Education for All: some progress, can do betterSignificant progress has been made towards achieving Education for All, but “huge challenges” must still be overcome if the objectives set by the world’s nations in Dakar (Senegal) five years ago are to be met by 2015*, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said here today.
Mr Matsuura was speaking at the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All (EFA), which was formally opened by the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, in the presence of the President of Mongolia, Nambaryn Enkhbaya, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, and the Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Arthur Zahidi N’Goma.
Referring to the findings of the recently released EFA Global Monitoring Report**, the Director-General said that even though the goal of achieving gender parity by 2005 has been missed, more girls are in school than ever before. Some 20 million new students are attending classes in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia, he added, and national spending on basic education as well as external aid to EFA have also risen.
However, unless current trends improve, gender parity “may not be achieved by 2015 in as many as 86 countries,” said Mr Matsuura. Further, he added, 18 percent of the world’s adults are still illiterate, and “it is also clear that the quality of basic education remains low and will not lead to meaningful learning outcomes unless tackled with renewed vigour.”
Mr Matsuura welcomed the pledge by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to substantially increase China’s contribution to education development throughout the world so as to accelerate progress toward the EFA goals.
In his address at the opening ceremony, the Premier pledged to: train 1,500 schoolmasters and teachers from developing countries annually over the next three years; donate 100 experimental rural schools to developing countries over the next three years; increase the number and the value of scholarships and university places for students from developing countries to 10,000 annually; increase financial support for developing countries hit by natural disasters; and to grant one million dollars in aid to pertinent research and training projects undertaken by UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity-Building in Africa and the UNESCO International Centre for Girls and Women’s Education in Africa.
China’s experience running the largest education system in the world, the Premier said, “has driven home to us that only by speeding up education development for the entire citizenry, can we turn our huge population into an enormous resource, put economic development in orbit or progress in science and technology, and improve the living standards of the entire population.”
The High Level Group meeting on Education for All brings together ministers of education, cooperation and development, the donor community and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations annually to assess progress towards the EFA goals. This year’s meeting, hosted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, will focus on the goal of halving adult illiteracy by 2015. It will also work on a Joint Action Plan to stimulate action on the EFA goals and to offer better, concrete, support at the national level to countries in their efforts to achieve them.