WE MUST DO BETTER, concludes High Level Group on Education for AllNew Delhi - Progress towards gender parity in education needs to be drastically accelerated, concluded the participants at the Third Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All, which ended here today.
In a communiqué* issued after two days of intense discussion, the heads of states, ministers, representatives of international organizations and agencies and specialist non-governmental organizations said they were “encouraged by the evident progress in gender parity particularly at primary level where the proportion of girls to boys enrolled rose from 88 percent in 1990 to 94 percent in 2000.” However, they added, the fact that 57 percent of the world’s out-of-school children are girls and that almost two thirds of the 860 million non-literate people are women indicates that girls continue “to face sharp discrimination in access to education at all levels.”
They praised the recently released Education for All Global Monitoring Report for its “high quality analysis based on internationally available data”, and said that its findings underlined that education for girls and women is not only a human right “but a sine qua non for achieving other development priorities”.
The participants proposed a series of immediate measures to be taken by governments, agencies, NGOs and civil society to boost efforts to achieve gender parity in education by 2005 and gender equality by 2015, the deadlines set by 164 countries at the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal (April 2000).
Governments, for example, should introduce national legislation to enforce children’s right to free and compulsory quality education, prevent child labour and prohibit early marriage. They should also eliminate school fees and reduce other indirect costs, adopt gender sensitive curricula integrating HIV/AIDS issues and reproductive health, strengthen the number, competencies and status of women teachers, and increase investment in early childhood care as well as skills and literacy programmes for women and adolescents.
Bilateral donors and international agencies “should fulfil their commitments made at Dakar” and at the follow-up meeting in Monterrey (Mexico, 2002), and “redress the decline of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) that remains below the level of the early 1990s.” Working with partners, states the communiqué, “they should bridge the financing gap between the current level of support for basic education, amounting to US$1.5 billion per year, and the amount needed in external support to reach gender goals and universal primary education by 2015, estimated at an additional US$5.6 billion per year”.
The communiqué called on participants to the upcoming donors’ meeting in Oslo (Norway, November 2003) to “reach agreement on a clear framework to improve the effectiveness of the Fast-Track Initiative” and recommended that a “statement on its future should be made as soon as possible”.
Non-governmental and other civil society organizations, “should become fully recognized and accepted partners in the effort to achieve the gender and EFA goals”. They should maintain pressure on governments and the international community to meet their commitments for support for education, and provide innovative education programmes for out-of-school girls.
The High Level Group, which meets annually to measure progress towards the Education for All goals set in Dakar, also stressed the necessity for better coordination and harmonization of EFA efforts at international and national levels and recommended the strengthening of data collection systems to ensure ever-greater accuracy in monitoring of progress towards the education for all goals.
At the close of the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura expressed his determination to “improve follow-up to the High Level Group and to strengthen links with our partners,” and added that “we are not complacent in any way about the need to secure appropriate and viable improvements in coordination and mobilization.”
The next meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All will be held in Brazil in November 2004.
* The full text of the communiqué adopted by the High Level Group is available at: www.unesco.org/education/efa/hlg2003