Thursday, May 31, 2007

Education for All (EFA) Developments

Read the Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Information Meeting for Permanent Delegations on Education for All (EFA) Developments (30 May 2007).

Educational problems remain severe in the world. 77 million children are not in school and over ten times that many adults lack basic literacy skills. Gender inequalities, the poor quality of education and the lack of early childhood learning and of non-formal opportunities for young people, as well as issues of capacity and system reform – all these are the challenges we face.

Today, seven years after the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, at which the six EFA goals were adopted, we are almost exactly half way to 2015. The 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report focused on the first goal – early childhood care and education. The Report showed that children who participate in early childhood programs are more likely to enter and complete primary education. It also demonstrated the link between early childhood education and future academic achievement, as well as the overall efficiency of education systems.

Secretary-General Matsuura has
decided to set up an International Advisory Panel on EFA – the IAP – of about 15 people and comprising the four main constituencies of EFA: developing countries; donors; multilateral agencies; and civil society and the private sector. The IAP held its first meeting on 21 May.
This year the EFA Global Monitoring Report will be crucially important. It will not examine a specific EFA theme, as it has in the past, but rather take stock of overall EFA progress. The focus will be on equity, equality and quality, and the report will examine the nature of the challenges up to 2015.

Reporting on financial resources, Mr. Matsuura said:
The funding of EFA is a constant and urgent concern. Recent data from the GMR shows some worrying trends, both in terms of domestic funding and external assistance.

Out of the 67 developing countries for which we have data, 39 have increased public expenditure on education as a share of GNP since 1999, while in 28 countries public spending has actually decreased, in some cases significantly. This is an extremely disturbing development. Strong and sustainable domestic funding is absolutely key to EFA progress. It is therefore crucial that developing countries reprioritize spending towards basic education. We should not forget: investment in education is one of the most productive investments a nation can make.

The picture for international aid is likewise mixed.

New pledges of significant funds, such as the UK commitment for the next ten years, were a welcome development in 2006. The EFA Fast Track Initiative (FTI) has become a trusted channel of funding for primary schooling and has a growing financial envelope as well as an increasing number of partner countries where funds are at work......

The recent Brussels conference, gave further shape to how existing funding will be spent, but.....stopped considerably short of raising the sums needed to achieve universal primary schooling, let alone the other EFA goals.

And there are more troubling signs. Total external commitments to basic education in low-income countries increased steadily year by year from 1.6 billion US$ in 1999 to 2.6 billion US$ in 2003, before rising rapidly in the following year to 4 billion US$. However, according to initial analysis of OECD/DAC aid data by the GMR team, it appears that commitments then fell in 2005 to just 2.4 billion US$.
UNESCO has three core initiatives in EFA:
  • UNESCO’s Literacy for Empowerment initiative (LIFE) targets the 35 countries that face the greatest literacy challenges, and is already up and running in 11 countries.
  • The EDUCAIDS Initiative within the UNAIDS framework addressing HIV/AIDS.
  • UNESCO’s Teacher Training Initiative for sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA), which is a ten year project aimed at increasing the quantity and improving the quality of the teaching force in sub-Saharan Africa, where needs are particularly acute.
UNESCO's Education Sector reform seeks to strengthen UNESCO’s role in education, above all in the priority area of EFA. The reform has created a more streamlined, integrated and accountable structure, providing UNESCO with the framework it needs to fully exercise its leadership role. Mr. Matsuura said that "the recent departure of the ADG for Education will not in any way affect the ongoing implementation of these reforms. Board Members firmly agreed, endorsing the direction I have taken, and giving me a strong mandate to proceed. At this critical juncture in our efforts to achieve EFA, UNESCO must not, and will not, be seen to waver."

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