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The findings > Thematic Studies> Demographic Challenges> Introduction
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Introduction
 
  
The World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA, Jomtien 1990) reaffirmed the universal right to education, promoting an expanded vision of basic education and a renewed commitment to ensure that basic learning needs of all children, youths and adults would be met in all countries. However, the efforts required to translate this right into reality depend, not least, on the amount of resources that a country can mobilize for the development of its educational system and the demographic and economic context.
 
The opening of the 'World Declaration on Education for All' pointed explicitly to this interrelationship between educational policy on the one hand and economic and demographic development on the other. In particular, the document situated the failure to fulfil the universal right to education asserted in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a broader context including, among others, the problems of economic stagnation and decline, population growth and economic disparities among and within nations: "These problems constrain efforts to meet basic learning needs, while the lack of basic education among a significant proportion of the population prevents societies from addressing such problems with strength and purpose" (World Declaration on Education for All, Preamble, 1990). The inadequate supply of educational opportunities is shown to be both a consequence and a cause of demographic and socio-economic problems.
 
A decade has passed since the Jomtien declaration. What progress has been accomplished towards the goal of education for all, against the backdrop of current financial and demographic factors? Is it possible to quantify the demographic pressure on public policy, and particularly on education? How did public policy directed towards the targets of universal access to primary education, elimination of the gender gap and increasing net primary school enrolment ratio work against the obstacles posed by demographic growth? Which policies have been most successful and what can countries learn from the experience of other countries?
 
Specific goals, derived from the ultimate objective to achieve education for all, included: "universal access to and completion of primary education (or the level of education considered as 'basic') by the year 2000"; and "reduction of the adult illiteracy rate (the appropriate age group to be determined in each country) to one-half its 1990 level by the year 2000, with sufficient emphasis on female literacy to significantly reduce the current disparity between male and female literacy rates".
 
These goals were further specified at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, Cairo 1994). There, it was agreed that governments and civil society, with the assistance of the international community, should meet the goals of ensuring universal access to primary education as quickly as possible and in any case before 2015; close the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005, making special efforts to keep girls and adolescents in school by building more community schools, training teachers to be more gender sensitive, providing scholarships and other incentives and by sensitising parents to the value of educating children and particularly girls; and strive to ensure that by 2010 the net primary school enrolment ratio for children of both sexes will be at least 90 per cent, compared with an estimated 85 per cent by the year 2000.
 
To examine the progress made and the challenges faced in the implementation of these goals, the analysis starts with a global perspective and then focuses on the less developed regions where the demographic transition is still in progress and education for all represents an important challenge. Changes in enrolment ratios, literacy rates, gender disparity, public investment in education, as well as shortages in educational provision and inadequate conditions of learning, are considered against the backdrop of demographic changes. Regional figures, however, hide considerable variations within regions and even within countries, masking important differences in policies. In order to highlight these variations, the situation of individual countries is presented for some specific issues. The interrelationship between population and economic development and the relative success of national policies in meeting EFA goals are also examined through a comparison of the E-9 countries that together account for more than half of the world's population (Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan
 
Specifically, this study is comprised of four parts:
 

The first part:

Provides a descriptive analysis of population growth and development at the world and regional level;

Considers both cross-national and within-country aspects of the relationship between demographic growth, economic growth and wealth; and

Highlights different aspects of the recent debate on population, development and education dynamics, with a focus on the impact of education on population dynamics.

The second part:

Examines the impacts of demographic growth on the achievement of education for all, focusing on the less developed regions of the world; and

Presents policy approaches that are instructive in pursuing the goal of education for all.

The third part:

For a selection of countries, quantifies progress towards universal primary education during the first decade following Jomtien and the efforts required to fill the remaining gap by 2010 in terms of additional students to enrol. Finally,

the fourth part:

Highlights some of the challenges ahead and the main priorities for action towards the achievement of education for all from the perspective of population and sustainable development.

 
Although the four parts are connected, each one can be read independently. If the interest is focused on the impacts of education on population dynamics, then it is possible to read the first part exclusively. If conversely the interest is focused on the impact of population dynamics on education and, specifically on the progress achieved since Jomtien towards education for all, then it is possible to start reading directly the second and third parts. Finally, priorities for further actions can be found in the fourth part.
 
 I wish to thank the UNESCO Institute of Statistics for its invaluable support, and in particular Ms. Vittoria Cavicchioni, Mr. S. K. Chu, Ms.Mania Yannarakis and Ms. Lynda Bellaiche, who followed all phases of the work, providing all needed data and invaluable insights. I also wish to thank Mr. Gustavo Lopez Ospina, Mr. Warren Mellor, Mr John Ryan, Mr.Neville Postlethwaite, Mr. John Smyth, Mr. Andreas Schleicher, Ms. Daphne de Rebello, Ms. Malika Ladjali, and Mr. Robin Ellison for their precious contribution to the preparation and finalisation of the report.
 
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