Special issue of the electronic news bulletin board of UNESCO's Education Sector
No. 11
 

Contents (23 November 2000)

- Linking EFA efforts to development frameworks is key to success

- Mobilizing international financial support for basic education

- Better data for better education

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Linking EFA efforts to development frameworks is key to success
 
National plans on Education for All (EFA) need to be placed within wider development frameworks in order to meet the goals of the Dakar Framework for Action. In a session on linking EFA plans with sector strategies and development objectives during the second day of the meeting of the Working Group on EFA, participants stressed the need to integrate education into major development initiatives. "The strategic framework is our last chance," said one participant.
 
Maris O'Rourke of the World Bank presented on behalf of UNDP, UNICEF and her own organization, a strategy for achieving EFA. It seeks to integrate EFA efforts into existing development frameworks and initiatives, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), the Comprehensive Development Framework and others. This involves developing a cross sectoral policy framework, communication strategies, sharing good practices, brokering financial deals, improving resource utilization, capacity building and supporting appropriate use of debt relief.
 
Ms O’Rourke explained that if the international community is to move ahead quickly on this basis, it must agree on a set of principles, such as the criteria by which countries become part of it and on what constitutes a national plan. Other principles include resource mobilization, evaluation and monitoring.
 
The debate that followed focussed on such issues as the need to involve the civil society in EFA action and the importance for countries of having a sense of ownership for the initiative. On this score, Jean-Bernard Thiant from France, said that "we have a tendency to address the will of donors at the expense of the countries", and Anil Bordia of India called for organizations such as UNESCO, UNICEF and UNDP to help countries negotiate better deals with donor agencies.
 
Seiji Kojima, the G8 representative, said that the leaders of these eight countries attached great importance to the level of ownership because, "we have less chance of success if the civil society is not behind the process," he said.
 
A number of participants stressed the need for EFA national plans to identify the reasons for past failure in reaching their education goals, firstly for countries themselves and secondly so that development agencies are better placed to help them. Sheldon Shaeffer of UNICEF added that these national plans should be costed and have time-bound strategies to remove inequality, and be linked with other sectors.
 
Drawing up national action plans and the wide consultation process that it implies could also be the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of education and to reinvent strategies and approaches as well as addressing the question of values.
 
The Working Group meeting that ends tomorrow is organized just six months after the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, 26-28 April 2000) and comprises key actors in the Education for All movement, including representatives of governments, regional bodies, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and non-governmental organizations. The meeting is expected to further the Education for All process in the organizations represented and help shape the agenda of the informal High-Level Group to be convened by UNESCO's Director General in April 2001.
 
Mobilizing international financial support for basic education
 
Although the responsibility of financing education rests predominantly with national governments, the international community has a critical catalytic and supportive role to play in achieving Education for All. This was one of the main conclusions of a session on how to mobilize international financial support for basic education including the characteristics of the global EFA initiative, as foreseen in the Dakar Framework for Action.
 
"International financial resources are in short supply and high demand," said Lene Buchert of UNESCO, who presented a draft paper entitled Development Partner Co-operation in the Support of Education for All: Rational and Strategies. "The international community needs to think creatively in terms of resource mobilization and to act with more urgency than in the past," she said. UNESCO's paper constitutes one part of the global initiative, which, in Ms Buchert's words, is not only a finance initiative but a framework outlining how to work together at all levels and facilitating governments'leadership role.
 
The paper outlines five main lines of action: Increasing external funding for education, ensuring greater predictability in the flow of external assistance, providing debt relief and/or debt cancellation for poverty reduction and basic education, facilitating more effective donor co-ordination and strengthening sector-wide approaches.
 
Ms Buchert pointed to the decrease in international development aid during the 1990s and reiterated the recent recommendation by UNESCO's Director-General to bilateral donor agencies to double their support for education to constitute a total of $7 billion by 2005, $10.5 billion by 2010 and $14 billion by 2015. "But this is only a complement to what countries themselves have to invest in education," Ms Buchert said. Today, external financing accounts for only 3 per cent of education spending in developing countries.
 
In the discussion that ensued, recurring themes were the lack of comprehensive frameworks and strategies in education in many countries, the need for co-ordination, monitoring and risk-taking and issues such as accountability and transparency.
 
"We need to agree on a certain number of elements to move forward with funding," commented Jose-Javier Paniagua of the European Commission, adding that education is now one of the priorities on the Commission's funding agenda.
 
Steve Packer of the United Kingdom Department of International Development stressed the importance of looking at the finance systems at a whole. "The Dakar Framework for Action focuses a great deal on external financing but many countries need to reallocate resources within the national budget and within the education budget itself," he said.
 
Gabriel Bayemi of the African Development Bank raised the question of efficient use of resources and improved aid co-ordination and mentioned that where the Bank previously had 'one client' (the government), countries are now asked to consult with civil society and other groups before they present new plans.
 
Marion Molteno of Save the Children Alliance cautioned participants to make sure that external resources reach the right hands. "We need to see how money is distributed within countries. Does the amount of money correspond to the expectations at the different levels?" she asked.
 
NGO representatives of the Global Campaign on Education yesterday shared with participants a paper on their vision of a global initiative whose central element would be information not control of funds, as previously proposed by the Campaign. Main features include the creation of an inventory or ledger that would track each country's progress towards implementation of a viable and participatory EFA plan, as well as identification of resource gaps and existing and potential mechanisms for external support.
 
Better data for better education
 
The question of monitoring Education for All goals and targets was the theme before participants at this afternoon’s session. A presentation on the newly-established EFA Observatory based in the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) was made by Denise Lievesley, its Director. While the need for regular monitoring of education is widely accepted, the EFA 2000 exercise amply demonstrated that assessments cannot be rushed through and must be based on regular reporting systems, she explained.
 
The objective of the EFA Observatory is to collect, analyse and disseminate regularly relevant information required by all users -- countries, regions and those interested in international monitoring -- and to help build sustainable national statistical systems to do so. Assessment exercises are intended to assist governments develop, review and amend policies so that their EFA goals are reached as quickly as possible. They also provide a tool for international monitoring
 
In the aftermath of the Dakar Forum, the first step is to evaluate existing indicators, not merely from a statistical perspective but from a policy relevance standpoint. The Institute is dependent on education experts to determine the relevance for policy of indicators, Ms Lievesley explained. In the meantime and to ensure that a solid benchmark for the year 2000 is established, it has tried to anticipate some future needs and to minimize data gaps by including a few new indicators in the exercise known as Survey 2000.
 
Another focus of the Institute is striking a balance between core data collection across all countries and subsets of data of interest to specific regions or countries sharing similar characteristics. Developing a strategy for policy purposes and an early warning system to assist countries falling too far behind is another aim.
 
UIS is not the only organization that produces statistics and Ms Lievesley warmly invited organizations that are better placed to collect some of the data to come on board. "We will be looking for partnerships and organizations that want to work in this area," she said, adding that financial co-operation will also be important if the Institute is to carry out its mandate effectively. Speaking from the chair, Emily Vargos-Baron of USAID echoed her plea calling on all present to collaborate fully.
 
Sheldon Shaeffer of UNICEF said that greater emphasis should be placed on obtaining disaggregated data, saying that this was one of the pluses of the EFA 2000 assessment which had made a specific effort in this area.
 
Several participants stressed the difficulty of comparing data on an international level, pointing out that educational systems are not unified. Others were concerned about the target audience, insisting that statistics addressed an elite and a suggestion was made to avoid producing over-sophisticated data that countries are unable to use. Richard Sack of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) called for statistics to be taken away from the experts and put into the general arena. He particularly called for more “user-friendly” data for journalists.
 
 
Information Contact: Anne Muller (a.muller@unesco.org)