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  Education For All in the Arab States: Renewing the Commitment
  The Arab Framework for Action
to Meet Basic Learning Needs in the years 2000-2010




II     Achievements and Problems

   Challenges and Opportunities

   Principles for Action

     Objectives and Orientations for Implementation


Regional and International Cooperation

Designing National Autonomous Plans for Action

  Based on the assessment of the efforts and achievements made in the Arab States as regards basic education, "Education for All", since the Jomtien Conference (1990) till the end of the decade (the year 2000), in preparation for the International Forum on EFA (Dakar, April 2000);

According to:

- the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Declaration on Education for All, the Arab Document on Children, and the Arab Plan for Childhood Care, Protection and Development, and other Arab and International documents on education,
- the strategies adopted by the Arab Ministers of Education during their meetings;

Aware of world challenges and changes and their consequences on the development of the Arab Region, and in order to benefit from their positive achievements while avoiding their negative consequences;

Aware of the importance of education as a key for human development which constitutes a generator of global sustainable development;

In order to achieve education for all in its quantitative and qualitative dimensions, to become an education of high quality for all that seeks distinction of all learners, and develop, strengthen and promote their capacities to the fullest extent;

Reaffirming the role played by education in providing equal educational opportunities for boys and girls, both urban and rural, and in keeping with the spirit of the century represented by the scientific, computer, and technological revolutions that reaffirm the concept of self-learning which constitutes the basis for life-long learning, in order to allow individuals to have access to data and to criticize, select, classify, treat, and use this data in the different areas of social, economic and cultural life;

Considering the fact that education is a social issue, and that all Arab and international forces, institutions and organizations as well as government and non-governmental associations, unions and organizations, should join efforts to meet the "education for all" needs and goals;

Inspired by the cultural and spiritual values of our Nation which reaffirm that education is an essential dimension of our cultural identity today and in the future;

    We, the participants to the "Arab Regional Conference on Education for All - The Year 2000 Assessment' held in Cairo from 24 to 27 January 2000, recommend that Arab States adopt the document entitled "Education for All in the Arab States: Renewing the Commitment" as the Arab Framework for Action to ensure basic learning needs in the Arab States for the years 2000-2010.

  The "Arab Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs in the Arab States during the years 2000-2010" is based upon the following:

(1) "The World Declaration on Education For All" and the "Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs" adopted by the World Conference on Education For All (Jomtien, 1990);

(2) The Mid-decade Review of the International Consultative Forum on EFA (Amman, 1996) and the various international and Arab activities related to the Declaration and Framework for Action undertaken in the Nineties as regards the substance of the two aforementioned documents;

(3) The documents about childhood and education for all adopted by the ministers of education in the Arab States;

(4) "EFA 2000 Assessment" made by the Arab States in preparation of "The Arab Regional Conference on Education For All" (Cairo, 24-27 January 2000);

(5) The Preliminary Draft Framework for Action elaborated by the International Consultative Forum on EFA and proposed to discussion in preparation of the World Education Forum (Dakar, April, 2000),

(6) The discussions of the "Arab Regional Conference on Education For All - The Year 2000 Assessment" held in Cairo (24-27 January 2000).


  The Objectives of this Framework are two-fold:

(1) To form a reference and guide for all stakeholders concerned with education in the Arab Region and committed to achieving the goals of Education For All, in their strategies, plans, and programs;

(2) To convey the concerns of the Arab States while discussing the EFA issues at the "World Forum on Education For All" (Dakar-Senegal, April 2000).

  Learning is the key to human sustainable development and is the foundation for enlightened existence and the sustenance of all livelihoods
    Learning, this 'treasure within', is the product of open and diversified access to knowledge and experience. Thus, the concept of learning throughout life emerges as one of the keys to life in the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the traditional distinction between school and life-long education. It is designed to meet the challenges posed by a rapidly changing world.
    Four pillars were proposed as the foundation of education by the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century, i.e.: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together with others. The capacity to learn is at the heart of human development. It is the foundation for enlightened existence and the sustenance of all livelihoods.
    Education not only aims at providing equal opportunities for individuals to learn, but also at achieving a learning society based on the acquisition, renewal, and use of knowledge. This involves increasing the scope and opportunities for access to knowledge for all individuals. Education should enable everyone to gather information and to select, arrange, manage and use it. Learning is the key to sustainable human development.
  Enhancing learning is improving the quality of life
    The provision of equal opportunities for learning is a mandatory social service that must be provided to all individuals, as one of their basic rights and a condition for improving the quality of life. Health care is another important social service. It encompasses fighting diseases, providing nutrition and pure water and ensuring an unpolluted environment.
    Among these mandatory social services other than eduction is health care which encompasses the eradication of diseases, the provision of nutrition, safe water, and non-polluted environment. The expansion of education has led to greater health awareness. Education for women leads not only to enhanced child health care, but also to the enhancement of the general care of children, including their education. Enhancement of the educational level of the mother no doubt is the most crucial factor underlying participation in education and improving the quality of life.

  Moreover, the expansion of education leads to a more enhanced environmental awareness, a greater knowledge of basic rights and duties, and a general increased sense of citizenship and enlightened involvement in civic life. It is generally believed today all over the world that education is the most important means to fight poverty.

  Meeting basic learning needs is an international priority
    The World Declaration on Education For All (Jomtien, 1990) affirmed the necessity to provide basic learning needs by stating that: "Every person - child, youth and adult - shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs".

  Furthermore, the Jomtien Conference adopted a framework derived from the World Declaration on Education for All, to be taken as a guide for action at the national, regional, and international levels.

  Re-Affirmation of the Jomtien Message at the International Level

  During the ten years after the Jomtien Conference, the international community, with the participation of the Arab States, has witnessed a series of conferences, all of which re-affirmed the message of the Jomtien Declaration, and linked education to development, quality of life, human rights, democracy, social integration, and justice. These conferences called for a special emphasis on the education of girls and women, struggle against poverty, unemployment and social exclusion (The World Summit for Children, 1990; The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992; The World Conference on Human Rights, 1993; The International Conference on Population and Development, 1994; The World Summit for Social Development, 1995; The Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995; The International Conference on the Education of Persons with Special Needs, 1996; The International Conference on Adult Education, 1997; etc…).

    The Mid-Decade Meeting of the International Consultative Forum on Education For All (Amman, 1996) was held to assess what has been achieved in the five years that followed the Jomtien Conference. The Meeting discussed various new challenges and the continuing challenges that still have to be addressed. The Amman Affirmation recommended "stressing the forms of learning and critical thinking that enable individuals to understand changing environments, create new knowledge and shape their own destinies". It further noted that the continuing challenges to the goals of EFA include mainly the education of women and girls, the training, status and motivation of teachers, the role of the family and the local community in education, and the broad partnership to achieve EFA goals.
  Re-Affirmation of the Jomtien Message at the Arab Level
    At the Arab level, The Cairo Declaration (1994) emphasized the role of education in achieving sustainable development. The Conference expressed its determination "to frame educational programs that would bring the region into a position of world prominence in the next century". The Conference concluded that two major areas stand out as pressing priorities requiring concerted action: the problem of illiteracy and the quality of education.
    Furthermore, the Arab Declaration on Adult Education (Cairo, 1997) re-affirmed the contents of Jomtien Declaration (1990), and Amman Affirmation (1996), and renewed its commitment towards "The Arab Strategy for Education", "The Strategy to Eradicate Illiteracy in the Arab States", and the recommendations of the Arab conferences on education, particularly the Fifth Conference of the Ministers of Education and those of Economic Planning in the Arab States held in Cairo (1994). The Arab Declaration on Adult Education called for the necessity to consider illiteracy eradication as a top priority for the development of the Arab States. It also confirmed its endeavor to ensure new opportunities and educational programs for the continuous education of adults.

  The efforts exerted at the international, regional, and Arab levels have culminated in various policies, laws, measures, programs and activities at the level of each Arab State. This in turn has lead to an improvement in the quality of life and to providing learning opportunities and improving education quality.

    Yet, all that has been achieved by the end of the twentieth century remains below the expectations. Poverty is still widespread, and where it exists, educational opportunities decrease and so does the quality of health care. In addition, there is a spread of other problems, like unemployment, violence, conflicts, and the continuous threat to family ties and social integration. Poverty generates poverty, as illiteracy generates illiteracy conducive to social decline. In some countries, the suffering is greater than in others; in rural areas more than in urban ones; in geographically remote areas, and among marginalized minorities and nomads more than among others.
    Although various studies have highlighted the importance of educating females as a positive investment factor, girls and women have not sufficiently benefited from the allocated resources. Where girls do complete a primary education, there is often a large gender gap in the transition rate to secondary school. The gap between males and females becomes wider when literacy is considered. When combined with other factors related to the quality of life (specially in rural areas and shanty towns) such as poverty, disability, violence against females, malnutrition, rapid social changes, unemployment, and risks of acquiring diseases such as AIDS, it appears that the females are more systematically disadvantaged than their male counterparts, on the basis of discrimination by gender.
  Early Childhood Education is still far below the required attention
    Most of the Arab States have a pre-primary system of education for children aged 3-5 years. In some states, this takes on a traditional form, such as the Kuttabs, supported by government such as in Morocco and Mauritania. The Gross Enrollment Rate, however, varies between 0.7% and 99%, which shows the widest discrepancy between Arab States in all educational indicators. But all States reported improvement between 1990 and 1999. In the latter, the rate is less than 13% in ten states, between 13 and 50% in six states, and more than 70% in only two states (Lebanon 71%, and Kuwait 99%). This shows that Arab States, rich and poor countries alike, do not devote the required attention to ECCD. It seems that, for the Arab States, education at this stage is primarily a family matter.
    On the other hand, the percentage of children who attend first grade after pursuing certain pre-primary schooling (for one year or more) is higher than the Gross Enrollment Rate. This indicates, first, that pre-primary schooling is short-termed in most states and second, that the trend to educate children at the pre-primary level through school structure is increasing. In most Arab States, ECCD still generally constitutes an important challenge, since it affects school life at the primary level.
  Increase in primary education enrollment
    The most important achievements in the Arab States in the previous decade relate to enrollment at the primary education. Most of the Arab States either maintained their enrolment capacity rate in the first-grade (6-7 years old) or improved it. The countries which still show low Gross Enrollment Rates at this level (82% and below in late 90s) are Djibouti, Sudan, Mauritania, and Yemen. Where rates are high, the gender gap decreases (to 1-4% of difference), and where they are low it increases (10% of difference). Yet, upon looking at the Net Enrollment Rate at the first grade the image changes: nine countries show a NER of 82% and below.
    In terms of Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) at the primary education, the Arab States have demonstrated significant progress. Only in three countries is the GER 68% and below, versus 13 countries where it is 90% and above (and where gender parity index is 0.9 and above). Two countries have shown a very high progress between the early and late 90s: Sudan and Mauritania.
    Besides this progress, the discrepancies between rural and urban areas are still high, and female participation in primary education is always less than that of males (the parity index is 1.0 and above in one country). In addition, the problem of enrollment appears more striking when looking at Net Enrollment Rate. Although a real improvement took place in the 90s, there are still six countries which have an NER of less than 80%. Also, the gap between males and females widens in this regard: the parity index is equal or less than 0.9 in six countries.
  Illiteracy yet prevails
    The number of illiterates in the Arab States is estimated today at 68 million (of which 63% are females). Despite the expanded efforts, a quarter of these is found in one country: Egypt (17 millions), and 70% in 5 countries: Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, and Yemen. In most of these countries illiteracy is accompanied by large population, high population growth rates, poverty, and concentration of population in rural areas.
    It is clear that the feature of illiteracy in the Arab States is different from that of the expansion of primary education; for illiteracy is the negative product of education that had not been completely expanded in the past. The strongest element in the spread of illiteracy in the Arab States and its strongest explanatory factor is the gender gap. The Gender Parity Index in these countries is 0.69. This indicates that illiteracy in the Arab Region is caused not only by poverty, but also by attitudes against female education and by the absence of effective policies to change these attitudes.
    The presence of 68 million illiterates in the Arab Region, and the existence of illiteracy in all Arab States, though in widely varying rates, not only represent a great challenge to these states in terms of development, social justice, and the quality of life, but also serves as a serious indictment to the educational systems themselves. These marks are reflected in the failure of schools to draw children and to retain them enough to prevent them from returning to illiteracy as well as in the low level of learning achievement.
  Quality Education is still a privilege for a few
    After Jomtien, learning achievement was adopted as a key indicator of the quality of education. Nine Arab States participated (between 1993 and 1999) in the Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) Project conducted by UNESCO and UNICEF. The results show that competencies acquired by students at the primary level (4th grade) are far below the standard proposed in Jomtien: only 12%, 10%, and 25% showed high skills (80% of the competencies or more) in Arabic, Math, and Life Skills, respectively. In Arabic language, only Tunisia and Morocco achieved the benchmark rate suggested at Jomtien (80% of students). None of the participating states achieved the suggested level in mastering mathematics competencies. Only Tunisia and Jordan reached the suggested level of achievement in Life Skills tests. In average, the achievement of girls was better than that of boys. Achievement among students in urban schools was higher than those in rural schools.
    According to the results of the Monitoring Learning Achievement project, primary education in the Arab States appears to be of poor quality and not providing for the basic learning needs to the students. This means that, in the past, these States focused more on providing school places than on enhancing the quality of education. Therefore, improving the quality of education constitutes a main challenge to the Arab States.
    Among the components of learning acquisition, basic skills for a better life are to be taken into consideration. Many Arab States include in their educational goals and objectives, elements related to these skills, such as vocational training, health, environment and citizenship education. Mass media are also mentioned as a means for the transmission of values and knowledge in relation to these skills. However, in general, these essential aspects of learning have not received sufficient attention, and the information about the acquisition of basic skills related to the quality of life is still very scarce.
  Teachers' qualifications need improvement
    Data from Arab States show that the teachers fulfilling the minimum required national qualifications vary widely between 21% and 100% (late 90s). In addition, the required entry qualifications vary from completing secondary school to completing four or five years at a higher education institution. They also differ in terms of pedagogical requirements from nil to full program approaching international standards. This is a large discrepancy. The concept of teaching license is still not common in educational circles, and professionalization of teaching remains a rhetoric discourse. However, the pupils/teacher ratio is low in general. It ranges between 11 and 25 in fourteen states, as opposed to 26 and 30 in three states and 31 and above in two countries. Furthermore, more efforts should be exerted in order to resolve many problems facing the status of teachers, mainly concerning their work conditions and their social position in order to attract young and qualified people.
  Improvements in internal efficiency
    30. Available data on internal efficiency show slight decline in repetition rates, improvement in the number of students staying at school until the 5th grade, and a better performance of females as compared to males. However, the primary level of the educational systems in the Arab States still show weaknesses in internal efficiency: persistence of dropout and repetition (which increase the more one goes up in the educational ladder), the long time taken to complete primary education.
  Expenditures on education
    31. Achievements and problems of education in the Arab States depend largely, among other factors, on expenditure. Arab States exerted a substantial effort that lead to a greater expenditure on education in the last decade. But, in view of what has been mentioned about enrollment rates and quality of education, the expenditure on primary education seems to be suffering from different problems: inadequacy, in some countries, between financial resources and educational requirements; wastage or lack of rationalization of spending; weakness in capital expenditure (investment), high cost of educating remote and widespread population; and weakness in budgeting techniques. Such problems raise questions about the potential role of non-governmental organizations, diversification of financial sources, mobilization of resources, accountability, and the means to build the national capacity for planning, budgeting, and assessment.
  Poor management of education systems
    If the increase of financial resources may be a pressing need for poor countries, the major problem in most of Arab States is how to make a good use of available resources, human and financial as well. Survey on learning achievement showed the absence of developed systems of monitoring. Reports on expenditure show problems in terms of planning and budgeting. Education management information systems (EMIS) are lacking in general. Problems of centralization versus decentralization are still debated. Thus, the issue of efficient educational management constitutes a serious challenge in the Arab States in order to meet the goals of EFA.
    Time is passing, and in the Arab Region millions of individuals remain deprived from education, and millions others are getting education of poor quality, while most of the rest are not appropriately prepared for the technological era and the international competition in the new millenium. We are faced with the challenge of achieving what had not been achieved since Jomtien and with the new challenges after 2000.
    There is a general consensus on EFA goals and that education for all is pivotal in addressing increasing poverty, sustaining socio-economic progress, and honoring the human rights of every individual. Lacking are the necessary resources. And despite the political will and although education stands high on rhetorical agendas of governments, commitments made at Jomtien by Arab States remain highly visible, but significantly unmet.
    It is more starkly evident that failure to quicken the pace of progress towards Jomtien goals will have grave consequences for peace, stability and prosperity. The stage is now set for a stronger, more action-oriented approach of country initiatives for basic education, with important international commitment and support, reset within the circumstances and imperatives of the new millenium.
  The challenges of the twenty-first century - Outlook for 2010
    Globalization imposes a labor market that surpasses the boundaries of countries and a tough competition according to the acquired qualifications. These qualifications are primarily the product of learning
    Globalization furthermore dictates the increasing use of technology, which is the most efficient means for production and communication. But the ability to make use of technology and what that entails in terms of skills and knowledge, is also a product of learning. So what can the Arab educational authorities and organizations do to prevent marginalization and to positively participate in the globalization process?
    Technology also induces in people a deep transformation in how to learn, how to use what they have learned, and how to evaluate the importance and relevance of what they have learned. We live in a period where economical progress is essentially based on knowledge. Thus, learning becomes more than ever a decisive factor in prosperity.
    This also means that the cost of learning is to increase. This is as true for households as it is for countries. Poor countries, unable to enter more technology-intensive-based markets, run the risk of excessive marginalization in trade and investment. In developed and developing countries alike, poverty and inequality at the household levels are increasingly associated with educational attainment. And the gap is widening between those who have access to information and the capacity to use technology of communication (e-mail, e-commerce, and e-learning), and those who don't or can't.
    The Arab States furthermore face the problem of the usage of foreign language as the technological medium. Mastering a foreign language is not generalized, neither is the "arabization" of technology.
    The unpredictable changes surrounding our lives give daily new meaning to the imperatives of the Jomtien commitments. That is because, as skills requirements for adequate, livelihood sustaining employment rise, basic education becomes ever more essential for work, or for school success and transition to secondary and higher levels of education.
    Demographic growth poses another challenge to the education systems. While the annual average growth rate is estimated for the years 2000-2010 at 1.2% for the world and 1.5% for the developing countries, it is 2.5% for the Arab States. In 2010, the estimated population of the age group 5-18 years old is 110 millions. If the enrolment rate in general education will be around 80% for this age group, Arab States have to ensure educational opportunities to 88 million students, i.e. to provide resources for an additional 29 million students (actual figures 59 million students). This demographic increase poses severe pressures on the educational systems in terms of expenditure, management, qualified human resources, etc... At the same time, the population growth entails competing demands for resources to ensure other basic needs such as nutrition, housing, health services, etc... Some educational systems in the Arab States have suffered from high indebtedness and the consequences of applying structural adjustment and economic reform policies.
    Furthermore, in the last decade a number of Arab States suffered from persistent troubles and conflicts (Algeria and Sudan), embargoes (Iraq, Lybia, and Sudan), occupation and wars (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Sudan). The educational systems in these countries suffered deeply from these troubles which hindered their capacities and delayed the achievement of their objectives according to Jomtien Declaration. The return to peace and normal life through the elimination of all forms of occupation, embargoes, conflicts, and tensions appears to be a sine qua non condition to ensure education for all in troubled areas. In parallel, education has a role to play in contributing to create a peaceful environment in the Region.
  Building on available opportunities and progress made
    Facing these challenges does not initiate from a void. It has to be recognized that there are opportunities available which were not there a decade ago. An unequivocal global consensus has been forged around the critical role of education to sustainable human development. There is an even stronger reaffirmation of the importance of human rights. Since the Copenhagen Summit (1995), there is renewed concern for the rights of the socially excluded, marginalized, and impoverished, and mounting recognition of the benefits for societies of educating females.
    Donors are answering the calls from countries to strengthen ownership of competencies and the development of national capacities. The educational deterioration that many developing countries experienced in the eighties has been stemmed. And it is noticeable that civil society has become more likely to assume its responsibilities.
    New and creative ways are now available also for reaching out to learners with disabilities or learning difficulties, as a means of ensuring that their capacities for learning are given the utmost chance to flourish.
    Modern information and communication technologies offer in general enormous potential for educational outreach, enhancing access, self-paced learning, and meticulous assessment of learning outcomes.
    At the national level, new synergies are beginning to develop around more comprehensive governance systems, and the participation of a wider set of actors such as NGOs representing civil society in educational planning and implementation.
    At the global level, original core sponsorship of education for all (by UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, and UNDP) has extended through the International Consultative Forum to engage another UN agency (UNFPA) and representation from a wide set of public, private, and non-governmental constituencies.
  The Year 2000: Renewing the commitment to the Jomtien Declaration
    Ten years after the Jomtien Declaration, the definition of basic education and the commitments surrounding it still stand as a persistent challenge to the Arab States. This Declaration focused, for the first time, on the basic learning needs of neglected minorities, and on learning achievement rather than on mere school enrolment. 51. The ten articles on scolarisation.

  The ten articles of the Jomtien Declaration throw lights, illuminating the road ahead:

(1) Meeting basic learning needs;
(2) shaping the vision;
(3) universalizing access and promoting equity;
(4) focusing on learning acquisition;
(5) broadening the means and scope of basic education;
(6) enhancing the environment for learning;
(7) strengthening partnerships;
(8) developing supporting policy context;
(9) mobilizing resources;
(10) strengthening international solidarity.

    The Jomtien Declaration remains even more vibrant and relevant today. The commitment should be renewed. And the follow-up efforts already exerted by the States must be continued, and enriched by the experiences and the information gained during the past decade. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that failure is averted.
  The Arab Framework for Action:
A guide for all the partners to achieve EFA
    Taking into account the above mentioned background, the achievements and the problems in the Arab States, and the challenges: those imposed by what was unmet in the 1990s and those imposed by the developments of the 21st century, the Arab States are called upon to adopt this Framework for Action and to act in conformity with it.
    The purpose of the Arab Framework for Action is to act as a reference and a guide for all stakeholders concerned with education in the Arab States and committed to achieving education for all, in their plans and programs, each within its adopted goals, missions, and target groups, with the view of strengthening partnerships at the global, regional and local levels, in the single aim of meeting basic learning needs of all by 2010.

  The main stakeholders to this Framework are:

(1) The governments of the Arab States which hold responsibility for immediate action towards achieving the goals of education for all, and for leading and coordinating actions aimed at achieving these goals;
(2) All stakeholders from civil society at the national level, i.e. universities and other educational institutions, NGOs, the private sector, etc… which should take a pro-active role in contributing significantly to the achievement of the goals of education for all;
(3) Arab and regional organizations which are responsible for providing support and for promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation at the Arab regional level;
(4) International agencies and organizations which are responsible for providing support and promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation at the international level.

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