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The findings > Thematic Studies> Demographic Challenges>Part 4
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4. Looking towards the future
 
At the end of the first post-Jomtien decade, there is consistent evidence for both progress and shortcomings in pursuing education for all. A continuing growth in the child and youth populations in all of the less developed regions of the world has posed significant challenges, but the trend is now changing in many countries and is projected to change in most others.
 
On the one hand, it is important to acknowledge the efforts that have been made during these ten years by many national governments, multilateral and bilateral organizations, and NGOs, as well as individuals, including local policy makers, teachers and parents. Due to these efforts, the EFA targets seem more easily attainable today than they were ten years ago, with enrolment in primary and secondary education having grown during the 1990s at double the pace than in the 1980s. Literacy rates have also tended to increase and gender disparities have declined in many countries.
 
On the other hand, major gaps remain. In some countries, more than half of the school age population is excluded from primary education and up to two thirds of the adult female population is illiterate. Moreover, all regions – the industrialized world included – share a concern about the quality of educational outcomes.
 
This part outlines some of the main priorities and challenges ahead that indicate a few lines of action for pursuing Education for All ten years after Jomtien.
 
All along the debate on education for all the issue of quality was affirmed next to the more easily definable and measurable issue of quantity. Putting all children in school and then being unable to provide most of them with the relevant learning for their development and future participation in society means wasting enormous resources, missing a unique chance, and perpetuating long term inequalities and injustices. In short, it means failing to meet the commitment of education for all taken in Jomtien. A basic education of poor quality coupled with limited access to higher levels of education translates into social, economical, and cultural disadvantage or even exclusion for those who are the targets of all current efforts.
 
In order to enable all countries to achieve universal primary education without sacrificing the quality of the teaching/learning experience, countries starting from different points of departure may have to establish different intermediate national targets, combining the common urge with realistic timeframes.
 
The relationship between enrolment and quality can be considered by means of "yield histograms", which present enrolment (i.e. the percentage of the official school-age group enrolled) on the vertical axis and achievement (i.e. scores to a given test) on the horizontal axis (IEA, 1988). The area under the curve is called the "yield". Expanding enrolment quickly without simultaneously guaranteeing the attainment of sufficient achievement standards may easily result in a very low yield, which means that the majority of the enrolled students will have a very poor achievement. Conversely, adding a limited number of new pupils and then enhancing achievement standards before allowing some more children into school and so on, is one way to maintain the yield of achievement at acceptable levels.
 
In order to harmonise quantity, that is the expansion of enrolment, with quality, that is achievement, the minimum sufficient standards to be attained need to be defined, measured and guaranteed, while progressively expanding enrolment. Projects such as the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), the Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA), the Program of Analysis of Educational System (PASEC), and the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of Educational Quality (Laboratorio) have marked a progress in this area and need to be continued while expanding the number of participating countries.
 
More research is needed on learning achievement, in order to be able to assess, monitor and guide the progress towards the universal acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as "life skills" defined as "the ability to cope with issues central to daily life, such as health, hygiene, nutrition, the environment and civil rights" (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank, 1996a). Reliable and timely data on learning outcomes, by gender and socio-economic status, would provide a basis for monitoring the quality of education and addressing problems, particularly in those countries that have the greatest disparities in gender and wealth. Both national and international assessments of learning achievement as the ones mentioned above as well as the studies of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) represent means to this goal (International Consultative Forum on Education for All).
 
The first gap is that which still separates many countries from universal primary enrolment. Renewed efforts will be required to reach the child population that is still out-of-school, bearing in mind that progress may now require larger efforts than those required previously, given that those who are not in school yet are likely to be the most difficult to reach for different reasons.
 
Besides, the Amman Affirmation mentioned the insufficient progress achieved in both closing the gender gap and reducing illiteracy rates among the shortfalls that emerged at the mid-decade review in 1996. The situation in these areas has not changed substantially by the end of the first post-Jomtien decade. Although much has been done to promote the participation of girls and women in education, innovative experiences have to be shared and multiplied in order to overcome continued discrimination against girls and women and fully address gender issues.
 
More attention and support is also required in the area of adolescents’ and adults’ literacy and education, with a focus on programmes promoting employment opportunities and developing skills. Also in this domain, countries could benefit from an exchange of information and experiences involving intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, associations and private partners.
 
Funding schemes should reflect the highest priority of basic education, not only because a great deal of research illustrates the high returns of investing in this level of education but also because in the developing world primary education represents the only educational opportunity for a share of the child population that ranges from 45 to 80 per cent depending on the region. The measures envisaged to overcome the scarcity of resources for basic education include: re-examining spending patterns and unit costs at different levels of the education systems, leading to a different distribution of resources between these levels; re-examining the allocation of national budgets leading to a shift in the allocation of public resources; increasing the focus of the external support of donors on basic education to be viewed "as a key ingredient of all development assistance rather than as just one area among many" (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank, 1996b).
 
Schooling risks to fail its mission if it educates according to values and visions that are not supported, shared and conveyed by the society as a whole. It is difficult to overcome gender disparities in educational opportunities, for example, in a society that discriminates against girls and women, or to ask the school to take care of the disadvantaged when the society at large excludes those who do not fit certain socio-economic standards.
 
A real reform of education today implies a profound understanding of the complex changing process at the societal level with the aim of constantly instilling the vision of education for all and its goals into the minds of the world’s societies. The real qualitative change in education is a major expression of the evolution and possibilities of each society in close relation with the rest of the world and not just a question of isolated schooling.
 
One of the six priorities for action underlined at the end of the Amman mid-decade review was that "the international community needs to form new alliances in support of poorer and least developed countries truly committed to the goals of education for all" based on the acknowledgment that "the vision of Jomtien correctly set this out as a challenge for the world as a whole" (Jolly, 1996).
 
Agreeing that education for all, as well as issues such as the combat against poverty and sustainable development, calls out for a response from the "world as a whole" means going beyond the simple acknowledgement that we live in a global world. "Global" does not necessarily means safe, good for everyone, or harmonic. It simply points at the interdependence among the parts so that what happens in one part of the globe may have repercussions on what happens in several other parts.
 
Globalisation, however, provides the opportunity to direct the chain of interdependent actions and reactions towards well-being and progress and for all human beings. The responsible and ethical management of globalisation requires going towards a more co-operative and united world. Turning globalisation into co-operation and unity implies working together to achieve common goals and allowing an exchange based on the recognised equal dignity of those who give and those who are in need.
 
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This study is published by UNESCO for the International Consultative Forum on Education For All. The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this report do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or areas of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries. Any part of this study may be freely reproduced with the appropriate acknowledgement.

For further information, please contact:

UNESCO

7, Place de Fontenoy 75352

Paris 07 SP France

 
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