Education Forum To Boost Drive For Education For All
April 11 - Several countries have proved in the last 10
years that strong political will can make the dream of Education
for All a reality. This message is key to the World Education
Forum to be held in Dakar, Senegal, on 26-28 April 2000, which
will attract some 1,000 national educational leaders.
World Education Forum is expected to provide the Education for
All movement with a new momentum needed to resolve the glaring
inequalities in educational provision. A global synthesis report,
giving the most accurate and comprehensive picture ever of the
state of basic education in the world, will be released at the
Forum. "The present situation in education is unacceptable,"
says Svein Osttveit, Executive Secretary of the Education for
All Forum1, an inter-agency body established in 1990 by UNDP,
UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank. "Governments must
tackle education with a new sense of urgency, it is a simple
question of getting priorities right."
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the heads of several
UN agencies will also attend the conference, along with national
and international education policy-makers, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), business leaders, donors and education
workers from over 145 countries.
biggest stocktaking of education in history
than 180 countries have prepared for the Forum by participating
in the EFA 2000 Assessment, a massive and detailed review of
the state of basic education in the world. They reported their
findings at six regional meetings in late 1999 and early 2000.
The national assessments have been complemented by fourteen
thematic studies on educational issues of global concern, sample
surveys on learning achievement and the conditions of teaching
and learning and twenty case studies. Based on the assessment,
the Forum will redefine education strategies, set clear goals
and draw up a Framework for Action to meet the basic learning
needs for all by 2015.
education remains an unfulfilled promise for too many people,
some countries have made considerable headway in the last
number of children in school has risen significantly from
599 million in 1990 to 681 million in 1998.
1990, some 10 million more children go to school every year,
which is nearly double the 1980-90 average.
Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean are now
close to achieving universal primary education.
number of out-of-school children has decreased from 127
million in 1990 to 113 million in 1998.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, the number
of out-of-school children has been halved, from 11.4 million
in 1990 to 4.8 million in 1998. Countries such as Bangladesh,
Brazil and Egypt are leading the way by allocating close to
6 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to education.
particularly that of girls and women, has proven its effectiveness
in China and India, which have made impressive progress towards
achieving universal primary education. The same countries, along
with Bangladesh, register the strongest decrease in population
growth rates, which has facilitated progress.
number of literate adults more than doubled from 1970 to 1998
from 1.5 billion to 3.3 billion. But while the overall adult
literacy rate has risen to 85 per cent for men and 74 per cent
for women, illiteracy rates remain too high, especially female
illiteracy. At least 875 million adults remain illiterate, two-thirds
of them women - exactly the same proportion as 10 years ago.
gender gap is a continuing obstacle to Education for All. Some
60 per cent of the world's out-of-school children are girls
- a figure which mirrors the two-thirds of adult illiterates
who are women. Recognizing the urgency of the problem, the United
Nations will launch a new global initiative in Dakar to educate
girls. According to UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, "the first
step is for societies to recognize that educating girls is not
an option; it is a necessity... We need all those with the power
to change things to come together in an alliance for girls'
education: governments, voluntary progressive groups and above
all, local communities, schools and families."
in part to NGOs and community efforts, the number of children
in pre-school education has risen by 5 per cent in the past
decade, indicating that the idea that education begins at birth
has taken root in many societies.
and South Asia are the two regions with the longest way to go
to achieve Education for All. Persistent poverty, conflicts
and the HIV/AIDS pandemic have had profound effects on their
education systems. Some African countries devote one third of
their national budget to education but several others spend
as much on debt repayment as they do on health and basic education
education systems have grown almost everywhere, the results
show that quality does not automatically follow quantity. Disparities
in educational quality remain considerable, between and within
regions. The positive trends in primary education also mask
disparity of access within many of the larger countries. People
in poor, rural and remote communities, as well as ethnic minorities
and indigenous populations register little or no progress. In
South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than three out of four
pupils reach grade 5. In the least developed countries, a little
over half reach this level and many drop out after the first
or second grade.
of teachers needs particular attention, as their status, salaries,
conditions of service and training opportunities have seen little
improvement in the past decade. However, there can be no Education
for All without motivated, competent and committed teachers.
children and youth need urgent attention. "Reaching children
on the fringes of society is a difficult and costly task," according
to Osttveit. "Providing them with education is an enormous challenge
which needs to be tackled with imagination."
to education emerged in the 1990s: the collapse of Communism
in Europe, the revolution in communication and information technologies
and growing globalization. Many global trends were not foreseen
at the World Conference for Education for All in Jomtien, especially
the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and the proliferation of ethnic
conflicts. Priorities must include reaching out with education
to HIV/AIDS orphans; offering education to the increasing number
of refugees and displaced people; motivating teachers and helping
them acquire a new understanding of their role and harnessing
the new technologies to benefit the poor. The major challenge
for the years ahead will be to provide quality education for
all. New partnerships with parents, teachers and community groups
will be needed to achieve this goal.
is the single most important factor explaining the inability
to meet target goals set by governments. In a world with 700
million people living in 42 highly indebted countries, the primary
goal of education must be to help overcome poverty. It is the
most daunting challenge of all.
leaders and development agencies must prepare themselves for
the fact that attaining the goals of Education for All will
require increased financial commitments," warns Osttveit. "They
also need to take seriously the fact that existing resources
are not being used well."
new Framework for Action expected to be adopted at the Dakar
meeting will call for increased financial commitment to education,
with special attention given to sub-Saharan Africa and South
Asia. "Without renewed political commitment to basic education,
Education for All will always be out of reach," says Osttveit.
"No country with a vision, a sound education plan and a commitment
to Education for All, should be prevented from carrying out
its strategy by lack of funds."
World Education Forum is organized by the International Consultative
Forum on Education for All (the EFA Forum) and will be preceded
by an international consultation of non-governmental organizations,
24-25 April, also in Dakar. The Forum takes place ten years
after the World Conference for Education for All, in Jomtien,
Thailand, when 155 governments and 150 organizations set the
goal of getting all children into primary school by the year
2000 and reducing adult illiteracy by half.