“Time is of the essence: for the 72 million children out of school, for the one in five adults without basic literacy skills and for the many pupils who leave school without acquiring essential skills and knowledge.”
In his foreword to the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008 Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General, could not have made it plainer. Half way to the target date of 2015, the positive impact of the “Dakar effect” is not to be denied, but much remains to be done and efforts must be sustained to achieve the six goals on Education For All. What are the principal developments since 2000? - The Report, entitled-Education for All by 2015: Will we make it? acknowledges that early childhood care and education programmes improve children’s health, nutrition, well-being and cognitive development. They offset disadvantage and inequality and lead to better achievement in primary school. Unfortunately, the comprehensive care and education of children below age 3 remains a neglected area. Although child mortality rates have dropped, a majority of countries are not taking the necessary policy measures to provide care and education to children below age 3. - There has been some success in ensuring access to free and compulsory primary education. The number of out-of-school children dropped from 96 million to 72 million between 1999 and 2005. But despite overall enrolment increases, sub-national disparities in school participation persist between regions, provinces or states, and between urban and rural areas. Children from poor, indigenous and disabled populations are also at a systematic disadvantage, as are those living in slums. - The goal of ensuring the learning needs of young people and adults has been particularly neglected. Household surveys show that non-formal education is the main route to learning for many disadvantaged youth and adults in some of the world’s poorest countries. Yet non-formal education programmes remain neglected in terms of public funding. - Adult literacy remains a serious global issue. Worldwide, 774 million adults still lack basic literacy skills. Some 64% of them are women, a share virtually unchanged since the early 1990s. Of the 101 countries still far from achieving ‘universal literacy,’ 72 will not succeed in reducing their adult illiteracy rates by half by 2015. - Gender equality remains elusive: sexual violence, insecure school environments and inadequate sanitation disproportionately affect girls’ self-esteem, participation and retention. Textbooks, curricula and teacher attitudes continue to reinforce stereotypes of gender roles in society. Only 59 countries with data had achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005, and only 18 out of 113 countries that missed the gender parity goal at primary and secondary level in 2005 stand a chance of achieving it by 2015. - The quality of education still needs to be supported. Survival rates to the last grade of primary school improved between 1999 and 2004 in most countries, but remained low in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia. Crowded and dilapidated classrooms, too few textbooks and insufficient instructional time are widespread problems in many developing countries and fragile states. Eighteen million new primary school teachers are needed worldwide to reach universal primary education by 2015. Many governments are hiring contract teachers to save costs and rapidly increase the teaching force, but where such teachers lack adequate training and service conditions, this practice could have a negative impact on quality in the future. Watch for EI’s analysis of the Global Monitoring Report, to be published soon. For more information see http://portal.unesco.org/education/en.
This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 25, February/March 2008.