Countries, donors must spend more to achieve universal education, UN conference says

17 November 2006 –

Countries should spend 4 to 6 per cent of national income on education, and donors need to raise predictable and long-term financing to reach the $11 billion required annually to achieve universal primary education, adult literacy and early childhood care and education by 2015, a United Nations-led conference has determined.

These were among the recommendations adopted by the 6th meeting of the High-Level Group on Education for All organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and held in Cairo, Egypt, from 14-16 November.

Some 20 education ministers from developing countries, top officials of multilateral and bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) leaders and representatives of the private sector discussed strategies to increase funding from national and external sources to better respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and improve cooperation and coordination to achieve Education for All goals.

In a final communiqué High-Level Group members committed themselves to a stronger focus on early childhood care and education (ECCE) and urged governments and aid agencies to increase funding for this purpose substantially above current levels.

Recognizing the links between the early years and future achievement in school, participants committed themselves to expand enrolment in early childhood programmes, develop comprehensive national policies on the issue, increase partnerships and foster a holistic approach to the needs of the child.

They recognized that progress has been made since 1999 with over 37 million more children in primary school, the abolition of school fees in a number of countries, and increased aid to education, but advances towards gender parity has been too slow, and requires more targeted efforts to remove barriers to girls’ access to school.

The communiqué calls for “innovation and new investment” in adult literacy, characterizing the current situation in which one adult in five lacks literacy skills as unacceptable and a “shameful loss of potential.” It emphasizes the need for resources to eliminate child labour and strategies to recruit and train 18 million new teachers by 2015.

Senegal will host the next High-Level Group meeting on Education for All in December 2007. The venue is highly symbolic as the Education for All goals were adopted in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, and next year’s meeting marks a mid-way point and will focus on an overall review of progress.

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