Director-General opens 8th meeting of the Working Group on Education for All (EFA)

Director-General opens 8th meeting of the Working Group on Education for All (EFA)
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

On Wednesday 14 November 2007, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, opened at UNESCO Headquarters the eighth meeting of the Working Group on Education for All.

“Our meeting takes place at an important juncture, midway toward the 2015 target date for achieving EFA. It is a time for reflection and for learning lessons from past practice. Above all, it should be a moment of re-affirmation of our collective determination to push forward the EFA agenda”, Mr Matsuura stated in his opening address.

Since its first meeting in November 2000, the Working Group has evolved into a very important mechanism for providing technical guidance on EFA issues. The Director-General explained that this importance would increase within the new sequence of EFA events that was being introduced this year. From now on, the Working Group, which previously considered a broad range of issues in EFA, will have the more specific purpose of taking the evidence of the EFA Global Monitoring Report and determining the key policy and strategy recommendations to be considered by the High-Level Group, meeting a month later. “Overall, this process will serve to increase the momentum and political will in favour of EFA, which is the principal raison d’être for the international EFA mechanisms”, Mr Matsuura underlined.

In this regard, the Director-General informed the Working Group that he had set up an International Advisory Panel on EFA, in order to ensure the adequate preparation of these key events, and to provide consistent and ongoing advice to UNESCO in its coordinating role throughout the year (see Flash Info N° 067-2007).

Turning to the agenda of the Working Group meeting, the Director-General drew attention to some of the key issues emerging from the 2008 EFA Global Monitoring Report. An embargoed copy of the Report had been made available to participants, in advance of its public launch on 29 November.

First and foremost, the Director-General underscored the Report’s timely reminder of the need to pursue the EFA goals in a holistic manner. “The Report is absolutely clear that certain of the EFA goals have been and continue to be neglected. These are: early childhood care and education (goal 1); the learning needs of young people and adults (goal 3); and adult literacy, especially for women (goal 4). In addition, the Report provides clear evidence that the 2005 goal of gender parity at primary and secondary levels of education has been missed”, Mr Matsuura said. He therefore called on the Working Group, when determining what priorities might be addressed by the High-Level Group, to propose ways in which a balanced and holistic approach towards achieving EFA may be structured.

The Director-General went on to highlight three specific areas of concern identified by the Report: equity, quality and financing.

“A concern for equity is fundamental and must be constant, as is implied in the very title ‘Education for All’”, Mr Matsuura noted, arguing that “the challenge of the next eight years would be to ensure the inclusion of children, youth and adults whom education systems do not currently serve well”.

Turning to quality, the Director General stressed “that learners need an education that makes a difference, that is relevant to their real needs, and that empowers them to make the most of their lives.”

Finally, with respect to financing, Mr Matsuura pointed out that while there had been progress in domestic expenditure and international aid, as well as in the quality of aid delivery, there remained a number of disturbing trends. He called on developing countries to increase spending on education. He also urged bilateral and multilateral agencies to boost their commitments. The Director-General warned that even if recent pledges were met,” funding to basic education is still likely to remain far short of the US$11 billion that the GMR estimates is needed annually to achieve EFA”. In terms of quality, too, Mr Matsuura insisted that greater efforts were required, especially with respect to better targeting aid towards countries most in need.

Here, Mr Matsuura asked the Working Group to pay particular attention to the special needs and circumstances of countries facing conditions of fragility, in particular those that suffer the consequences of conflict or disaster. “Your discussions must build on those of other fora in finding innovative ways to fund and deliver quality learning opportunities in conditions of fragility”, he said.

In conclusion, Mr Matsuura expressed his sincere hope that the new sequence of international EFA mechanisms would help the Working Group and, next month, the High-Level Group, to address more effectively the challenges of providing Education for All. He affirmed that 2007 “must mark a turning point in our determination to achieve the EFA goals”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 174-2007
  • 15-11-2007
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