Education ministers reaffirm their commitment to Education for All goalsMore than 90 ministers of education reaffirmed their commitment to provide quality education for all (EFA), at a Ministerial Round Table held at UNESCO Headquarters during the 33rd session of the Organization’s General Conference.
Opening the Round Table on Friday, October 7, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura insisted on three necessary steps needed to achieve the EFA goals set at the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, 2000) by the target date of 2015: firm and time-bound commitments to abolish school fees, greater political will and clearly identified measures to get girls into school.
In a communiqué issued at the close of the two-day debate on Saturday, October 8, the participants reaffirmed their commitment to the EFA goals and welcomed the “notable progress” made by many countries towards their achievement.
However, they noted “with alarm the effects of poverty, hunger, conflict, instability, HIV and AIDS, maternal mortality, illiteracy, teacher migration and natural disasters […] on the chance to learn for millions of children, young people and adults, and the consequent stagnation of progress towards or retrogression from EFA goals.”
They welcomed pledges from the donor community to increase development aid by US$50 billion annually by 2010 and to accelerate debt relief, and encouraged “the development of innovative financing mechanisms,” such as debt swap for education.
Pledging to use EFA aid more effectively, they also agreed to “intensify efforts” to increase national education budgets and, “as adequate funding becomes available”, begin to abolish school fees and other charges in primary education.
Recognizing that the world had missed the first EFA target of gender parity in education by 2005, the participants re-committed themselves to “remove obstacles and strengthen efforts to ensure without delay equal access to school and learning opportunities for girls and women”.
Reaffirming that “Education is an essential condition for equitable and sustainable social and economic development,” the ministers agreed to give greater emphasis to policies and funding for adult literacy […] to develop close linkages between basic education and technical and vocational education”, and to “emphasize the role of higher education, particularly in the field of teacher education.”
According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics and the forthcoming Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which mesures the world’s progress towards the EFA goals*, some 100 million children worldwide, two thirds of them girls, do not attend school. A further 771 million adults, 60 percent of them women, do not know how to read or write.
“These facts must spur us all to greater efforts and more targeted action,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura told the participants.
*The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006 will be launched by UNESCO on November 9. Advance copies will be available shortly for the press.
Photo © UNESCO/P. Waeles