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  Following this too rapid review of the situation in our countries, the advances secured, the main difficulties encountered and the policies implemented, often in an innovative way, it is appropriate to return to the concept of basic education itself, which has been the leading idea in all our thinking, and which lies at the heart of our Conference and is its raison d'Ítre.


   The Jomtien "Declaration on Education for All" and the action plan accompanying it received the broad approval of the international community, which recognized its general philosophy and its ethical dimension, and the validity of the "expanded" approach to basic education which it proclaimed: the international community thus reaffirmed its commitment to those humanistic and democratic values which constitute, at the deepest level, the ultimate foundation of our modernity.

   In terms of concrete application, however, it has sometimes been regretted that the action plan accompanying the Declaration was not more precise, in particular in terms of target figures and timing. These observations lead us to question, not the legitimacy of the concept of education for all as defined ten years ago, but the conditions necessary to make it more operational and more effective.

   After all, the encouraging results noted in this review could also be interpreted as the result of national policies which, even if there had been no Jomtien Declaration, would have been put in place anyway and developed in the same way, given the upheavals in the political, economic, social and technical contexts whose impact on education policy we have witnessed.   Indeed, most of the reports make it clear that many dimensions of the "expanded vision" of basic education coincide with one or other aspect of national policy, while it is not really possible to conclude in reading the reports that the design of these policies was actually inspired by any "expanded vision".

   If the Conference were to share such a feeling, then an essential question would arise: how, beyond the renewal of a purely moral, and therefore not very constraining adherence to the principles of "education for all", can this be made central to policy-making, and how can it be given a realistic and effective framework for action?

  5.1.1 Power and modernity of the concept of basic education

   We have seen throughout this review to what extent the concept of basic education, with all the richness of its various facets, has been enshrined as the founding principle of our cultures and contemporary society. We shall here stress only three of its truly decisive aspects:

- the truly strategic dimension of the concept of basic education:

∑ insofar as it is the vehicle for values of justice, respect for human dignity, tolerance and openness, basic education is in its very essence deeply democratic. It is the fruit of democratic labours, but it is also the crucible and the place where democracy is perpetuated and reinforced.

∑ it is also a vehicle for values of solidarity and equalization of opportunity, at the national and international levels, and it is a powerful factor of social cohesion and an instrument of peace.

∑ finally, it is also a vehicle for a personal development plan, opening up access to knowledge, skills and qualifications, and enabling both individual and collective development.

- the globality and transversality of basic education: as we have seen, it has sometimes been difficult to position the concept of basic education relative to education policy (access to and extension of the duration of schooling), to the training of adults, to persons in difficult circumstances, and to issues of the general development of the cultural level of a society. This is because the concept includes the entire population, of all age groups, and many reports emphasized these discrepancies and the difficulty of including the concept in the policies described. Its global, transverse dimension fits ill with administrative organizations which are often somewhat compartmentalized, although they may seek, by developing decentralization processes and mobilizing actors close to the pupils, to give it substance and space.

   If the aim is to devise a really effective action plan, then this transverse dimension must be taken fully into account, and must be the key to its success.

- the modernity of basic education: the contributions of the various countries of our region, despite their relative diversity, clearly point to a strong general dimension: in the overall movement towards the development of our region, from the transition to an industrial society, then to post-industrial, service-oriented and knowledge-based societies, a "basic quality education for all" represents the essential foundation for all subsequent development, and its necessary condition.

  We may observe that the situation seems to be the same in other regions, where more traditional societies and economies dominate: the World Bank report Knowledge for Development for 1998-99 is particularly stimulating by virtue of its analyses and the many case studies of which it gives details. Basic education thus appears as a powerful vector of development of all societies, from the most traditional to the most advanced.
   Hence this question: if the Conference were to share these points of view, could it consider, at the conclusion of its work, and in line with the Dakar Conference:

- reaffirming the central importance of the concept of basic education, as defined at Jomtien, while placing greater emphasis on its strategic dimension, its globality and its transversality, and on its decisive role in development strategies within the region and throughout the world?

- mandating the rapporteurs of our Conference to propose, on these lines, a "remodelled vision" of basic education for all, which would take these dimensions into account, and which could, on behalf of our region, be proposed as a subject of discussion for all?

  5.1.2 Integrating the concept of basic education into national policy

   If the Conference can agree on this concept of the truly modern, global and strategic importance of basic education, then it will be necessary for it to consider ways and means of placing actions to promote basic education at the very heart of the framing of educational, social and cultural policies.

   In this respect, this review of the situation teaches us several things: certain countries have not yet begun the exercise; others consider that the exercise does not really concern them, since many of the aspects usually mentioned in connection with basic education, such as universal access to schooling, have already been long since achieved; finally, still others denounce in their reports the unsuitability or inadequacy of the indicators proposed, a point also stressed in the OECD document, in particular for whole sectors such as early childhood, adult education, and the assessment of populations suffering from hardship. The conference could decide to make it a priority to construct new tools for the evaluation of all situations and problems encountered in the development of basic education, and to include this in the calendar of the future action plan.

   Lastly, in the majority of cases, the work carried out has been performed by teams brought together for the purpose, in the form of interministerial cooperation or task forces, or has sometimes been entrusted to consultants, but seldom to a permanent team with the constant role of monitoring the issues raised here. The quality of the analyses provided through this assessment work is remarkable, but it does not afford any guarantee of regular follow-up to these questions. Irrespective of the quality of the work contributed, this situation is undoubtedly one of the major obstacles to real inclusion of the issues of basic education in national policies in our region.

   It is therefore clearly necessary to reverse the general trend observed in the country reports: to move away from "coincidences" observed between national policies and the issues that concern us, and to succeed in transforming them into ways of effectively helping with planning and decision-making in the sectors concerned.

   It is clear that in order to carry out a kind of "Copernican revolution", a number of principles and provisions need to be reaffirmed and adopted, and that the Conference should come to a conclusion on two points:

- it should reaffirm the principle of the full sovereignty of States which sign up to the "remodelled vision" of basic education on the ways and means of implementing the resultant policies.

- it should commit itself to setting up a permanent structure with a watching brief to provide early warnings and advice on all questions concerning the proper development and strengthening of basic education. It would be left to each State to choose the means or structures deemed most suitable to achieve this general goal.

 5.1.3 Objectives to be achieved by the year 2015

   The experience of the last 10 years clearly shows that it can be somewhat unwise to set objectives which are too optimistic or too general: many of the targets which the Jomtien Conference set itself do not appear to have been reached everywhere, and certain regions have experienced even greater difficulties, for various reasons, including wars, epidemics and economic and financial crises.

  For our region, in which political and institutional stability has increased, where, in part at least, economic growth has been strong, or where a return to growth can be expected soon, given the reforms undertaken, it is not unreasonable to set a number of general objectives, bearing in mind, however, that, like the rainbow, some of them may recede as we approach them.

  The Conference could therefore set itself certain minimum objectives to be achieved by the year 2015, encouraging each country to adapt its calendar to its own situation and resources. These objectives could be as follows:

1. To define basic education in terms of levels to be reached, in terms of the knowledge and essential skills deemed to be the indispensable development tools needed for personal and social integration, and possibly to adapt the duration of compulsory schooling to those levels of achievement.

2. To that end, to maintain and broaden access to schooling until it reaches the required levels, in countries where it has not yet been completely accomplished, and for those categories of the population who are unable to take proper advantage of it. The duration of this schooling is to be fixed country by country.

3. To bring about as large a reduction as possible in the number of young people who do not reach the level of attainment necessary to complete their basic education, i.e. the minimal level prescribed country by country. To make it possible for all young persons or adults who have not completed their basic education or who have fallen below this level to take advantage of measures allowing them to achieve or regain this level and to maintain it.

4. To provide a "foundation" for basic education by bringing efforts to bear on early childhood and pre-elementary education, in order to improve conditions for personal development and learning. In addition to improving early childhood care, all children from three to six years of age should have access to pre-primary education, if their parents so wish. But improving the conditions of entry into schooling does not go far enough. It is also necessary to be concerned with life after leaving school, and to develop "maintenance" policies which are primarily "cultural opportunities for all" policies, in order to avoid any weakening of the achievements which basic education is to provide, and to make it possible to build personal or professional careers in a context of lifelong learning.

5. To strengthen actions in favour of those with learning difficulties through positive discrimination, through a more attentive approach to their difficulties, which presupposes that we take their problems comprehensively into consideration, in partnership with them rather than as helpers or fixers. Such an approach involves them in the search for suitable solutions. This implies that we should design true blueprints of personal or family reconstruction, with basic education as one of the major components. Such measures imply the mobilization and joint efforts of various public services, and likewise the support of the voluntary sector.

6. To reinforce and enrich teacher training so as to prepare teachers to cope with the profound transformation of their profession. To take all measures which could improve their material situation whenever this is particularly difficult, and which could make it possible to improve their social status, in order to help to place education once again at the heart of overall plans for society.

7. To develop decentralization policies and to increase the autonomy of individual schools, in order to allow them to relate better to their immediate environment, to take greater account of pupils' needs and expectations, and to play their parts fully with all their partners - families, other public services, local communities and associations.

8. To channel more funds into basic education, making it a real budget priority or maintaining it as such. Adjustment in favour of basic education, in all its aspects, is justified by reasons of justice and social cohesion, and by the very high cost of dealing with exclusion.

 5.1.4 Agendas: objectives, resources and pace of implementation
   Fixing targets for 2015 is one thing. Achieving them by means of a series of concrete actions is another: what we are now proposing to the Conference is that we provide ourselves with the means to implement the above-mentioned objectives in practice, by exploring four directions:

- the establishment of a permanent system: as indicated above, the "remodelled vision" of basic education, if it is to be completely integrated in the very process of policy-making, would justify the establishment, or the maintenance, of a permanent system;

- the definition of levels: also as mentioned above, a priority objective should be to define levels of knowledge, skills and qualifications according to the levels of individual countries' requirements;

- the establishment of an agenda appropriate to the situations of countries and their financial possibilities: the recognition of each country's specificities and different priorities, even if these are found largely within a framework of shared inspiration, should lead to the definition of quantified priorities and the elaboration of action plans which neglect none of the extremely varied questions raised by the furtherance of basic education for all. By all these means it should be possible to establish precise agendas;

- management and regular evaluation of all questions raised by the strengthening of basic education for all: operations under the national agenda of education for all should be accompanied by regular follow-up and quasi-continuous assessment. This concern to monitor progress compared to national baseline levels in parallel to the strengthening of the process, is moreover shared by many in positions of national or international responsibility, and takes pride of place in the Dakar agenda.


   The analysis of the contents of the country reports and the two documents submitted to the Conference by UNICEF and OECD reveals three directions, the last of which is fundamental. Initially, these studies show considerable convergence in the policies of the States of the region, and overall agreement on a social and economic model, for a society in which education for all occupies a central position. They go on to emphasize the options and priorities which appear to depend largely on the situation of each country, according to whether it is facing economic problems as a result of economic transition, or problems of social cohesion, for example. In this there is nothing which is not entirely natural and legitimate: determining general orientations and priorities, and choosing ways and means, lie completely within the competence of national sovereignty.

   But the third point to be emphasized here, on the other hand, poses some problems: there sometimes seems to be a certain lack of focus in the language or presentation of these concepts, and ultimately in the concepts themselves: we saw this clearly when we looked more closely at various countries' definitions of schooling and basic education.

   However, this is no cause for alarm, and we shall simply note that one of our region's major assets lies in this search for definitions, in this slight instability of conceptual frontiers. This hesitation over concepts, this groping for highly innovative solutions appropriate to each situation, actually opens up immense possibilities for regional (and international) cooperation which can only be advantageous: we must all learn to learn from one another, and it is precisely that which is the most promising approach to managing cultural diversity, and which is the key to the rich variety of our region.

   Accordingly, bearing this in mind, the Conference could decide at the regional level:

- To organize close cooperation across the region for the definition of levels of attainment considered to be essential to the achievement of basic education for all in each country. This first stage should be accompanied by the development of new evaluation tools, and a permanent monitoring process to track how the concept of basic education is progressing.

  This should be done with the close involvement, as proposed above, of those structures intended to monitor questions of basic education in each country: the objective being, in terms of regional cooperation, to create or to reinforce a specific network which can monitor all aspects of basic education.

- To encourage work at the regional level on topics of common interest, in order to be better able to capitalize on and share in the experience gained over the whole of the region.

- To strengthen coordination of implementation, on the basis of data provided by the network, and possibly to foster the convergence of education policies and their evaluation.

- To give support, including financial support, to both material and virtual exchanges between schools, teachers and pupils on subjects of common interest, in order to increase mutual understanding and to contribute to the necessary cultural openness in today's world, which is also a response to expectations often expressed by young people.

- To develop strong, rigorous communication policies in order to enhance public opinion concerning the role of education and its fundamental importance for individual and social development.


   The question of international cooperation with other regions and developing countries was tackled directly in some of the reports. France and Germany mentioned this subject very explicitly. However, other countries did not, including some known to play an extremely important role in the area of international educational cooperation, presumably because they are holding their contributions in reserve for the Dakar Conference.

   Admittedly, one of the first objectives of our Conference is to report as fully as possible on the situation, on the progress achieved and the obstacles encountered in our region in the development of basic education for all. However, it must not be forgotten that basic education and its development constitute a major world issue, and thus represent a strong call for solidarity among our countries, for the sake both of ethics, and of straightforward realism. We are well aware of the threats in our own regions of poverty and exclusion, and the denial of education which accompanies them, as well as their costs to society. We should therefore be doubly aware of the same phenomena when observed on a much larger scale in other regions.

   Solidarity, security and our own interests should lead us to a significant reinforcement of cooperation, particularly in the field which concerns us.

   The question will very probably be discussed at length at our Conference when the FRAMEWORK ACTION PLAN is presented for the appraisal of each regional Conference, and subsequently, in April, when it is submitted to the World Conference in Dakar. Against this backdrop, our region, with its long tradition of cooperation, has a duty to make bold proposals to the World Conference, proposals which answer the expectations expressed to us on many occasions. There is no doubt that, in each of our countries, the thinking is along these lines.

   For the present, and given the problems that we have identified as far as we ourselves are concerned, the Conference may well ask to what extent the actions of regional cooperation suggested above might not also have a wider impact, and form at least part of our proposals to the World Conference.

   Our region could thus propose:

  5.3.1 Technical measures

- To adopt a "remodelled vision" of education for all (EFA), taking into account the experience built up in our region and in other world regions during the decade, which truly includes the dimensions of basic education that we have just explored.

- To request each State, as we shall do ourselves, taking into account the situation and resources of each, to define the levels of achievement of basic education that it regards as essential, and to draw up an agenda for their implementation and an estimate of the necessary funding.

- To propose the extension to other regions of the watching brief to observe the state of progress of basic education as mentioned above, at national and regional levels. A true "Observatory of Basic Education" could be thus created, which could be placed under the aegis of the recently created UNESCO Institute for Statistics, with the role of:

∑ contributing to the creation on a world scale of reliable and complete observation tools with which to monitor the state of basic education in each country;

∑ collecting statistics, together with information on and evaluations of initiatives, projects or programmes of general interest, based on a network of national and regional centres, in order to make clear and complete information available to all;

∑ placing at the disposal of all decision-makers and other actors permanently updated information, through the creation of an "electronic gateway" specifically devoted to EFA;

∑ ensuring that the specific dimension of the "remodelled vision" of EFA is taken into account in the development of programmes of bilateral or multilateral cooperation, through the authority which the Forum represents for concerted action of this kind, and calling for better coordination of development aid, particularly where basic education is concerned.

   All of the above corresponds fully to the desire to monitor the framework of action proposed for the Dakar Conference, and to the wishes of many delegations in our region to have a permanent tool with which to track progress on these matters.

  5.3.2 Financial measures

   From a financial point of view, considerable efforts appear indeed to be necessary if those regions in particularly difficult situations are to benefit. The following proposals have been made:

- the already pre-existing commitment to devote 0.7% of GDP to government aid to development should be reaffirmed, a commitment which only a few countries have succeeded in honouring, in the hope that, as many countries of the world return to growth, it will at last be carried into execution;

- debt rescheduling or cancellation mechanisms could be supplemented with clauses giving priority to investment in the sector of basic education, after examination of national plans produced by beneficiary countries;

- a new proposal could be put forward: given the fundamental importance for development of the establishment and maintenance of a universally accessible system of quality basic education, our Conference could consider the advisability of creating a specific Fund financed by a percentage of the educational expenditure of each country;

  This suggestion may appear unrealistic in view of the budgetary constraints weighing on each of us.

   But those responsible for education in our region are fully aware of the great importance of the issue at stake, and can therefore testify to their solidarity with these educational aims in strong, concrete and forthright terms.


   The past 10 years have seen some progress to some degree, but have also led to disappointments which the enthusiasm of Jomtien did not foresee.
If it were possible, at the end of this study, to express a wish, it would be twofold:

- First, to "remodel" the "expanded vision" of the Jomtien Conference, by restating some of its concepts, and emphasizing the truly essential role which basic education can and must play in the foundation and development of individuals, societies and cultures.

- Second, to give priority not to grand but remote objectives, which the hazards of national and international life are likely to cause to recede, but to a system which can strengthen the EFA Forum by furnishing it with:

∑ a clearer vision of what is at stake in basic education;

∑ instruments to steer the undertaking and monitor progress, through the creation of an "Observatory of Basic Education" throughout the world;

∑ funds to enable it to embark on the work of collecting, analysing and making available to decision-makers and all other actors all the accumulated experience, and to make the sharing of that experience one of the great strengths of cooperation on basic education.

I.   The changes of the decade and their impact on education

II.  Inventory: Access to basic education

III. The quest for quality: Strengthening basic education
IV. Persistent Problems

  International 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: Website:
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