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Gains, losses in Education for All in Asia and the Pacific
 
  Bangkok, 12 January 2000 (United Nations Information Services) - In 1990, at Jomtien, Thailand, 155 nations committed themselves to not only make every school-age child complete their elementary education, but halve the number of adult illiterates by the year 2000.
 
  Today, in the year 2000, over 25 education ministers, experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 44 Asia-Pacific nations will assemble here next week to take stock of what progress they have made.
 
  The Prime Minister of Thailand, H.E. Mr. Chuan Leekpai will open the 17 to 20 January 2000 Asia-Pacific Conference on EFA 2000 Assessment at the UN Conference Center (UNCC) in the ESCAP building.
 
  Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, the new Director General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will be present at the conference on his first visit to Asia since taking over as the head of the organization in November 1999.
 
  The EFA 2000 Assessments for the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe and the Arab world have been preceded by two years of the most detailed, reliable and comparable self-assessments of educational progress ever to have been carried out by the nations of the world.
 
  Using a set of 18 indicators and a uniform assessment technique to measure movement towards the Jomtien goals, the national progress report cards reveal a picture of impressive gains and persisting problems in the Asia-Pacific.
 
  Primary school enrollment has kept a step ahead of the growth rate of the school age population with nearly 70 million more children attending primary classes in these countries compared to the 331 million in 1990. The biggest gain has been in the field of pre-school education with enrollment in early childhood programs -- nurseries, kindergartens, day care centers -- up by 50 percent to 47 million.
 
  More importantly, more and more countries are concerned about the quality of the instruction, improving curriculum, teaching material, teacher training and evaluation methods. Adult literacy has grown, which is increasingly aimed at equipping the marginalized with the capability of improving their lot.
 
  National governments in the region are spending much more on basic education with budgets up by 80 percent on average. International financial support for EFA goals in the Asia-Pacific shot up from 3.8 billion US dollars in 1985 to six billion dollars in 1990 and 7.4 billion dollars in 1995.
 
  But much remains to be done. The dramatic increases in primary school enrollments conceal the growing gaps in access to education. Far more boys than girls go to school, specially in the overpopulated nations of South Asia. The spectacular growth of early childhood schooling is largely to be seen in the towns and cities rather than the villages.
 
  A preoccupation with enrollment in formal schools has led to relative neglect of alternative, non-formal channels of instruction that are far more meaningful.
 
  While most children are now being admitted to school, not many stay the full course with not enough attention given to retention measures. However, Asia-Pacific nations are increasingly realizing that it is not enough to simply hike enrollment ratios without slashing the persistently high dropout rates.
 
  Although government spending on basic education has grown sizably, the gains are not much in real terms because of inflation and an overall increase in budgets. Most international donors, except the Nordic nations are still to keep their pledge to set aside 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product for overseas development assistance.
 
  The Asia-Pacific Conference on EFA 2000 Assessment will discuss ways of tackling these issues. Sessions on each of the six Jomtien goals will be held for each of the four Asia-Pacific sub-regions -- Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus, South and West Asia, East and South East Asia and the Pacific.
 
  The world education body along with UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and ESCAP, is organizing the meeting in the run up to the global assessment of progress towards the targets set by the landmark World Conference on Education for All that was held in Jomtien, Thailand in March 1990. It is one of six regional conferences leading to the World Education Forum to be held in Dakar, Senegal 26 to 28 April 2000.
 
  The conference is expected to adopt a regional plan of action, which will be put up before the World Education Forum in Dakar in April that will chart out the global road to education for all in the 21st century.
 
 
For further information contact:
Regional Technical Advisory Groups in Asia and the Pacific
UNESCO Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
P.O. Box 967, Prakanong PO
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Tel. (66-2) 391 0577, Fax: (66-2) 391 0866
Email: uhbgk@unesco.org Uhord@unesco.org
Web Site: www.unescobkk.org

or

United Nations Information Services
2nd Floor, Block B, United Nations Building
Rajdamnern Avenue, Bangkok 10400
Tel: (662)2881866,
Fax: (662)2881052
E-mail: unisbkk.unescap@un.org
 
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