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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
   
  Content

Preamble

Introduction


     Background

II     Achievements and Problems

III
   Challenges and Opportunities

IV
   Principles for Action

V
     Objectives and Orientations for Implementation

VI
    Priorities

VII  
Regional and International Cooperation

VIII  
Designing National Autonomous Plans for Action
   
 
  IV. PRINCIPLES FOR ACTION
 
 

  The following five principles are proposed as guidelines for all actions aiming at ensuring the provision of basic learning needs in the Arab States.

 
 

  The principle of Comprehensiveness, which includes the following:

  Viewing education for all through the expanded vision confirmed in Jomtien;
  Considering learning as one of the key components of the quality of life, and an essential factor in improving this quality;
  The acknowledgment at all levels and sectors of society that learning is the cornerstone to sustainable human development;
  Dealing with the learner in a holistic manner, in order to understand his surrounding environment, and to meet its needs and develop its personality in an integral and harmonious manner.

   
 

   The principle of Equity, which consists of the following:

  Considering access to educational opportunities as an absolute right to be provided by society to all citizens of all ages without discrimination;
  Considering social and geographical inequality of educational opportunities as a factor leading to the creation of a gap in society that is hard to close;
  Integrating in the educational plans and processes the various excluded groups, such as the impoverished, the rural populations, the marginalized, the displaced, the refugees, the nomads, the immigrants, street and working children, and others under difficult circumstances;
  Addressing the needs of special groups and racial, religious, and cultural minorities when generalizing programs and curricula;   Considering gender discrimination in basic education as incompatible with social equity, and with development needs and as a breach in human rights;
  Considering the inclusion of learners with special needs, especially those with disabilities and learning difficulties, in educational programs, as a right and an essential means for their self-actualization and social integration;
  Providing the gifted and talented with special care and appropriate teaching/learning environment so as to develop their talents and capacities in order to contribute in the development process and to meet the challenges of the future.

   
 

  The principle of Learner-Friendly Environment, which includes the following:

  Providing a healthy and secure environment to learners;
  Providing quality education relevant to learners' needs and to the requirements of the changing society;
  Providing an educational environment based on the mutual rights and responsibilities and non-discriminatory between genders;
  Fostering the attitudes that enhance the values of respect, tolerance, and understanding of others;
  Promoting independent thinking and expression among learners;
  Providing committed teachers keen to discover the learners' potentials and to work for their development;
  Making this environment available and affordable to all.

   
 

  The principle of Commitment, which includes the following:

  High-level re-commitment at all levels of government and leadership in civil society, regional and international organizations and other partners, to renewed efforts towards meeting the basic learning needs of all, children, youth, and adults, in line with national and international goals and targets;
  Commitment by all relevant bodies to a renewed campaign for resource mobilization at all levels, global and local, to provide more innovative and equitable formulas to resolve the problem of human and financial resources of countries in the greatest need.

   
 

  The principle of Keeping Pace with Technological Advancements, which includes the following:

  Considering the rapid transformations in technology of communication as a supporting factor for the provision of education, starting from basic education. Among other things, technology helps classifying the learning objectives and determining the expected performance from learners, subdividing subject matters and facilitating their presentation, individualizing learning, assessing learning and analyzing learner's performance, and conducting examinations, and using distant education to get access to populations in geographically remote areas;
  Considering the use of technology, which includes, in addition to hardware and software, the use of the Arabic and foreign languages, as indispensable to help education meet the challenges of the new century.

   
 
  V. OBJECTIVES AND ORIENTATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
 
 

  The Framework for Action adopted in Jomtien invited all Member States to develop their special goals and objectives in their efforts to meet the basic learning needs of children, youth and adults.

 
 

  The EFA Mid-Decade Review Meeting (Amman, 1996) emphasized five major areas of concern: improving learning achievement, mobilizing resources, developing partnerships, building national capacities, and meeting the basic learning needs for all in the 21st century.

   
    With the end of the decade, it is necessary to acknowledge the difficulties facing the educational systems in the region and prevented the achievement of the goals of Jomtien Declaration, among which shortage of financial and human resources or their misallocation and waste, weakness of mobilization, the difficulties related to the management of a complex system such as education and the complexity of its relationship with other systems, the mismatch between the size of the pressure to meet the goals and the size of the exerted efforts, etc.
   
    The successes achieved should also be recognized and the commitment among the four major groups of partners that hold responsibility for achieving the goal in the future, i.e. governments, civil society, regional agencies and organizations, international agencies and organizations has to be renewed, and all have to set clear goals and objectives.
   
  Seven Objectives
   
 

  Therefore, building on Jomtien Declaration and the present needs of the Arab States, the new objectives and targets for achieving the ultimate goal of education for all in the Arab States could be re-defined for the coming years (2000-2010) as follows. These objectives allow for periodical assessment of the progress achieved.

1. Expanded and improved early childhood care and development, which includes, besides providing health care, nutrition, and other basic social services to young children, providing them opportunities for learning and development at educational institutions with a view to fully developing their capacities including their physical, cognitive, creative, and psycho-social abilities.

2. Extending basic education and its provision in good quality to all children, with special emphasis on excluded groups. This requires ensuring compulsory basic education, supporting needy families in enrolling their children in schools, categorically prohibiting child employment, and providing for the inclusion in schools of all children including those with special needs.

3. Extended opportunities for basic education and training programs to acquire life and vocational skills for all youth and adults. This includes enhancing the existing non-formal learning structures, developing new ones, and providing diversified forms of technical and vocational training and life-long learning for both males and females.

4. Universalizing literacy among adolescents, and decreasing illiteracy rates among adults by setting realistic and still ambitious targets, which would lead to significant progress.

5. Empowering all learners to attain distinguished achievement levels that make full use of their potentials starting with the mastery of basic skills, vocational and life skills, and attaining distinguished levels in creativity. This will require improving the quality of education in all its aspects, including teachers' qualifications and conditions of employment, curricula, teaching and assessment methods, and the learning environment.

6. Full equality and effective participation in basic education for girls and women, and elimination of gender biases and disparities in all schools and educational systems.

7. Improving educational governance and management, which entails improving decision-making processes, accountability systems, building capacities, and extending and strengthening partnerships in planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

   
    Each State sets its own targets for each of these objectives in such a manner as to allow the assessment of the progress made, reviewing these targets periodically and modifying them according to new developments.
   
  Five Orientations for Implementation:
   
    Five orientations for implementation constitute the approaches to be adopted at the national level towards reaching the determined objectives.
   
 

  Orientation 1: Promote partnerships, which includes the following mechanisms:

  Organizing the support provided by regional and international organizations, and by bilateral and multilateral cooperation in a concerted manner and orienting it according to national priorities;
  Greater participation of civil society in designing, implementing, and monitoring basic education programs, and allowing for the participation of the private sector, NGOs, local communities, and religious foundations, in the achievement of EFA goals;
  Better cooperation, exchange of information, transparency, accountability, and trust amongst all partners in the process of universalizing basic education.

   
 

  Orientation 2: Integrate programs and projects, through:

  Implementing integrated health, social, and educational policies. Health problems can prevent children from attending school and from learning. Ensuring that children are healthy and able to learn is especially relevant to efforts to increase enrollment and learning achievement, i.e. it encourages the poorest and most disadvantaged children to attend school and to devote the needed efforts for success;
  Incorporating all programs for the education of children, youth, and adults into an integrated national vision and linking the educational plans to the economic and social development plans within the framework of sustainable development efforts and strategies. Also, employment policies based on training, education, and the eradication of illiteracy increase the value of learning in society, with its subsequent rewards;
  Ensuring synergies between the different programs of education, considering that adult education affects the education of children, and that expanding secondary education creates incentives to expanding enrolment in primary education;
  Using all available media and technological channels in coordination with the efforts exerted in education.

   
 

  Orientation 3: Promote knowledge-based decision-making and inform everybody. This includes:

  Assessing the objectives, contents, teaching methods, evaluation process, as well as the activities of curricula and diagnosing the needs, aspirations, expectations, and achievements of each learner through scientific research, in order to take decisions on an objective basis;
  Providing society with a clear picture of educational reality, after collection, analysis, and dissemination of relevant data, in order to ensure societal accountability.

   
    Orientation 4: Mobilize all possible resources through the enhancement of national investments in education, effective use of available human and material resources, and the mobilization of support from all concerned parties (the public sector, the private sector, the local communities, non-governmental organizations, bilateral and multilateral cooperation agencies, regional and international organizations) towards education for all.
   
 

  Orientation 5: Enhance Efficiency, which encompasses the following:

  Setting clear targets to be achieved at the national (and local) level, that reflect what had been agreed upon internationally and nationally and by any other commitments. These objectives should emphasize, along with quantitative aspects, the qualitative aspects, such as the levels of expected achievement in terms of knowledge and skills to be acquired, the quality of educational material and environment. These objectives must identify the categories that should receive priority;
  Designing and implementing schemes for the monitoring and assessment of curricula, and for the adjustment of processes;
  Developing the management systems, enhancing the qualifications of human resources, and building national capacities;
  Institutionalizing assessment and follow up;
  Rationalizing expenditures.

   
    Each State is invited to develop a self-monitoring system of its commitment to each orientation proposed in this Framework for Action, of its implementation of these orientations, as well as the difficulties related to them.
   
 
  VI. PRIORITIES
   
  Two Priorities for All Arab States:
   
    In view of the achievements of the Arab States collectively in the expansion of basic education (objective No. 2), the problem occupying the first priority in the Arab Region as a whole is that of the quality of education. Therefore, and in accordance with the Cairo Declaration as well, improving the quality of education is to be considered as priority number 1 in the Arab Framework for Action for meeting the goals of education for all at both quantitative and qualitative levels. In spite of all efforts made to universalize basic education, the provision of a high-quality education remains a goal imposed by the sustainable development requirements, the positive attitude towards globalization and the challenges of the world market competition and free trade. This priority encompasses all educational processes and skills including the achievement by all learners of nationally defined and objectively measured levels of learning in literacy, numeracy and life skills, including technology skills that entail open mindedness, development of thinking, the desire for knowledge and the desire to seek knowledge from all sources. Within this priority, the emphasis goes to improving the teachers' status, including their qualifications and work conditions. The slogan for the coming years in the Arab States should be: Teachers' empowerment, professionalization and training to reach the utmost levels in disciplinary, educational, and cultural fields.
 
    In view of the limited human and financial resources available, it is of utmost need in the Arab States to mobilize efforts and capabilities. That will require good governance and good management, both to assist in the achievement of the quality of education and other goals, and to ensure the implementation of the determined principles adopted in the Framework for action. Therefore, improving educational and management (objective No. 7) can be considered as priority number 2 in the Arab Region as a whole. This includes the development of education decision-support systems and building national capacities at central, regional, and local levels, to ensure the use of knowledge in decision-making at all these levels and in all educational endeavours, from policies, to planning and management of operational activities, and from mobilization of resources to monitoring and assessment of results. Within this priority the leitmotiv would be in the coming years on capacity building.
   
  Eradication of Illiteracy:
A Top Priority for National, Regional, and International Mobilization
 
    The Arab States, singly and jointly, are concerned with all objectives of the Arab Framework for Action. But, considering the massive and important problems facing them, whether in catching up with previous commitments, or in meeting the demands of the coming century, the greatest problem for the Arab States is, in general, that of illiteracy. That is for two reasons: the first relates to the number of illiterates in these countries (around 68 millions, or 38.5% of the population 15 years of age or above) and with the wide gender gap in literacy (Parity Index = 0.69). The second relates to the multiplier effect of literacy. Illiteracy among adults, especially women, lowers children's school enrolment and the educational achievement (the quality of education) of those who are enrolled, and exacerbates failure and early school drop rates. Illiteracy is also associated with early marriage, high fertility and high infant mortality rates. Illiteracy reinforces gender discrimination in society, while literacy helps improve the overall quality of life .
   
    Therefore, and in accordance with the Cairo Declaration (1994), the eradication of illiteracy is today (Year 2000) a high Arab priority for National, Regional, and International Mobilization of resources to achieve EFA goals (objective No. 4). For, as mentioned in the Cairo Declaration: "It is impossible to imagine the development and resurgence of the Arab World without putting an end to the problem of illiteracy in all the Arab countries". Within this priority, the emphasis goes first to the education of girls and women. The slogan of the following stage in the Arab States should be: the eradication of illiteracy of girls and women.
   
  Two other Priorities for Arab Cooperation and National Development
   
    In view of the relative neglect early childhood education in the Arab States suffers, and the potential of such education for the enhancement of learning achievement and improvement internal efficiency at the primary school, Early Childhood Care and Development deserves a lot more attention in the coming 10 years, particularly in regional cooperation activities and among those States where illiteracy does not constitute a heavy burden. Efforts should be devoted both to the expansion and diversification of ECCD delivery services, and to the innovation and improvement of educational programs, curricula, and methods. This, baring in mind, that early childhood care and development is not confined to pre-schooling but includes care given by the whole family from birth onwards.
   
    In parallel to the above mentioned priorities, efforts should be made to diversify delivery systems of educational services to youth and adults, in order to broaden educational opportunities. The enormous potential of new information and communication technologies should be exploited at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. In terms of educational methods, priority should be given to the development of a multi-media environment to be used both for formal and non-formal education, encouraging the investment in cultural industries related to teaching/learning activities.
   
  Each Arab State has its own national priorities
 
    The aforementioned sets of priorities apply to all Arab States as a whole, but it is difficult to apply to them individually. In fact, some States are close to overcoming the problem of illiteracy and the gender gap related to it. These include Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Palestine, Qatar, Kuwait, and Lebanon, followed by Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. For other countries, illiteracy remains the number one challenge, and these include Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Mauritania, and Yemen, followed by Tunisia, Algeria, Djibouti, Iraq, and Oman. This discrepancy in positions changes the scale of priorities from one group to another. The same should be said about early childhood education where Kuwait and Lebanon are approaching full enrolment.
   
 

  In all cases, each country is called upon to define its priorities and their sequence of importance according to the problems facing it, and to review these priorities in a periodical manner according to what has been achieved. This is a necessary step to define the plan of action in each country, and in that light, to define the extent of the Arab regional and international cooperation..

   
 
  VII. ARAB REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
 
  Increasing the efficiency of Arab cooperation
 
 

  The Arab Region is composed of 21 States mainly sharing a common language and a common culture. Furthermore, and more importantly, they are bonded by a sense of belonging to one nation, in that what besets one state affects the others, and by a sense of combined strength of will for the general upheaval of the Arab nation. A condition for that upheaval is the achievement of the goals of education for all both quantitatively and qualitatively.

   
    Arab States are also brought together by Arab regional organizations that are concerned with the issues of coordination and cooperation among the different States. In the year 2000, the Arab States will renew their commitments for cooperation and their faith in its returns for all. The disparity in development levels is an additional incentive for the establishment of that cooperation. Achieving the education for all goals will be the product of their individual and collective efforts.
 
 

  This cooperation will take place mainly through two channels:

  Bilateral and multi-lateral relations, where the exchange of information and experiences takes place, where assistance is provided, agreements are concluded, and the flow of human resources and investments is encouraged;
  Networks and regional and sub-regional organizations (ALECSO, ISESCO, ABEGS, AGFUND) which develop joint programs and projects in cooperation with international organizations and provide technical information and expertise.

 
 

  In view of the experience of the past decade where the achievements of the Arab States, collectively and individually, remained below requirements, the Arab States are invited to the following:

(1) Assess the previous cooperation experiences through the two previously mentioned channels, to enhance cooperation in the coming years and generalize its benefits on everyone, including the establishment of specialized regional centers, joint programs and projects, as well as common lists of learning competencies expected from learners.
(2) Renew the mobilization of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. This requires that each country lists its priorities for cooperation, in terms of partners, as well as in terms of types of cooperation, capabilities to assist and the areas where assistance is needed. More developed countries are called upon to provide assistance for less developed countries.
(3) Strengthen Arab organizations, specialized regional centers and Arab networks and programs. This will involve enhancing the capacities of these agencies, and helping them direct their activities towards more assistance for needier countries.
(4) Consider remedies to the lack to achieve the set objectives of basic education in any State of the Region as an Arab common responsibility.

   
  Increasing the benefit of Arab-International Cooperation
 
 

  In their approach to cooperation with international institutions and organizations, especially those located in the Arab region, the Arab States, should refer to what was mentioned in the Jomtien Declaration concerning international cooperation:

(1) "Meeting basic learning needs constitutes a common and universal human responsibility. It requires international solidarity and equitable and fair economic relations in order to redress existing economic disparities. All nations have valuable knowledge and experiences to share in designing effective educational policies and programs.
(2) Substantial and long-term increases in resources for basic education will be needed. The world community, including international agencies and institutions, has an urgent responsibility to lessen the constraints that prevent some countries from achieving the goals of education for all."

   
 

  Arab States should also refer to what was mentioned in the Framework for Action adopted at Jomtien on action priorities at the international level. These include:

(1) "Enhancing national capacities" for designing and managing programs and services for basic education;
(2) "Providing sustained long-term support for national and regional actions", which includes providing "increased international funding to help the less developed countries to implement their own autonomous plans for action in line with the expanded vision for basic EFA";
(3) Providing technical assistance on policy issues.

   
 

  Therefore, taking into consideration the experience of the past decade, Arab States call upon the international community to do the following:

  Renew the international commitment to provide financial assistance to the less developed Arab States which are unable, with their own resources and with those provided by Arab cooperation, to fulfill the requirements for achieving the education for all goals within the coming ten years;
  Renew the commitment of international agencies and organizations, especially those sponsoring the Arab Regional Conference on Education For All (Cairo), and those participating in the International Consultative Forum on Education For All (Dakar), to provide sustained and long-term assistance for national and Arab regional activities, especially those linked to developing national capacities and to designing and implementing priority strategies, plans, programs and projects for education.

   
    For their part, Arab States will renew their commitment for positive interaction with international agencies and organizations, under the banner of the Jomtien Declaration, especially in the area of knowledge development and data base construction. They will undertake periodical assessment studies on education in these States, in line with the goals and orientations adopted in this Arab Framework for Action.
   
 
  VIII. DESIGNING NATIONAL AUTONOMOUS PLANS FOR ACTION
 
    The EFA 2000 Assessment allowed each Arab State to recognize its decade achievements, and what it was unable to achieve. It helped each State to understand what prevented it from achieving the EFA goals. These countries are invited to perform such an assessment in a periodical manner.
 
    The Arab Framework provides a guide for each country to work towards achieving its own targets based upon the principles, objectives, strategies, priorities, and forms of Arab and international cooperation set out in this document..
 
    Each Arab State is now called upon to determine a time frame for future action, identifying specific targets to be achieved by the year 2010. These targets should be phased wherein at the end of each phase a new assessment could be made for what has and what has not been achieved.
   
    In this respect, each Arab State is invited to define, according to its situation and means, its own lower and upper limits for achieving each EFA objective as set in the Arab Framework for Action separately. It is also called upon to pace the boundaries for the coming years (2000-2010) as a whole and for each period (by five years, for example) and to enshrine them in official and public texts.
   
    Defining objectives and targets to achieve requires more than just political will and intentions. It also requires educational and scientific research reflecting the actual educational situation and examines possible action alternatives, including governance and management methods, centralization versus decentralization, public versus private sector, role of the civil society, sources of local, national, regional, and international funding, forms and direction for cooperation, etc. At this stage, national stakeholders should initiate and maintain the necessary communication with other States and organizations, and survey the local human and financial resources, such that planning for maximal mobilization of resources and capacities could be undertaken in a realistic manner. Based on all this, the minimum and maximum thresholds for achievement could be defined for each of the seven objectives mentioned in this Framework for Action.
 
    Therefore, the Arab Sates are called upon to meet again in 2002 in a regional Arab Ministerial Conference, the subject of which would be education for all in the Arab States - Targets for 2010. In it the Arab States, and the Arab and international organizations, could deliberate on the orientation of the national plans within the context of Arab and international support and cooperation.
 
    The regional organizations and the international community are called upon to assist all Arab States develop their autonomous plans for achieving the goals of education for all, in preparation of the Ministerial Conference proposed for 2002.
   
   
   
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