Friday, December 14, 2007
Education for All : Ten things you need to know
1. EFA is a right
Back in 1945 – over 60 years ago! – the countries that founded UNESCO signed up to a constitution expressing a belief “in full and equal opportunities for education for all.” Since that time it has been part of UNESCO’s mandate to work hard to make those opportunities a reality. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states that “everyone has the right to education” (Article 26). All those years ago the aim was the same as it is now: to give everyone the chance to learn and benefitfrom basic education – not as an accident of circumstance, nor as a privilege, but as a RIGHT.
2. EFA is a means to an end
Getting an education must lead to wider options for individuals and communities. As a UNESCO report put it in 1996, education enables us to know, to do, to live together, and to be, in other words to reach our full potential as human beings. This includes learning to live in society and work together towards sustainable human development, respecting the diversity of human experience and circumstance, as well as the stake that future generations have in our planet. A world of peace, dignity, justice and equality depends on many factors – education is central among them.
3. EFA is everyone’s concern
Under the leadership of UNESCO and four other UN agencies (the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank), the world came together in 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand, to adopt a new vision of basic education. They did so again in 2000, this time in Dakar in Senegal, and adopted six goals, three of which had timed targets attached: to see every child completing a quality basic education, to increase literacy levels by fifty percent and to ensure gender equity in education – all by 2015. This meant that governments, aid agencies, civil society and non-governmental organisations, communities, teachers and parents needed to work harder and better and make education a priority. Basic education is an indispensable condition for meeting other development targets, such as the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals.
4. EFA really is FOR ALL
Girls and women have not had equal opportunities to receive basic education. Today over 55% of children out of school are girls, and fully two-thirds of adults without access to literacy are women. Special efforts – from recruiting female teachers to supporting poor families to making schools more girl-friendly – are needed to redress the balance. Other groups have also been neglected: indigenous populations and remote rural groups, street children, migrants and nomads, the disabled, linguistic and cultural minorities – to name but a few. New approaches must be tailor-made for such groups – we cannot expect to reach them just by increasing opportunities for standard schooling.
5. EFA is for all ages
The six EFA goals lay special stress on enabling everyone to benefit from basic education – from young children at home and in pre-school programmes, through primary education, to adolescents, young people and adults. No-one is too young to start learning and no-one is too old to acquire basic skills, for instance of literacy and numeracy. In fact, basic education for all ages strengthens what families and communities can undertake and prepares the way for greater opportunities and choices in the next generation.
6. EFA means quality learning
The motivation to learn, to send your child to school or to overcome learning difficulties, only comes when education is seen to be worthwhile – and this depends on its quality. Going to school or attending a non-formal adult learning course should result in knowledge, skills and values that the learner can put to good use, with a sense of being able to achieve goals that were unattainable before. A quality education depends, crucially, on the teaching/learning process, as well as on the relevance of the curriculum, the availability of materials and the conditions of the learning environment.
7. EFA is making progress
Over the past 60 years, there has been great progress in enabling children and adults to benefit from basic education. Even in the last 15 years, and with rising population levels, the gross enrolment in primary education in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 77.5% to 84.9% - almost 10 million more children in school. Forty-seven countries have achieved universal primary education. More girls have become enrolled in primary schools, although the 2005 gender parity goal has been missed. The number of secondary students has risen substantially - more than four times the increase in the number of primary students. In about 70 countries out of 110 countries with data, public spending on education has increased as a share of national income. Other goals such as expanding early childhood care and education (Goal 1) and promoting learning and skills for young people and adults (Goal 3) are harder to measure, but it is clear that efforts are bearing fruit.
8. EFA is far from finished
Progress towards the EFA goals is not currently fast enough to meet them by 2015. According to a recent recalculation, there are about 77 million children not enrolled in school and an estimated 781 million adults who have not yet had the opportunity to learn to read and write – two-thirds of them women. By the latest estimation, 23 countries are at risk of not achieving universal primary education by 2015 and 86 countries are at risk of not achieving gender parity even by 2015. Primary-school fees, which is a major obstacle for universal access, are still collected in 89 countries out of 103 surveyed. Opportunities for adolescents and out-of-school youth remain low in many developing countries. Increasing the number and quality of teachers, improving school and education system management, reaching disadvantaged and marginalised groups, tackling the impact of HIV and AIDS – all this will require more intensive, more innovative ways of delivering learning opportunities.
9. EFA needs support from everyone
Meeting the EFA goals requires money, people, technical know-how, functioning institutions and, last but not least, political will. UNESCO works to sustain international momentum through an EFA Working Group and a High-Level Group and coordinates international efforts. Aid agencies and the development banks, such as the World Bank, are now putting increasing resources into education, although there is still a long way to go to meet the estimated need for achieving the primary education goal – US$7 billion per year in external aid – let alone for reaching the other five goals. Civil society is a key partner, both in lobbying for increased funding and in offering alternative learning opportunities for neglected populations. Cooperation and coordination must increase so that joint efforts are effective and resources are used as efficiently as possible.
10. EFA is worthwhile
In the end, the success of EFA is seen in the lives of individuals and communities as they become more effective in initiating, managing and sustaining positive change in their lives.
Two adolescent girls in rural Mongolia had dropped out of school owing to poverty and family difficulties; a non-formal education facilitator encouraged them to get back into learning through a distance education programme sponsored by UNESCO. When they succeeded in this, they were able to re-enter the formal school system at an appropriate level – life suddenly seemed to offer possibilities again!
With UNESCO support, a number of NGOs in Bangladesh have set up non-formal learning centres for girls who dropped out of school or who never went to school. Based around literacy, lifeskills and practical competencies, this alternative education not only prepares the girls for productive livelihoods, but also raises their confidence to be full participants in the life of their communities. As they enter adulthood, they will no longer be content to play second fiddle to men or to accept second-rate treatment. Education is changing society!
So lets make this world of educated and well informed citizens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.