number of initiatives have been introduced over the last
10 years, both in and out of school, to fight inequality
of access to education (and, first and foremost, to basic
education), to combat phenomena of exclusion, to stop
the rise of expressions of violence, to release certain
young people from the spiral of drug abuse and to restore
social bonds where they have tended to disappear. Besides
strictly material measures such as the construction of
buildings in places where none existed, the provision
of teaching materials, etc., the policies implemented
have been more global, with the aim of linking education
to environmental contexts and to the social and the economic
causes of inequality, in order to deal with these problems
Such policies or initiatives reform or renovate
basic education and are intended for children and young
people, and sometimes also adults in difficulty. Very
often, they involve the actors and partners in the educational
process. Once again, this is an expression of the "expanded
vision" advocated by the Declaration on Education for
4.1 THE FIGHT AGAINST INEQUALITY: COMPENSATORY MEASURES
Overall, the fight against educational and
social inequality, in the context of education for all,
follows two paths: on the one hand, positive discrimination;
on the other, targeted intervention.
4.1.1 Positive discrimination
In order to combat inequalities of access
to education, academic failure, school drop-out and the
rise of violence in schools, some countries' education
policies have opted in favour of positive discrimination.
This principle aims to fight academic failure
while improving the quality of education, by taking into
account pupils' specific needs in order to correct social
inequalities during schooling and to make it possible
for the whole of an age cohort to acquire by the end of
its schooling a common basis of knowledge, skills and
attitudes. Measures such as these form part of an overall
policy for the whole of basic education.
In Poland, the reduction of geographical
inequalities is a central issue: the National Programme
of the Development of Polish Villages-Education, launched
in January 1999, is a global policy which aims to meet
local needs by means of suitable organization, financing
and legislation. The actions which have been undertaken
within this framework encourage participation by teachers
and civic organizations in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.
In France and Portugal, combating social
inequality is also a priority: the two countries have
adopted similar solutions in the fight against inequality,
based on the principle of positive discrimination. Zones
of priority education (ZEPs in France) or educational
territories for priority intervention (in Portugal) have
been set up under the principle of "giving more and better
to those who have least". To do this, each zone receives
extra financial and human resources, and enjoys a degree
of autonomy which enables it to draw up an educational
blueprint that takes account of the needs of the children
and young people concerned, on the basis of objectives
and requirements which are valid for all pupils nationally.
4.1.2 Targeted actions
The fight against academic failure can also
involve much more specific or localized measures. In this
case, rather than correcting inequalities during schooling
by means of an overall policy, the measures seek to reduce
risks by direct action on the effects of the problem.
In other words, difficulties are dealt with individually
rather than related to an entire age group. In the United
Kingdom, for example, directives at the national level
are limited to the release of specific funds for the reduction
of academic failure and drop-out, and to target figures
to be achieved within a certain time frame, namely, to
reduce by two-thirds the number of academic failures and
exclusions by the year 2002. Initiatives are then taken
at local level, according to the directions chosen by
local authorities and schools.
4.2 BASIC EDUCATION AND MATURE STUDENTS
The training of adults gives rise in the region
to multiple initiatives, whether on the part of public
authorities, the voluntary sector and or private enterprise.
In many ways it can be a means of combating inequalities,
when aimed at underprivileged populations or those at
the margins of society. According to country, it may be
limited to the offer of a "second chance" in the school
system for those who were unable to complete their basic
education, or it may extend to a whole range of specific
courses on offer, corresponding to particular needs and
using a variety of methods. Whatever the case, these special
educational opportunities mostly fall into two categories:
the fight against functional illiteracy, and actions to
compensate for a lack of schooling.
4.2.1 The fight against functional illiteracy
Illiteracy, the condition of those unable
to read or write, has by now been almost completely eradicated
in the region. It still affects around 1% of the population,
especially older people, ethnic minorities and very small
numbers of immigrants.
The phenomenon which is tending to worsen
is, rather, that of functional illiteracy, the insufficient
acquisition of basic knowledge during compulsory schooling
which can place adults affected by it in situations of
social, and especially economic, exclusion. Actions to
combat functional illiteracy are developing and becoming
increasingly diversified (for example, mobilization of
schools, organizations and associations in Norway; the
creation of a permanent combat group against functional
illiteracy in France; recurrent teaching in Portugal).
These actions are initially undertaken downstream
(with adults), but also upstream (fighting academic failure
and drop-out during compulsory schooling). However, definitions
vary when it comes to detecting cases of illiteracy and
evaluating the effects of the initiatives taken: according
to whether one uses one definition or another, the number
of people deemed to be concerned can decrease or increase
At the present time, no international standard
exists for functional illiteracy, and international organizations
base their evaluations on their own criteria. For example,
UNESCO has successively provided two definitions. In 1960,
it reduced the problem to "the lack of ability to read
and write with understanding a simple statement related
to one's life".
Then, from 1978 onwards, it extended this
to an inability to carry on any activity for which the
continuing ability to read, write and do arithmetic is
necessary in the interests of proper functioning of the
group and the community. In these definitions, one or
more dimensions may be considered which concern how illiteracy
limits the ability to take part in social life. In the
broadest definition, it could be said that every individual,
from both a personal and a social angle, is at least partially
This lack of precision raises two issues.
One concerns quantifying the number of people who experience
difficulty with reading and writing, which has less to
do with their actual attainment in reading and writing
than with divergences in how those attainments should
be measured. The other concerns strategic and political
choices: which programmes would it be more advisable to
implement, in order to correct which deficiencies, and
for whose benefit?
4.2.2 Actions to compensate for a lack of education
These actions can be of several types, and
not easily comparable, but during the last decade a tendency
has been observed in the region towards increased provision
of educational courses for adults who have failed to complete
their schooling, or who have forgotten what they had learned.
Traditionally, these are restricted to a second chance
offered by the school system to those who did not complete
their basic schooling at the usual age. For example, the
Russian education system offers adults a chance to repeat
the basic curriculum in evening classes, either in schools
or in establishments of initial vocational training. It
also makes possible professional requalification to the
same standards as initially. In the majority of the countries
of the eastern region, compensatory actions are often
limited to this type of provision.
However, interest is growing in diversifying
the training available for the benefit of educationally
underprivileged populations, and this is seen in the short-term
objectives being pursued in countries such as Poland.
Increasingly, these actions make use of partnerships with
actors in social institutions and private enterprise to
reinforce social bonds and to increase the chances of
social integration. The Norwegian example, involving the
setting up of a national testing network for people with
reading and writing difficulties, is a good illustration.
4.3 Decompartmentalized approaches: assistance with partnership
The persistence of inequality of access to
primary education, the rise in violence among young people,
the appearance of new forms of exclusion and the dislocation
of social bonds has led to a search for new solutions
to these problems. The idea that the school is not the
only agent responsible for education, but that it forms
part of an "expanded system of education" consisting of
school and society, is becoming established in the region.
Some countries have a long tradition of decentralization,
under which the management of schools and the definition
of educational content and methods is largely delegated
to local communities, which thus enjoy a considerable
degree of freedom: this is the case in the United Kingdom,
with its system of Local Education Authorities (LEAs).
But the current trend goes beyond this conception,
in that it introduces the idea of collective management
of educational problems through the involvement of all
the actors at the various levels of decision-making, consultation
and execution, while maintaining overall system consistency
by defining general policy and the control of its implementation.
Such experiments are carried out with a view to achieving
greater equality of opportunity and a better quality of
education, and seek to make schools ideal places for accession
to full active citizenship by opening them up to the community.
4.3.1 Enabling different actors to share in the definition
of education policy
The development of partnerships between school
and society presents as a first benefit that they associate
the various actors with the definition of education policy.
Portugal took this route when it developed the process
of actor participation (in particular pupils, teachers
and families) in the definition of education policy: this
is one of the principal objectives of any education system.
Enabling the partners of schools to take part in the educational
process leads to better consideration of the needs of
pupils, the community and the whole of society. Schools
can become places of exchange, expression and mutual comprehension,
and thus accelerate development and innovation in the
interests of the common good.
4.3.2 Combining actions for greater effectiveness and
The participation of both management and
labour, and of economic and political actors, in the educational
process can be expressed in various forms, in systems
which are more or less decentralized. Whichever way is
chosen, the most innovative experiences are those which,
through the combined efforts of the actors, consider the
child holistically, as one whose needs are simultaneously
educational, emotional, medical and cultural, etc. Families,
healthcare professionals, those involved in the justice
system, in social affairs, in local associations, and
local councillors must intervene within the framework
of education. One example of this, among others, is the
school/society contracts of the Italian reform of 1990.
Opening up schooling requires reforms, or at least administrative
and institutional adjustments. These may be confined to
the schools themselves, by giving them a degree of autonomy,
or by involving them in interministerial partnerships,
as in France.
Such partnerships make it possible both to
respond better to the needs of children and young people,
and to find better solutions to the problems of failure
and of "opting out" and disturbances of a family or emotional
nature, by listening to them more carefully and acting
not only on their education but also on their environment.
They also make it possible to involve them more effectively
in the search for solutions.
Finally, they make it possible to reinforce
social bonds. Even though, in practice, joining forces
and combining efforts will no doubt encounter many obstacles,
this seems to be a promising route towards equal opportunities,
improvements in the quality of education, and preparing
men and women to take full control of their lives, able
to make informed decisions and to take an active and informed
part in the life of the community.
changes of the decade and their impact on education
Access to basic education
quest for quality: Strengthening basic education
for Action: Capitalising on and sharing Experience
Consultative Forum on Education for All, 7, place de Fontenoy,
75352 Paris 07 SP, France. Tel: (33) 1 45 68 21 27, Fax: (33)
1 45 68 56 29, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org