Priority to Basic Education: Education for All

Consistent with the substance of para 72 (b) of the Mauritius Strategy, basic education is an absolute priority in UNESCO's programme. The provision of education for all citizens by the year 2015 is the aim of a comprehensive strategy of Education for All, adopted by the World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000 and based on six overarching goals. Of particular importance is the consensus that has emerged that education must be central to the international fight against poverty and exclusion.

Each year, the EFA Global Monitoring Report assesses where the world stands on its commitment to provide a basic education to all children, youth and adults by 2015. Among the series of annual assessments of progress at national, regional and international levels is the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005: The Quality Imperative. The theme of the 2006 Report is Literacy for Life. Text boxes and graphics include those on Cuba's 'Yo, si peudo' (Yes, I can) approach to literacy teaching and learning and on reported and effective adult literacy in different regions of Papua New Guinea. Data from individual SIDS (e.g. Comoros, Dominican Republic, Maldives, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles) are incorporated in composite (multi-country) figures and tables addressing such issues as public education as a percentage of total government expenditure, gender disparities at the end of primary education, and estimated adult literacy rates. Data from many more SIDS are included in annexed information on such topics as adult and youth literacy, early childhood care and education, access to primary education, and trends in basic or proxy indicators to measure EFA goals.

Extensive data on Education for All in SIDS are also accessible through a search tool on the Global Monitoring Report website. This tool has been developed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in partnership with the EFA Global Monitoring Report team, and is based on the data contained in the 2006 statistical annex tables. It enables searches to be made by table, theme, indicator, country and region, and to export results into an Excel format.

Within these overarching international frameworks and data-sources, strategies and plans have been developed for implementing EFA at national, subregional and regional levels.

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

For the Pacific region, UNESCO's Asia and the Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok spearheads programmes and coordinates responses towards the achievement of the goals of Education for All (EFA). The Asia and the Pacific EFA website, which was launched in March 2005, provides EFA-related history, data and resources from across the region allowing users to draw on regional expertise to aid in research, sound policy making and implementation of educational programming towards the attainment of quality education for all. The website features sections on 'EFA News', 'Activities Calendar', 'EFA Network', among others, highlighting activities, events and newsworthy stories from different parts of the region. The site also includes regional information about projects and activities related to EFA goals and flagship programmes.

In July 2005, a new monthly e-newsletter was initiated by UNESCO-Bangkok, designed to provide information on developments in Asia and the Pacific related to Education for All. Each issue contains highlights about EFA in the region ('In Focus'), major EFA activities in the region and beyond ('News and Events') and an update on new entries in the UNESCO/Bangkok Resource Centre.

Among more finely focused activities, a regional training workshop on education reporting for journalists and media educators was held at Nadi (Fiji) from 13-16 August 2005, using the 'Education Makes News' Media Training and Resource Kit, the 2005 EFA Global Monitoring Report, and other resources. For further information, contact Abel Caine, Adviser for Communication and Information, at the UNESCO-Apia Office (abel(at)unesco.org.ws).

Another regional workshop on inclusive education (Apia, Samoa, 23-25 November 2005) was organized on the theme of 'Getting All Children Into School and Helping Them Learn'. Some 45 participants from ten Pacific countries shared experiences of inclusive education practices in the region, and explored options on how further to promote it within the framework of the EFA. Outcomes included the setting up of an Enabling Education Network for the Pacific region.

Also in Apia, from 21-27 November, in conjunction with the Pacific Workshop on Inclusive Education, a planning meeting of EFA Pacific Coordinators took place. The purpose of the meeting was to enable EFA coordinators to share updates on achievements and discuss priority challenges within the sub-region. In addition, the meeting introduced the national and regional Mid-Decade Assessment and initiated the process of developing national action plans for capacity building and planning for national assessments.

 

AIMS REGION

For the Maldives, a regional EFA workshop (Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24-28 April 2006) provided a springboard for the country to launch and organize the Mid-Decade Assessment, taking place globally in 2006-2007. More generally, the UNESCO Offices in Bangkok and New Delhi have been supporting the Maldives' post tsunami recovery efforts in education, including activities in such fields as inclusive education (in cooperation with UNICEF) and community learning centres.

Elsewhere, fields of technical support include the training of trainers for the university in Comoros (through a Japanese funds-in-trust project) and distance education and evaluation of educational reform in Seychelles.

 

CARIBBEAN

The EFA Plan of Action for the Caribbean was prepared by a regional technical advisory group as part of preparations for the World Education Conference (WEF) in Dakar in 2000. The EFA Assessment was based on two sub-regional reports and 14 thematic issues/case studies, which led to a determination of the basic education needs of the sub-region. This needs assessment served as a catalyst for the development of an 'Education for All in the Caribbean: Plan of Action 2000-2015', with specified goals and targets as well as clearly identified dates (2002, 2008, 2015) for achievement of these goals and targets.

The UNESCO Office in Kingston acts as a catalyst for resource mobilization for EFA in the Caribbean. Further background on Education for All in the region is given in several of the 30+ publications on education in the Caribbean accessible through the website of the Kingston Office.

Among activities in 2005, a one-day on seminar on Building EFA Capacities among Jamaican Media Practitioners (Kingston, 12 December) brought together some of Jamaica's top media and education professionals. Organized jointly by UNESCO and the Creative Production Training Centre (CPTC), through its Media Technology Institute, the seminar sought to combine the expertise of media practitioners across print, electronic and new media with educators at different levels of the education system, towards promoting and championing a deeper and wider understanding of EFA. Among other aims, the seminar provided a springboard for an EFA Media Campaign in the Caribbean, which was followed by a regional EFA media training workshop in St Lucia in February 2006 and a Caribbean policy forum on early childhood (also in February 2006) with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The Saint Lucia workshop is one of several continuing UNESCO initiatives to involve media workers in the Education for All movement. An online workshop on writing, reporting and investigating the goals of Education for All took place from 14 February to 1 March 2006, with 45 journalists from 14 countries worldwide taking part. Organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), this online training built on an EFA Media Training Resource Kit 'Education Makes News', produced by UNESCO and ABU in 2004.

Within a somewhat different geographic context, EFA in Latin America and the Caribbean is coordinated through a series of regional forums. Some activities and opportunities are sketched out in a 32-page booklet Education for All: Sharing Challenges, Multiplying Results, published in 2005 by the UNESCO Office for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC) in Santiago (Chile).
The first meeting of the Regional Intergovernmental Committee of the Regional Project for Latin America and the Caribbean (PRELAC) was held in December 2006, where one outcome was agreement to organize a Ministerial Conference on Education in 2007. In February 2006, a new website on EFA in Latin America and the Caribbean was put on line by the Santiago Office.

In working towards greater gender equality in EFA, research has been carried out on drop-out from the educational system in Trinidad & Tobago and other countries in the Caribbean region, in cooperation with the Centre for Gender & Development Studies of the University of the West Indies, as a part of the larger CARICOM project ('The Gender Differentials at the Secondary and Tertiary Levels of the Education System in the Anglophone Caribbean'). Through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the project examined major reasons for drop-out from the formal school system, with a focus on the influence of the home and school on this phenomenon.

In contributing to quality education, a panel-workshop on Youth Violence and Violence in Schools was organized by UNESCO at the seminar on 'Building a Culture of Peace and Preventing Conflict in the Greater Caribbean', organized by the Association of Caribbean States and Human Rights Internet on 21-23 September 2005 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A number of good practices were presented by the panel, which were then discussed in the associated workshop.

In supporting teachers and educational personnel, a UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust project on Human Resource Development in Electronically Enhanced Teaching, Administration and Material Distribution – Caribbean Universities Project for Integrated Distance Education (CUPIDE), has been re-launched, with an aim to enable five participating universities in the Caribbean to better develop and deliver quality distance education programmes using ICTs. Strategic plans for distance education involving the use of ICTs have been prepared in three universities, and four modules for an on-line pilot course on distance education developed.

On 16 March 2006, Jamaica deposited with the Director-General its instrument of ratification of the Convention against Discrimination in Education. In accordance with the terms of its Article 14, the aforementioned Convention will enter into force with respect to Jamaica three months after the date of the deposit of its instrument, that is on 16 June 2006.

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