UNESCO Director-General to participate in G8 summit in St PetersburgUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will participate in the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg (Russian Federation) on Monday 17 July. Mr Matsuura has been invited to take part in discussions on building education systems relevant to the needs of a global, knowledge-based economy.
Education is UNESCO’s top priority. The Organization is the lead coordinating agency for Education for All (EFA), an ambitious programme to provide quality basic education for every child, woman and man by 2015.
“We have made much progress in education in recent decades,” Mr Matsuura said ahead of the Summit. “There are more children in school than ever before, and increasing numbers of adults now have access to education programmes that are vital in our rapidly globalizing world. Today, the skills required for employment, personal well-being and social participation are constantly evolving. In addition, our unprecedented mobility demands greater knowledge of the world around us and its many cultures. Thus, we must learn how to live with change as well as how to live together.”
“However,” Mr Matsuura added, “there are still too many people of all ages who are excluded from education. UNESCO’s research shows there are still more than 100 million children out-of-school and there remain a staggering 771 million adults who cannot read or write. This appalling waste of human potential and capacity must end.”
“I am thus delighted and encouraged by the importance the G8 group of countries is giving to education. G8 support will give new drive and momentum to the efforts of the international community to achieve Education for All, which UNESCO’s also considers a condition sine qua non for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and winning the battle against poverty.”
UNESCO estimates that if the EFA goals are to be reached by the target date of 2015, aid to basic education needs to rise to some $12 billion a year, up from about $4.4 billion in 2004.
Greater priority must also be given to those countries that need aid most: the 52 least developed countries receive just one-third of total aid for education, with the rest being distributed among middle-income countries with relatively high primary enrolments.
Aid also needs to be more predictable to allow governments to plan in the long-term. Historically, aid has varied significantly from year to year. But education costs are recurrent: teachers’ salaries need to be paid regularly; schools need to be built and maintained; text books and other learning materials must be provided; and incentives must be made available to encourage poor parents to send their children to school.
UNESCO also insists on the need for innovation in education, particularly through the use of new information and communication technologies and the strengthening of partnerships with communities, civil society and the private sector. New and innovative ways of providing educational services need to be found if we are to overcome the acute shortages of schools, trained teachers and materials that are preventing hundreds of millions of people from accessing even the most basic education.