced those of boys during the 1990s, suggesting an impact of the recommendations concerning gender equality in schooling made at the Jomtien, Cairo and Beijing conferences, among others, and the efficacy of initiatives and activities undertaken to reduce gender disparities in education.
Finally, it should be underlined that there are countries where the gender gap is in favour of girls (such as in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and the United Republic of Tanzania), with differences in primary school age net enrolment ratios ranging from 1 up to 12 percentage points, probably due to the fact that the demand for child labour penalises boys more than girls. Among other countries where enrolment ratios of girls were higher than those of boys are China (in some provinces) and various Latin American and the Caribbean countries, including Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela.
At the age of secondary schooling, gender gaps tend to be larger than at the age of primary schooling ...
Taking the secondary school age in general the gap is overall larger than at the primary school age. In the developing regions taken together, in fact, the gender gap for the secondary school age enrolled population amounted to 17.5 percentage points in 1980, 14.6 in 1990 and 11.7 in 2000, while for the primary school age enrolled population it was 11.8 percentage points in 1980, 8.4 percentage points in 1990 and 6.4 points in 2000.
but the pattern changes when only the students actually enrolled in secondary school are considered.
However, for the secondary school age youth actually enrolled in secondary education the gender gap in 1980 was similar to the primary school one (11.3 percentage points) but it decreased at a slower rate (8 percentage points in 2000), indicating that some priority has been given in general to primary education in the reduction of gender disparities.
Gender disparities are highest at the level of the adult population ...
The gender disparity is even higher at the level of the adult population. Illiteracy is mainly a women's problem and limited access to educational resources affects women disproportionately in a large part of the developing world. It is estimated that in 1990 there were 322 million illiterate men and 560 million illiterate women (i.e. over 30 per cent of the adult female population) in the world (UNESCO, 1999 Statistical Yearbook). In 2000, the situation has not changed substantially: it is estimated that the number of illiterate women is 563 million (26.4 per cent), against 313 million illiterate men, the gender gap having decreased slightly from 13.3 percentage points in 1990 to 11.7 in 2000. The following chart presents the gender gap in illiteracy rates (F-M) in percentage points by region.
Fig. 2.18: Gender gap (F-M) in estimated illiteracy rates, 1980-2000
Source: Calculated from UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999, Table II.S.1.
… which indicates progress achieved in education of girls over recent decades but also points to the need to close gender gaps through adult education.
The data reveal that in all regions, with the exception of developed countries where the gap is almost closed and of Latin America and the Caribbean where the gap is below 5 percentage points, women remain disproportionately disadvantaged with respect to basic reading, writing and numeracy skills. The gap is over 10 percentage points in Eastern Asia and Oceania, over 15 percentage points in Sub-Saharan Africa and well over 20 percentage points in both Southern Asia and the Arab States. However, in all developing regions the trend is towards lower gender literacy gaps.
Of course, in some cases, strong differences in women's levels of education are found among different countries within the same region and even within countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average number of years of education for women ranges from over 6 in Zimbabwe and Botswana, to less than 1 in Burundi and Mali. Similarly, in Latin America and the Caribbean, women benefit on average from more than 7 years of schooling in Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago and only 3 years in Guatemala (United Nations, Women's education and fertility behaviour, 1995).
In 13 out of 120 countries, the difference in the literacy rates between young men and women amounts to twenty per cent.
In 13 of the 120 countries for which data were available, the illiteracy rate of young women aged 15 to 24 years is estimated to be 20 percentage points or higher than that of the corresponding male population in 2000. Some of these countries are in Southern Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan), the others, with the exception of Yemen, in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique and Togo). Almost all of them belong to the group of the least developed countries. Women in these countries - as the Gender-related Development Index in the 1995 Human Development Report shows - face a double disadvantage: they suffer from overall low literacy rates and their educational opportunities remain considerably lower than men's.
Those of the most populous countries that have achieved gender equality in literacy rates among the youth population or are close to this goal include China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria. China, Indonesia and Mexico have also almost eradicated illiteracy for the age-cohorts 15-24, having achieved overall illiteracy rates below 5 per cent by 2000, whereas in Brazil the corresponding illiteracy rate is 7.5 per cent and in Nigeria it is 13 per cent.
Although many countries had success with policies aimed at reducing the gender gaps in school enrolment and literacy, in other countries progress has been slower than desired and an additional effort is required to provide all women with educational credentials that enable them to develop their potential and participate in society.
Women are often the poorest of the poor.
The educational disadvantage of women is, however, only one aspect of the discrimination from which they suffer in many countries where women are the poorest of the poor. Not only do women have less educational opportunities then men but they also have lower status in society, are malnourished from the birth and have limited access to health care, including family planning and safe motherhood. This chain of interrelated factors, strongly related to poverty, undermines women's health and results in high maternal morbidity and mortality. Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that almost 600,000 women die every year in the world from pregnancy complications and 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Many times that number of women suffer from severe long-lasting disabilities as a result of childbirth in these countries.
In order to succeed in closing the gender gap in educational opportunities, against the obstacles posed by poverty and the demographic pressure, priorities and commitment of governments would have to be directed at overcoming this tendency to devalue women that is at the heart of the problem. Promoting gender equality thus implies not only using all means to improve access to and participation of girls and women in education but also conveying through the contents and methods of that education the value of women and an egalitarian view of human beings.
Not only must many governments expand enrolment at a faster rate than the growth of their school age population but they must also ensure that minimum standards of quality are met and maintained.
It is the quality of the educational provision that determines learning outcomes.
Ultimately what matters is not just the volume of participation in educational activities but, more important, the quality of the outcomes, which in turn are influenced by the quality of educational services. The World Declaration on Education for All stressed that: "Whether or not expanded educational opportunities will translate into meaningful development - for the individual or for the society - depends ultimately on whether people actually learn as the result of those opportunities". In the WCEFA Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, the target following that of universal primary education was "improvement in learning achievement such that an agreed percentage of an appropriate age cohort attains or surpasses a defined level of necessary learning achievement". By the same token, the Programme of Action of the ICPD emphasised the importance of "achieving universal access to quality education".
Many countries have made efforts to improve educational quality and enhance learning achievement. Reforms dealt mainly with renewing the content of curricula, upgrading teacher performance, improving teacher training, in particular with the aim to improving teaching in rural areas, and enhancing learning assessment. The results of these efforts, as opposed to changes in enrolment, are difficult to assess but their importance and urgency is evident when considering rates of dropout and the poor conditions of instruction in many developing countries.
Given the current lack of comparative achievement data for many developing countries, one of the available proxies often used for measuring educational quality is the percentage of a pupil cohort reaching the end of primary school. This indicator is a measure of the internal efficiency of education systems, that is, of the relationship between the inputs and the outputs of the system, in terms of the number of pupils who complete the cycle in the prescribed number of years. To the extent that children dropout or repeat grades, the system is considered inefficient. To improve comparability, the internal efficiency indicator is calculated using Grade 5 as a common reference point for all countries, even though the duration of primary education varies across countries. The percentage of pupils who enrol in Grade 1 and reach Grade 5 represents the so-called "survival" or "retention" rate.
The school experience of many children in the developing world is relatively brief and unsatisfactory.
In Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa, less than three out of four pupils reach Grade 5. In the least developed countries, taken together, their proportion is even lower with only around half of the pupils remaining in school after Grade 4. Indeed, many students drop out between the first and the second grade, having acquired not even the most basic elements of an education. Many studies have analysed the causes of dropout, such as health problems, child labour, high opportunity costs and teen-age pregnancies, among others. But in many school systems, the underlying reason, even at the primary level, is that the school promotes the "fittest" pupils, screening out those with special learning needs.
Fig. 2.19: Survival rates by Grade up to Grade 5 as percentage of a pupil cohort, 1994-1995
Source: Education for All, Status and Trends, 1998. In the legend, N is the number of countries in the region for which pertinent data are available for calculating the flow of a pupil cohort through five years of schooling. The percentage next to it shows the share of these countries in the total enrolment of the region.
Repetition and drop-out represent a wastage of resources - by one estimate, 16% of education budgets in developing countries are consumed by dropout and repetition.
High rates of repetition also slow the progress of learning and often tend to lead to dropout by the repeaters, increasing the cost of education in developing countries and causing wastage. By one estimate, 16 per cent of education budgets in developing countries are consumed by the cost of dropout and repetition in the first four grades of primary school, while the repetition alone was estimated to cost at least 6 billion US dollars around 1995 (UNESCO, 1998b). Again, this probably reflects both the poverty of the children concerned and the inability of the school to respond adequately to their needs.
One of the measures adopted to reduce wastage and maintain internal efficiency is automatic promotion, practised in, among others, the republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Indian state of Kerala, Barbados and Zimbabwe. On the one hand, automatic promotion increases the number of years that low achieving students spend in school, and it may therefore increase learning, especially if it is accompanied by support measures including inputs such as teacher training and instruction materials; on the other hand it clears the burden of repeaters in the first grades creating space for new students (Mehrotra, 1998).
The school equipment and conditions deteriorated in some countries after Jomtien.
Many experts have expressed concern over the conditions of learning in the over-crowded schools of the developing world and their impact upon achievement. In a pilot survey of conditions of learning in the least developed countries commissioned by UNESCO-UNICEF and conducted in 1995, it was found that in most countries one-third or more of students gathered in classes without even a useable chalkboard. In virtually all of the countries there were no teaching aids such as wall charts and hardly any pupils ever saw a world map in their classroom. Moreover, in half the countries, over 90 per cent of the pupils in the final grade of primary education did not have a textbook in their mother tongue, over a third of them did not have a maths textbook in any language and over a third did not have a desk or writing place, as distinct from just a place to sit. Based on the responses of school-heads, it appears that between the Jomtien conference and 1995, the volume of school equipment and supplies had either remained constant or had decreased, which means that, given the general increase in enrolments, the conditions of primary schools had deteriorated overall. In fact, when asked about the single improvement most needed, the majority of school heads indicated: "repairs to buildings", "classroom furniture" and "classroom supplies" (Schleicher at al., 1995).
Given the extreme shortages they face, developing countries have often tended to define education narrowly to mean schooling in the sense of enrolment and little more than that. At the mid-term assessment held in Amman in 1995 to review progress towards the goals set at the World Conference on Education for All, it was observed that the "expanded vision of basic education espoused in Jomtien has often been reduced to a simple emphasis on putting more children into school: an essential step, but only one of many measures needed to achieve education for all."
One of the chronic problems of developing countries, coming with the lack of sufficient resources, is the shortage of qualified teachers, leading to overcrowded classes taught by poorly qualified and untrained personnel. The expansion of enrolment during the first EFA decade made it more difficult to improve this situation and in many countries, multi-grade classrooms in which the teacher must instruct students of different ages and levels compounds the problem of large class sizes.
The pupil-teacher ratio, which relates the overall number of teachers to the overall number of students of a country, provides a broad indicator of the quality of instruction and learning conditions. Although pupil-teacher ratios cannot be taken as a precise measure of class sizes, they can in fact be assumed to correlate with the latter. The following chart (Figure 2.20) presents pupil-teacher ratios in primary education by region, comparing the situation in 1990 with that in 1997.
In the less developed regions pupil-teacher ratios are twice as large as in more developed ones.
In the less developed regions taken together pupil-teacher ratios in primary school are twice as large as those in the more developed ones, while in the least developed countries they are three times as large. A high pupil-teacher ratio can initially be a means for keeping costs low while expanding enrolment. However, high pupil-teacher ratios combined with inadequate instructional equipment and low teacher motivation cannot contribute to learning.
Fig. 2.20: Pupil-teacher ratios in primary education, 1990-1997
Source: UNESCO World Education Report 2000
If a cut-off point of 40:1 is taken as a reasonable ratio of pupils per teacher in developing countries, then in Southern Asia, Afghanistan and India stand out (among the countries for which data are available), having an estimated ratio of 58 and 47 students per teacher respectively, in 1997, and in Bangladesh and Pakistan the estimated ratios were of 63 and 43 students per teacher, respectively, in 1990.
In Sub-Saharan Africa there are large variations, ranging in 1997 from ratios lower than 30 students per teacher in countries such as Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana and Mauritania, up to ratios of more than 50 students per teacher in countries such as Benin, Central African Republic (77:1 in 1990), Chad (67:1), Congo (70:1), Gabon, Malawi, Mali (70:1), Mozambique and Senegal. In some of these countries the situation deteriorated after Jomtien, for example in Benin, where the estimated pupil-teacher ratio grew from 36 to 56 between 1990 and 1997, and in Mali where the pupil-teacher ratio went from 47 to 71 during the same period. In other countries, conversely, the pupil-teacher ratio reduced significantly after Jomtien for example in Burundi, where it decreased from 67 to 50 students per teacher between 1990 and 1997, and in Togo, where it went from 58 to 46.
In some of the countries with high pupil-teacher ratios, these are associated with the presence of double or even triple shifts of pupils during the day in the same school premises and with the same teacher. Although this may shorten the "school day" of pupils and increase the burden of teachers, double shifts have been used in some countries, such as Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Zimbabwe, to reduce costs by fully exploiting existing facilities and human resources. This allowed not only to reduce costs of school facilities and equipment but having the same teacher teaching double-shifts allowed also to reduce the costs of housing and training teachers. Moreover, if teachers were paid a lower hourly rate for teaching two sessions, although their total earnings would be higher, this would result in additional savings.
Finally, in most of the less developed regions, the problem of pupil-teacher ratio and class size compounds with that of dropout. High ratios of pupils to teachers can be considered as one of the factors determining high rates of dropout. This demonstrates the inextricable relationship between enrolment levels and quality, so that where the quality of the provision deteriorates, enrolment levels tend to decline. Conversely, a decline in pupil-teacher ratios is an indicator of improving quality, provided it is accompanied by increasing or stable enrolment ratios and low rates of repetition and dropout.
Many countries have undertaken initiatives aimed at responding to the shortage of qualified teachers.
To respond to these issues, several countries in all regions reported to be working in order to improve teacher training and many of them (such as for example Malawi, Sudan and the Syrian Republic) have undertaken initiatives of teacher training targeted at improving the quality of teaching practices especially in the rural areas. In South Asia, the Northern Areas Education Project in Pakistan undertook the training of more than 700 teachers, while in Bangladesh, the Intensive District Approach to Education for All educates teachers about children's individual learning patterns. Guinea has sought to improve teaching in rural areas through the redeployment of skilled teachers from urban areas. Other countries are working to upgrade teacher performances by raising entry requirements to the profession (for example Egypt and Libyan Arab Jamarihiya), and providing incentives to attract and retain teachers, as most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The right balance must be found between containing teachers' costs and ensuring quality.
Lowering pupil-teacher ratios against the pressure of population growth is one of the problems with which developing countries have to cope in pursuing education for all, finding a trade-off between the need to contain costs and that of ensuring quality (Farrel & Oliveira, 1993). On the one hand, in fact, teacher costs constitute up to 90 per cent of the public costs of primary education in most developing countries (Mehrota & Buckland, 1998), so that the expansion of the teaching body required to enrol all primary age school children taking into account current rates of population growth, would represent an unaffordable burden for many countries unless the average teacher cost per pupil is reduced. On the other hand, the measures adopted to manage costs of teaching personnel should not lead to sacrificing the quality of instruction.
The experience of Zimbabwe during the 1980s provides an example of how to expand the number of teachers, which grew from about 19,000 in 1980 to 54,000 in 1983 and about 66,000 in 1990, maintaining quality while containing costs. The supply of teachers was first increased along with the expansion in enrolment, which went from 800,000 in 1980 to more than 2 million in 1982, by employing untrained teachers especially at the primary level. Then an accelerated teacher-training programme of four years was introduced, the Zimbabwe's Integrated Teacher Education Course, which comprised two terms in college, one at the beginning and the other at the end, while the remaining time was spent teaching in the schools. This approach lowered to less than half the cost of training, compared to conventional approaches, while providing timely training experience to the newly recruited teachers (Chung, 1993).
Expenditure on education can be used as an indicator to assess the implementation of EFA targets and progress in education although it should be recognised that improvements in the scope and quality of education can also be achieved through a more effective and efficient investment of existing resources. Investment in education depends on the one hand on the total resources available in a country, including the relative size of the economically active adult population and, on the other hand, the importance governments and private entities attribute to education, in comparison with other public priorities.
In the less developed regions the relative size of the population contributing to national income is almost half that in the more developed ones, but the demographic transition will open a window of opportunities in the next decades.
The relative size of the working-age population that can contribute to national income, which depends on the rate of population growth and the age-structure of a population, represents an important factor in the capacity of nations to mobilise resources, including for education. The following table presents dependency ratios, that is the number of persons aged under 15 and over 64 per 100 persons of labour force age (aged 15-64 years); these are used as approximate indicators of the relative sizes of the non-working-age and working-age populations and indicate the dependency burden on workers.
Table 2.1 Estimated and projected age-dependency ratios, 1998-2050
(not available)
Source: World Population Monitoring, 1999.
The estimated youth dependency ratio (the number of 0-14 year olds per 100 persons of labour force age, aged 15-64 years) in the less developed regions is about twice that of the more developed regions, making it much more difficult for these countries to generate needed resources. However, the distance between more and less developed regions decreases when total dependency ratios are considered, since more developed regions have a higher percentage of people aged 65 or over than less developed ones. According to the medium-variant United Nations projections, total dependency ratios will further decrease in the first quarter of the 21st century in the less developed regions, whereas they will increase in the more developed ones.
If the dependency ratios are currently very high in the less developed regions, the demographic transition should lead to a progressive decrease of the number of children per 100 workers, whereas, at the same time the proportion of the older population will remain lower than in the more developed regions, making it progressively easier to find the needed resources to expand education.
Since Jomtien developing countries invested a higher share of their GNP in education.
The renewed attention to education has mobilised additional resources in many countries. The following comparisons are based on public investment in education, as for the majority of countries data on private spending are not available.
Table 2.2 Estimated public expenditure on education (all levels), 1990-1997
(not available)
Source: UNESCO World Education Report 2000
Between 1990 and 1997, all developing regions except Southern Asia and to a lesser extent Eastern Asia and Oceania invested a higher share of a generally growing gross national product in education. This indicates that the priority of education in national policy development has grown. However, the least developed countries fell further behind during this period, devoting, as a group, only 2 per cent of GNP to all levels of education in 1997.
The following chart examines both the absolute change of expenditure on education between 1990 and 1997 and the change of that expenditure relative to the increase in national income.
Fig. 2.21: Change in expenditure on education in US $ and as % of GNP between 1990 and 1997 (1990=100)
Source: Calculated from UNESCO World Education Report 2000
When comparing such figures, the demographic context needs to be taken into account. Quite obviously, a share of 3 per cent of GNP for educational expenditure in a country with a relatively small school age population can translate into higher expenditure per student than a share of 5 per cent in a country where the population is young and the demand for education high. How national investment in education translates into spending per student depends, of course, also on changes in enrolment patterns. The next chart therefore examines changes in primary enrolments jointly with changes in expenditure per student in relation to GNP per capita. However since the number of countries included in each region is not exhaustive, these trends should be used with caution.
Fig. 2.22: Change in expenditure per pupil as % of GNP per capita and total enrolment between 1990 and 1997, (1990=100)
Source: Calculated from UNESCO World Education Report 2000
In some regions the expenditure per student as percentage of GNP increased despite the expansion in enrolment, while in other regions a trade-off was made to enrol more students at a lower cost.
Enrolment increased in all regions, while expenditures did not always grow at a comparable rate. In fact, the public current expenditure per pupil as a percentage of GNP per capita decreased in Sub-Saharan Africa, where in 1997 each pupil was allocated a share of the GNP per capita that was about 30 percentage points lower than seven years before. It should be remembered that over 30 heavily indebted countries are in this region and that governments spend about as much on debt repayment as on health and basic education combined (UNICEF, 1999). Public expenditure on education per pupil as percentage of GNP per capita decreased also in Southern Asia between 1990 and 1997, by 14 percentage points. Thus, in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa it seems that a trade-off has been made after Jomtien to enrol more students at a lower cost. Conversely, in Latin America and even more so in Eastern Asia and Oceania, despite the expansion of enrolled school age population, the expenditure per student as percentage of GNP has also increased. In Eastern Asia attempts have been made to find new funding sources. China, Indonesia and Thailand, for examples, tried various schemes to introduce local taxes or debt relief for education and to set up school enterprises.
A UNICEF study analysed ten countries (Botswana, Mauritius and Zimbabwe from Sub-Saharan Africa, Barbados, Cuba and Costa Rica from Latin America and the Caribbean, Republic of Korea and Malaysia from Eastern Asia and Sri Lanka and the Indian state of Kerala from Southern Asia) that universalised primary schooling early in their development process and then significantly increased secondary enrolments, with the aim to identify common elements and lessons in their education policies (Mehrotra, 1998). The study found several commonalities in spending patterns. First, in all of these "high achieving" countries public expenditure on education represented a high share both of their GDP and their total public expenditure, relative to the regional average. Second, they exhibited a higher expenditure per pupil as a percentage of GNP per capita in primary education and a lower one in higher education than other countries in the region with similar income levels. Third, they adopted several measures to keep unit cost low and internal efficiency relatively high, maintaining minimum standards of quality while expanding access. Fourth, they reduced the costs supported by parents, by making primary education free of tuition (except in Republic of Korea), and in some cases reducing progressively indirect costs as well. Finally, in these countries the state assumed a major role as provider of basic social services, allowing a health transition to occur early in their development process.
Conversely, education and specifically economic policies in several countries in the less developed regions do not reflect the priority that was explicitly accorded to basic education at Jomtien. In some cases expenditures favour higher levels of education with the result that those who benefit from it are the better-off who are able to complete primary education and then continue on to secondary and even higher education. As the former director of the UNDP's Human Development Report, Mahbub ul Haq, stated at the 1993 Education for All Summit of the Nine High Population Countries, the cost of each jet fighter equals that of one million children in primary school, making it evident that achieving Jomtien goals is now also a matter of priorities.
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