The latest major report released today in New York sounds an appropriate alarm bell for the international community.
“Time is running out to meet the EFA goals set in 2000,” begins the report, entitled Strong Foundations. The independent report was commissioned by UNESCO on behalf of the international community and created by the EFA Global Monitoring Report Team.
This year’s theme is Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), a wide range of programmes aimed at the physical, cognitive and social development of children before they enter primary school. The benefits of ECCE programmes are well documented.
“Teachers everywhere applaud UNESCO’s consistent efforts to draw the world’s attention to the vital importance of realizing the dream of education for all,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.
The report notes that the EFA strategies have already made a positive difference in the lives of millions of children, with 21 million more in school today than in 1999. However, 77 million children around the globe are still out of school.
Van Leeuwen agreed with the report’s overall message and echoed its warning that time is running out to meet the 2015 deadline. However, he said, “the report contained a couple of very unpleasant surprises.”
EI is concerned about the intense focus on educational outcomes, without sufficient consideration of economic and social barriers. “Teachers would be happier to read more about holistic, child-centred processes and less about efficiency and outcomes,” van Leeuwen said.
EI’s most significant concern is that the report recommends shorter pre-service training for teachers to counter the growing teacher shortage. This is in direct contradiction to the 2004 report, which urges government to avoid the temptation to lower standards of teacher training.
“We can never expect to create quality public education systems without giving teachers access to high-quality professional education. With all of the increasing challenges facing public education worldwide today, reducing the teachers’ training is definitely not the answer to the looming teacher shortage,” van Leeuwen said.
Teachers are also worried about the report’s apparent acceptance of increased privatization of ECCE services. “The social and economic benefits of ECCE are well documented, so we would expect that national governments would live up to their responsibility to invest in quality ECCE programs for the benefit not only of individual children, but the society at large,” van Leeuwen said.