UNESCO calls for greater emphasis on learning in primary school access programmes

Students at a primary school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) raise their hands to answer a class question. Photo: World Bank/Dominic Chavez

17 September 2013 – While primary school enrolment rates have risen dramatically over the past 15 years, the actual levels of learning remain low in many countries, the United Nations educational agency today reported, urging a shift from universal access to primary education to access to education ‘plus learning.’

At least 250 million primary school-age children around the world are not able to read, write or count well enough to meet minimum learning standards, including girls and boys who have spent at least four years in school, according to estimates in a new report from the Learning Metrics Task Force, of which the UN Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a member.

As the UN continues its 1,000 days of action towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a post-2015 agenda, the Task Force developed a series of recommendations to use both existing assessments of learning and new measures to improve the opportunities and outcomes of all children.

“Learning serves as the foundation for all of the priorities in the run-up to 2015, from better livelihoods to climate change. So it is critical to identify a clear set of indicators that can be tracked globally in order to monitor progress and hold ourselves to account in improving the learning outcomes and opportunities of all children and youth,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

According to the report, ‘Toward Universal Learning: Recommendations from the Learning Metrics Task Force,’ education systems should offer opportunities for children and youth to master competencies in seven domains of learning: physical well being, social and emotional, culture and the arts, literacy and communication, learning approaches and cognition, numeracy and mathematics, and science and technology.

Based on inputs from 1,700 individuals in 118 countries, the Task Force calls to action all stakeholders working in the field of education, including teachers, school leaders, local education authorities, education ministries and donors, to define and measure learning broadly and across multiple domains and educational stages.

“As the next phase of this work gets underway, education and development stakeholders are called to join the movement to help re-imagine what is measurable in education and deliver on the promise of education as an engine for transformation and opportunity,” the authors write in the report.


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