United Nations


General Assembly
Economic and Social Council

Distr. GENERAL  

17 May 1995


Fiftieth session                           Substantive session of 1995
Item 107 of the preliminary list*          Geneva, 26 June-28 July 1995
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING QUESTIONS    Item 5 (f) of the provisional



                         SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT QUESTIONS

                         International Literacy Year

            Progress made and problems encountered in the struggle
                   against illiteracy:  a mid-decade review

        Report of the Secretary-General and the Director-General of the
        United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

    The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the Economic and

Social Council and the General Assembly, as an annex to the present note, the
report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization on the progress made and problems encountered in
the quest to achieve a literate world, prepared in pursuance of General
Assembly resolution 46/93 of 16 December 1991.


    *   A/50/50.

    **  E/1995/100.
95-14876 (E)   080695                                                     /...

         Towards a literate world:  a report on progress and problems

             Report of the Director-General of the United Nations
              Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

1.  The present report has been prepared by the United Nations Educational,

Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) pursuant to General Assembly
resolution 46/93 of 16 December 1991.  Since the observance of International
Literacy Year in 1990 and the convening of the World Conference on Education
for All at Jomtien, Thailand, in the same year, the international community
and, in particular, the organizations and agencies of the United Nations,
have given increased attention to the promotion of literacy and basic

education as both a fundamental human right and a necessary condition for
development.  More recently, the critical importance of education in
development was reiterated at the International Conference on Population and
Development (Cairo, 1994) and at the World Summit for Social Development
(Copenhagen, 1995).  Education, in brief, is increasingly viewed not as a
sectoral concern or social service, but as an indispensable means for the

transmission of culture and the renewal and advancement of society:  i.e., as
the motor of progress.

2.  There are, indeed, both significant advances to report and major problems
that remain to be resolved.  The progress can be seen in rising literacy
rates, a dramatic increase in the number of literate adults, especially in

the developing countries, and a steady expansion in educational enrolments. 
The problems are equally apparent:  more than one adult in five is still
illiterate, an estimated total of 885 million in 1995; more than three
illiterates in five are women; an estimated 129 million children of primary
school-age are not enrolled in school; and even many children who are
enrolled, especially in the least developed countries, attend schools that

are patently inadequate in staffing, equipment and facilities to prepare them
to lead productive lives in the twenty-first century.

                            I.  SIGNS OF PROGRESS

                         A.  Rising tide of literacy

3.  Table 1 shows the increasing rates of literacy within the adult
population and the rising number of literate adults.  As will be observed,
the literacy rate for the world as a whole has increased from an estimated

69.5 per cent in 1980 to a projected 79.4 per cent in the year 2000.  During
this same 20-year period, the number of literate adults will have increased
by an estimated 1,394 million.  A significant part of this increase is a
result of improved literacy rates, especially in the developing countries. 
Had the literacy rate remained at the 1980 level, instead of increasing by
nearly 10 per cent during the two ensuing decades, there would be 400 million

fewer adult literates in the year 2000 than is now projected.  Since 1960,
when UNESCO first began the systematic collection and publication of literacy
statistics, the literacy rate 
  Table 1.  Estimated number of adult literates aged 15 years and over, 1980-

             (In millions, with percentages shown in parentheses)

                                    Both sexes                   Female        

                         1980   1990   1995   2000   1980   1990   1995   2000

 World                   2 002  2 694  3 029 3 396   897   1 231  1 393   1 573
                         (69.5  (75.3  (77.4 (79.4  (61.9  (68.7  (71.2  (73.6)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

 Developing countries    1 172  1 775  2 072 2 406   466    753    895    1 059
                         (58.0  (67.2  (70.4 (73.4  (46.8  (57.8  (61.7  (65.5)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

   Sub-Saharan Africa     85     144    185   234     31     59     78     102
                         (40.2  (51.3  (56.8 (62.0  (29.2  (41.1  (47.3  (53.3)

                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )
   Arab States            39     67     86    108     12     24     33     43

                         (40.8  (51.7  (56.6 (61.5  (26.2  (38.1  (44.2  (50.1)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )
   Latin                  174    240    276   315     85    120    138     158

 America/Caribbean       (79.7  (84.9  (86.6 (88.2  (77.5  (83.5  (85.5  (87.4)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

   Eastern                624    944   1 067 1 196   257    418    480     548
 Asia/Oceania            (69.3  (80.3  (83.6 (86.8  (58.0  (72.2  (76.3  (80.6)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

   Southern Asia          222    344    418   509     67    116    148     187
                         (39.1  (46.6  (50.2 (53.7  (24.5  (32.6  (36.6  (40.7)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

 Least developed          78     125    158   199     27     47     62     80
 countries               (36.5  (44.8  (48.8 (52.7  (24.9  (33.7  (38.1  (42.4)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

 Developed countries      830    919    957   990    431    478    497     514
                         (96.6  (98.2  (98.7 (98.9  (95.4  (97.7  (98.4  (98.8)
                           )      )      )     )      )      )      )

        Source:  UNESCO Division of Statistics.
has increased at approximately 0.5 per cent per year or 5.0 per cent per
decade, despite rapid population growth.

4.  The deeper meaning of literacy is evident from a closer examination of
the statistics.  It can be calculated, for example, that whereas in 1980 over

40 per cent of all literates lived in the developed countries (including
Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the United States of America,
all European countries, with the exception of the States of the former
Yugoslavia, and all the newly independent States of the former Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics), fewer than 30 per cent are projected to do so in
the year 2000.  While the number of literates has increased in all regions,

the progression has been especially striking in the developing countries of
the East Asia/Oceania region:  572 million, an increase of over 90 per cent
in 20 years.  Indeed, the number of literates in the developing countries of
the East Asia/Oceania region alone is projected to exceed, by over 200
million, the number in all developed countries in the year 2000.  It is, of
course, precisely in this region that economic growth has been most rapid and

persistent.  While it would be dangerous to assume a simple cause and effect
relationship, it is evident that there is a powerful, if complex, linkage
between education, on the one hand, and economic progress, on the other.

                       B.  Expanding school enrolments

5.  The rapid increase in the number of literate adults is a result of the
expansion of primary school enrolments and, to a lesser extent, the impact of
adult literacy programmes.  Table 2 indicates the growth of primary
enrolments from 1960 to 1990 with projections to the year 2000.  As will be
noted, enrolment in the developing countries increased from 217 million in

1960 to 499 million in 1990.  In the least developed countries, the increase
was from 12 million to 55 million, a greater than four-fold increase.

6.  During the 1960s and 1970s, school enrolment expanded rapidly, at an
average annual rate of 3.7 per cent.  In the 1980s, the average annual growth
rate declined to 1.1 per cent.  In the 1990s, it is projected to increase to

1.7 per cent per year.  This increase is brought about at least in part, by
the renewed emphasis being placed on primary education by both Governments
and international organizations and agencies following the 1990 World
Conference on Education for All.  While changes in educational policies take
time to be implemented and have a measurable impact, one can already observe
signs of progress in many countries.  In a special study prepared for the

Education for All Summit of the Nine High-Population Countries (New Delhi,
December 1993 - see discussion in sect. IV below), it was, for example,
estimated that special measures implemented in preparation for or as a
follow-up to the 1990 World Conference would result in an expansion in
enrolment of nearly 35 million primary school students by the year 2000. 

Without the special education for all initiatives - i.e., based on the trend
observed from 1980 to 1990 - enrolment at the primary level in the nine
countries would have reached a projected 300 million in the year 2000; with
the special education for all measures put in place, it is expected to reach
335 million.  The mid-term review of progress towards education for all that
is presently under way will seek to identify the impact of similar education

for all measures in other countries.  Even from initial findings, it is
evident that the international attention focused on education for all has had
a positive impact at the national level in many countries.
      Table 2.  Enrolment at the primary (6 to 11 year age group) level

           (In millions, with percentages shown in parentheses a/)

                          1960     1970    1980     1990     2000

 World                     333     435      557      611     704
                         (59.0)   (65.5)  (73.3)   (79.0)   (79.8)

 Developed countries       116     124      111      112     115
                         (91.7)   (92.7)  (91.8)   (91.6)   (92.5)

 Developing countries      217     312      446      499     589
                         (47.9)   (57.8)  (69.3)   (76.5)   (77.7)

 Least developed           12       23      40       55       73
 countries               (23.9)   (34.3)  (44.1)   (51.1)   (50.2)

    Source:  UNESCO Division of Statistics.

    a/  The actual percentages of the age group that will enrol in primary
school is higher than indicated because some children will enter school
before the age of 6 and many, especially in the developing countries, will
continue their primary studies after the age of 11.

7.  There has also been a significant increase in the participation of girls
enrolled in primary education.  In 1960, girls made up only 39 per cent of
enrolment in the developing countries as a whole and only 32 per cent in the
least developed countries; by 1990, these rates had increased, respectively,
to 45 and 44 per cent.  Education for all initiatives have given high

priority to the education of women and girls, particularly in countries where
gender disparities are greatest.  The ongoing review of education for all
will measure progress not only in terms of expanding enrolments but also in
relation to the reduction in the gender gap.

             C.  Changing nature and role of literacy programmes

8.  The impact of adult literacy programmes on literacy rates is more
difficult to demonstrate because of the non-formal character of the
programmes, but it is none the less considered to be of great importance in
many countries.  China, for example, asserts that literacy work has achieved

tremendous success, a total of 180 million illiterates and semi-literates
having been made literate.  India estimates that over 30 million persons in
the 9 to 45 age range are currently engaged in its total literacy campaigns. 
Increasingly, literacy initiatives serve as a supplement to, not a substitute
for, primary schooling.  A growing number of participants in literacy and
related adult basic education activities - often a sizeable majority - have

had at least a partial primary education, but have failed to achieve an
adequate level of functional literacy.  Literacy programmes appear to be
especially attractive to women.  Indeed, in some countries, over 80 per cent
of participants are women.  This is probably explained by the fact that girls
in most developing countries have enjoyed more limited access to formal
education than have boys and see literacy classes as a way of compensating

for their disadvantage.
9.  The aim of well-conceived literacy programmes is not only to provide
basic instruction to participants, but also to foster the creation of
literate and literacy-sustaining environments within communities.  While
large-scale campaigns continue to prevail in some countries - and serve a
valuable purpose where mass illiteracy remains the key problem - there is a

growing tendency for programmes to be smaller and better tailored to needs of
participants.  Family literacy programmes, for example, seek to combine the
provision of literacy instruction and training in parenting skills with pre-
school education for children.  The basic assumption of such programmes is
that relatively small investments in the education of parents can
substantially enhance the returns on the far larger amounts invested in the

education of their children.

10. One of the striking developments of the last two decades has been the
generalization of literacy programmes, in various forms, to the developed
regions of the world.  Surveys in industrialized countries reveal, for
example, that up to one adult in three would improve his work performance if

his or her basic skills were upgraded.  Thus, literacy programmes, once seen
as emergency or transitional measures appropriate mainly to developing
nations, have tended to become institutionalized and permanent in nearly all
countries.  In effect, such programmes are an essential part of the structure
of lifelong education.  They are the stepping stones that enable adults with
inadequate basic skills to begin or renew their education, or upgrade their

professional skills, at any point in their lives.

                           II.  UNRESOLVED PROBLEMS

                        A.  Persistence of illiteracy

11. Is the glass best described as almost a quarter empty or as more than
three quarters full?  This is the dilemma one faces in dealing with literacy
statistics.  The remarkable increase in the number of literate adults and the
more gradual growth of literacy rates was noted above.  What needs also to be
emphasized here is the persistence of illiteracy revealed in table 3.  As

will be noted, the number of illiterates is projected to decline by only 4
million between 1990 and the year 2000.  Even this, in a sense, is a sign of
progress in that until 1990 there was a marked upward trend in the number of
illiterates.  The situation now appears to be stabilized and, indeed, a very
gradual decrease is projected to occur during the coming years.  None the
less, if current trends persist, it will not be until the second quarter of

the twenty-first century that 90 per cent of all the world's adults will be
literate.  As emphasized below, the international community does not
passively accept these trends as
 Table 3.  Estimated number of adult illiterates aged 15 years and over, 1980-

                                (In millions)

                                    Both sexes                    Female       

                          1980   1990   1995   2000   1980   1990  1995    2000

 World                     877    885    885    881    551    561   565     565

 Developing countries      848    868    872    870    531    550   557     558

   Sub-Saharan Africa      126    137    141    143     76     84    87      89
   Arab States              56     63     65     68     34     39    41      43

   Latin                    44     43     43     42     25     24    23      23

   Eastern                 276    231    210    182    186    161   149     132

   Southern Asia           346    394    416    438    207    241   256     272

 Least developed           136    154    166    178     81     93   101     109

 Developed countries        29     17     13     11     21     11     8       6

        Source:  UNESCO Division of Statistics.
fatalities, but, on the contrary, is working vigorously with the Governments
and peoples of the United Nations to change them.

12. It is also necessary to note that although the rate of literacy among
women is projected to increase (see table 1) from 62 per cent in 1980 to

74 per cent in the year 2000 and the gap between male and female literacy
rates will diminish from roughly 15 percentage points to 12 during the same
20-year period, still nearly two out of every three illiterates will be women
in the year 2000.  This disparity in literacy rates between women and men is
not only a proof of continuing inequality, it also constitutes an especially
serious obstacle to development.  There is abundant evidence that as literacy

rates among women increase, fertility tends to decline, often significantly. 
While the dynamics through which education influences population growth are
in dispute among demographers and other specialists, it appears that as life-
support systems such as education, health, employment, pensions and legal
protection become more widely available, large families - especially sons -
are no longer seen as necessary to provide security in old age.  Moreover,

literate women not only tend to have fewer children, they also have healthier
children.  This is evidenced both by lower child mortality rates and higher
rates of child immunization.  Thus, whereas in the past development policy
stressed the positive impact of educating men to increase their employability
and economic productivity, the emphasis is now increasingly upon the need to
educate women as the most effective means of promoting social justice and

contributing to the social development and well-being of society.

                          B.  Out-of-school children

13. While the expansion of primary enrolment in the developing countries has

been impressive, there is still a long way to go before education for all
becomes a reality.  There are several reasons for this.  The educational
systems that many countries inherited from their colonial past were designed
to serve the few rather than the many.  In 1960, for example, less than half
of the primary school-age population was enrolled in the developing countries
and less than a quarter in those countries now classified as least developed. 

High population growth, now tapering off in most regions, has been an even
more serious handicap.  In the last 30 years, the school-age population of
many developing countries has more than doubled.  Numerous countries,
especially in Africa, have also encountered serious economic difficulties
that have made it impossible to carry out more ambitious educational plans. 
As a result of these different factors (see table 2), only an estimated

77 per cent of the primary school-age population (6 to 11 years) in the
developing countries was enrolled in school in 1990.  For the least developed
countries, the comparable figure was 51 per cent.  In absolute terms, this
means that there were an estimated 129 million out-of-school children in the
developing countries in 1990.  Even more alarming, this figure is projected

to reach 145 million in the year 2000, if urgent action is not taken to
expand educational opportunities.  Approximately 60 per cent of out-of-school
children are girls.

14. Providing adequate learning opportunities for all children will obviously
be an enormous task.  It is estimated that if universal primary education is

to be achieved by the year 2000, buildings, teachers and instructional
materials will have to be provided for an additional 233 million more
students than were enrolled in 1990.  As approximately a quarter of students
enrolled in primary schools in 1990 in the developing countries (an estimated
118 million) were either above or below the official school age, improved
efficiency, especially a reduction in the number of students who repeat
classes, could considerably reduce the need for additional places.  Still the
challenge is enormous, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where school places
would have to be more than doubled.

                         C.  Drop-out and repetition

15. The number of out-of-school children is considerably increased by the
high drop-out rate experienced in developing countries.  A UNESCO study, for

example, estimates that of the 95 million children who started primary school
in the developing regions of the world in 1988, an estimated 25 million
dropped out before reaching grade 4.  Early drop out has a direct and serious
implication for the progress of literacy.  As a rule of thumb, it is
considered that four years of primary schooling represent the minimum needed
to achieve an enduring level of literacy.  By this measure, an estimated 30

million youth per year joined the ranks of illiterate adults during the
1980s:  a minority of these youth never started school and a large majority
of them entered but dropped out before reaching grade 4.  In Sub-Saharan
Africa and the Arab States, a significant portion of the drop-out rate is a
result of inadequate access to schooling.  Elsewhere, the causes appear to be
mainly social, economic and cultural, although the perceived inadequacies of

the school system seriously reduce its appeal to parents and children alike.

16. Dropping out is often preceded by and related to grade repetition.  In
Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that 20 per cent or more of children
repeat grades.  In other regions, repetition rates of 10 per cent or higher
are common.  Repetition is particularly high in the first two or three grades

where the unrestricted admission of children from a wide age-range typically
leads to overcrowded classrooms and unsuitable conditions.  As a result,
large numbers of children may spend four or more years in school, but will
none the less fail to complete the fourth grade or master even the most basic
educational skills.  This obviously blunts the impact of schooling in
improving adult literacy rates.

                        D.  Need for improved quality

17. The World Declaration on Education for All adopted at Jomtien on
9 March 1990 emphasizes that schooling must be viewed as a means and not as

an end and that whether or not expanded educational opportunities will
translate into meaningful development - for an individual or for society -
depends ultimately on whether people actually learn as a result of those
opportunities.  The issue of how to ensure effective learning is, of course,
a very complex one.  Much depends upon a student's background and motivation

and the circumstances of the community in which he or she lives.  Poverty is
almost certainly the greatest obstacle to learning.  Environments that make
little use of literacy, have few reading materials and offer few, if any,
incentives to become literate are an evident and still common problem in many
parts of the world.

18. One must not, however, overlook the many defects of the schools
themselves.  There is a serious shortage of qualified teachers in most
developing countries.  The rapid expansion of schooling in the 1960s and
1970s required a relaxation of standards in order to put teachers into
classrooms in the numbers required.  While some countries have made excellent
progress in upgrading the education and professional qualifications of their
teaching force, many have not had the resources to do so.  School facilities
also tend to be inadequate and poorly maintained.  In many countries, there
is a dramatic shortage of textbooks and learning materials.  A World Bank

study on Nigeria notes, for example, that it is common for 50 children to
share a single book.  In part, these problems are brought about by the fact
that teachers' salaries, although extremely low in most countries, consume
over 90 per cent of educational budgets, leaving little money for the
maintenance of buildings or the purchase of supplies.  UNESCO and the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are cooperating in a survey of the

conditions of education in the least developed countries with the aim of
obtaining an objective measure of what the situation is in order that
appropriate steps may be taken to improve it.  It is already evident,
however, that many schools are insufficiently staffed and equipped to provide
an adequate basic education.  Indeed, in certain of the least developed
countries, parents are showing a growing reluctance to enrol their children

in schools that are clearly unable to educate them and, indeed, may even
endanger their health and well-being by confining them in overcrowded and
unsanitary facilities.


19. How should the present situation be characterized?  On the positive side,
the world map of literacy has been redrawn by the developments of the last
decades.  High literacy rates are no longer to be found only in the older
industrialized countries.  Many developing countries, especially in East Asia
but also in Latin America and the Caribbean, have literacy rates approaching

or exceeding 90 per cent.  Nor are literacy programmes any longer an
exclusive feature of developing countries.  Illiteracy and functional
illiteracy are increasingly recognized as major problems in the countries of
Europe and North America.  As noted above, the rise in literacy rates and the
expansion of school enrolments represent a potent and positive transformation
in the world situation.  Of equal significance is the growing importance

being accorded to education and more particularly to literacy, the most
essential of educational skills.  Education is no longer seen as merely
another social service - a claimant among many others for a share of limited
public resources.  Education is increasingly regarded as the means through
which societies renew, re-energize and redirect themselves.  The future is
seen to depend, above all else, upon human creativity and competence and

education is recognized as the means through which these are engendered. 
Educated and trained people are, in the last analysis, the ultimate resource
of every society.  Their qualities and competencies determine not only what a
society can produce, but also, and more importantly, what it can become.

20. On the negative side, there is an entire litany of problems that can be
cited:  the inadequate coverage of existing education systems, gender
discrimination, drop out, repetition, inadequately trained teachers, poorly
maintained facilities, terrible shortages of books and supplies, environments
incapable of sustaining literacy, low levels of achievement and, perhaps most
troubling of all, a declining faith in the effectiveness and relevance of

education to improve and enrich the lives of the poorest students.  In short,
the situation is unquestionably challenging.  But it is also hopeful and
promising.  The proof that progress can be made is the fact that so much has
already been accomplished.  The vision of creating a literate world is still
remote, but its is no longer an impossible dream.

                       IV.  IMPROVING FUTURE PROSPECTS

                   A.  Awareness-building and mobilization

21. In 1989, the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty-fifth session
adopted a Plan of Action for the Eradication of Illiteracy by the Year
2000 a/ setting forth the Organization's strategy in the area, which it

regards as its "priority of priorities".  International Literacy Year, 1990,
on which UNESCO reported to the General Assembly at its forty-sixth
session, b/ was an integral part of this plan.  The purpose of the Year was
to alert world public opinion to the problem of illiteracy and to mobilize
national and international action to promote education and literacy.  As
noted in the report on the Year, a survey of 130 major national and regional

newspapers revealed that 7.5 times as many articles were carried on literacy
and basic education in 1990 than had been the case in 1988.  The
establishment of committees for the year in 118 countries, certain of which
continue to function, also served to mobilize public opinion and to promote
action by Governments and non-governmental organizations.

22. The second major purpose of the Plan of Action was to rally the
international community to take concerted and coordinated action in support
of education.  The Director-General of UNESCO has noted that education for
all needs the contribution to education from all and that if vision is
combined with pragmatism, political will with economic resourcefulness,
international solidarity with national commitment, the expertise of educators

with the fresh contributions of the media, science and technology, the
business community, voluntary organizations and many others - then, and
probably only then, the struggle to bring education to all can be won.  The
World Conference on Education for All, organized under the joint sponsorship
of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNESCO, UNICEF and the
World Bank, and with support of 18 other co-sponsors or associate sponsors,

provided the forum for rallying the international community to the cause of

23. The International Literacy Year and the World Conference on Education for
All, in effect, shared a common purpose.  The way to create a literate world
is by providing education to all people.  UNESCO has accordingly pursued the

follow-up to the Year and the World Conference through a unified programme of
initiatives and activities conducted mainly by the Basic Education Division. 
In the sections that follow, major aspects of this effort are briefly described.

          B.  International Consultative Forum on Education for All

24. At Jomtien, it was decided that the follow-up to the World Conference on
Education for All would rely mainly on existing mechanisms.  An International
Consultative Forum on Education for All was, however, set up to monitor
progress towards education for all and to promote consultation and

cooperation at the global level.  The Forum, which has 60 members, meets bi-
annually.  Between sessions of the Forum, its 14-member Steering Committee
guides and assists the Forum's secretariat, based at UNESCO headquarters, in
carrying out mandated activities.  The Forum has developed both a core
programme and an extended programme to support the education for all
movement.  The Core programme includes monitoring progress and problems,
publication of a quarterly bulletin, maintenance of a database on education
for all indicators and activities, contributing to education for all-related
events, and ensuring that education for all is accorded an appropriate place

on the agenda of major conferences and other events.  The extended programme
covers activities sponsored and implemented by different agencies under the
auspices of the Forum, including those aimed at providing basic learning
materials to developing countries, meeting the learning needs of girls and
women, promoting education for all in the most populous developing countries,
and mobilizing the media and the private sector in support of education for

all initiatives.

                      C.  The education for all process

25. The Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs endorsed by the

World Conference on Education for All recognizes the primary responsibility
of individual countries in meeting the basic learning needs of their citizens
and residents.  It also acknowledges the wide diversity of situations and the
need for each country to tailor its approach to its own possibilities and
circumstances.  In keeping with this philosophy, the first steps towards
education for all had to take place within countries.  The recommended first

step - and the one taken in most countries - involved the holding of
education for all round tables to gather local expertise in order to assess
the status of education for all within the particular countries and to make
proposals for necessary action.  These round tables also served to mobilize
potential education for all partners, including the private and voluntary
sectors.  In the first two years following the Conference, some 60 round

tables took place in developing countries around the world.  The national
round tables were meant to lead on the formulation of national action plans
for achieving education for all and, in most cases, have done so.  These
national plans serve to clarify and specify the actions that need to be taken
at the national level to achieve education for all.  In many cases, it is
evident that the plans and the process through which they were developed have

given new priority to basic education and literacy.  This is particularly
apparent in the nine high-population developing countries (see below) that
were the subject of a special study conducted by UNESCO.  All nine countries
increased their budgets for basic education by more than 50 per cent between
1989, when preparation for the Conference began, and 1993.

26. The Conference has also had a powerful and beneficial impact upon the
actions of donor countries and international agencies.  Not only has the
Conference encouraged additional aid to basic education and literacy, it has
also improved the effectiveness of such assistance.  The existence of well-
formulated education for all plans, for example, has enabled donors to

support comprehensive national action rather than providing project
assistance on an ad hoc basis.  The clarification of national goals and needs
has also provided a basis for increased dialogue and coordination among
donors and with partner countries.  One of the side effects has been to
highlight the need for more accurate information on donor support to basic
education which has resulted in changes in the manner in which the

Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) collects and classifies data on development assistance
to education.  In certain cases, the plans have provided the arguments needed
to overcome traditional donor reticence to finance recurrent costs, notably
teachers' salaries.  Where support for such costs is essential to the success
of well-conceived national efforts, donors have, in a number of cases, agreed
to cover them.

27. One of the key issues to be examined in the mid-term review of basic

education (see below) will be the extent of the increase in donor support for
basic education.  The initial indications on this point are ambiguous.  The
largest single source of financial assistance to developing countries, the
World Bank, has reportedly increased aid to basic education four-fold.  The
regional banks, particularly the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-
American Development Bank, have also significantly increased their support.

UNDP reports that basic education received 32 per cent of total expenditures
on education during 1993, a total of $43 million dollars.  UNICEF has
increased the proportion of its programme budget spent on basic education
from 8 to 11 per cent and plans to achieve a 20 per cent rate of expenditure
by the end of the decade.  Basic education is the main focus of UNESCO's
Education Sector and is also supported by programmes in other sectors.  As

concerns bilateral aid, the tide, regrettably, appears to be receding.  The
percentage of gross national product devoted to official development aid by
the OECD countries declined in 1993 to an estimated 0.30 per cent, the lowest
level since 1973.  It is, as yet, unclear what proportion of such aid was
devoted to basic education.

        D.  Educational for all in the nine high-population countries

28. Numerous special initiatives have been undertaken within the framework of
education for all.  These have focused on the least developed countries, on
women and girls and on other selected target groups.  Certainly the most

publicized of these was the Education for All Summit of the Nine High-
Population Countries that took place at New Delhi in December 1993, at the
invitation of the Government of India and with the support of UNICEF, the
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNESCO.  A follow-up meeting with
the leaders of the same countries was held at Copenhagen in conjunction with
the World Summit for Social Development in March 1995.  Collectively, the

nine countries represented at the Summit - Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt,
India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan - account for more than half
of the world's population and over 70 per cent of the world's illiterate
adults.  Unless literacy statistics improve in these countries, there can be
no significant improvement for the world as a whole.  Accordingly, these
countries have a special responsibility.  Their leaders recognize this

obligation and are eager to see their countries serve as examples to their
regions and to the world as a whole.

29. All nine countries possess substantial means and enormous potential.  In
particular, all of these nations have long and proud traditions in education

and well-trained and able professional educators in their ministries,
institutes and universities.  In addition, as vast and populous nations, they
share a number of common problems.  In the follow-up to the Summit, the nine
countries identified the promotion of distance education as an area in which
cooperation could be mutually beneficial.  As a first step in this
cooperation, all countries are presently engaged in carrying out a

comprehensive analysis of their situations in order to develop strategies for
applying distance education to support education for all initiatives.  It is
envisaged that meetings among officials of the nine countries will take place
on a regular basis to promote progress within countries and cooperation among

                     E.  Monitoring learning achievement

30. As noted above, education is effective only to the extent that it leads
to meaningful and useful learning.  Thus, if education is truly to meet the
basic learning needs of individuals, qualitative improvement is as important
an issue as quantitative expansion.  Developing effective monitoring systems
is an indispensable step in measuring and improving learning outcomes.  These

considerations led UNESCO and UNICEF to establish a joint project for
monitoring learning achievement.  The overriding aim of the project is to
assist countries in building national capacities in order that they may
effectively monitor progress towards the educational goals that they have set
for themselves.  The project focuses on the learning achievement of primary-
school pupils in the areas of literacy, numeracy and life skills.  By

examining both school-related factors and student and home characteristics,
the study seeks to identify ways in which policy-makers could use resources
more effectively to improve student achievement.

31. In its first phase (1992-1993), the project was implemented in five
developing countries.  An additional 13 countries participated in its second

phase in 1994.  The project is designed to have a powerful multiplier effect. 
First, national teams are selected and offered training in modern assessment
techniques.  Then, the members of the national team themselves become
trainers.  A total of 26 national workshops and 240 subnational workshops
were held in the five countries that participated in the initial phase of the
project.  A handbook has also been prepared to enable other countries that

cannot presently be accommodated in the project nonetheless to benefit from
it.  In short, a critical issue was identified and an innovative strategy
planned and implemented to deal with it.  While this is but one of many
initiatives intended to accelerate the progress of education for all, it is
an example of the effective use that can be made of limited resources to meet
critical educational needs.

                F.  Identifying and diffusing ideas that work

32. "Education for all:  Making it work" is another project being carried out
by UNESCO with the support of UNICEF, UNDP, Germany and other partners.  It

seeks to identify and make known effective and innovative educational
strategies.  The project has two basic premises.  The first is that cheaper
and more effective means have to be found, if education for all is to become
a reality.  The second is that the best measure of an effective project is
the result it is achieving.  Thus, in the first phase, the project searches

out uncommon approaches that have proved successful in resolving common
problems.  To this end, project staff, with the aid of an advisory group made
up of educators from all parts of the world, screen promising projects and
approaches and identify those that are not only successful in a particular
setting, but also have the potential to work elsewhere.  Once projects are
identified, they are carefully studies and documented.  Then, if upon closer

examination the ideas still appear promising, case-studies are published and
videos prepared to diffuse project ideas.  The goals of the project are: 
(a) to promote basic education in developing countries by identifying
affordable approaches that benefit in particular girls and women, children
from disadvantaged groups, street children, drop-outs and learners in remote
areas; (b) to help educational personnel better manage evaluate and go to
scale with promising innovations; and (c) to increase cooperation and
information exchange among developing countries.  To date, five case-studies
have been published and videos are available on 22 projects.  Many of the

projects featured are examples of the provision of basic education through
non-formal means.

                             G.  Mid-term reviews

33. UNESCO is presently engaged in a mid-decade review of its Plan of Action,
covering the decade 1990-1999, which will be submitted to the General
Conference at its twenty-eighth session in October 1995.  The review will
examine the extent to which world public opinion has been alerted to the
problem and to the dangers of illiteracy, the degree to which the
international community has been mobilized, and the effectiveness of its four

regional programmes for literacy:  the major project in the field of
education in Latin America and the Caribbean (established in 1981), the
regional programme for the eradication of illiteracy in Africa (1981), the
regional programme for universal provision and renewal of primary education
and eradication of illiteracy in Asia and the Pacific (1987) and the regional
programme for the universalization and renewal of primary education and the

eradication of illiteracy in the Arab States (1989).  While these programmes
differ in their modes of operation, each being suited to the particular needs
of the region it serves, all share common objectives and rely mainly upon
technical cooperation among developing countries:  i.e., promoting and
facilitating exchanges of experience and expertise among participating
countries.  The advisory and/or governing committees of the regional

programmes are actively involved in these reviews and in the reformulation of
goals and operating procedures, where such changes are judged necessary.

34. The International Consultative Forum on Education for All will be the
focal point for the mid-decade review of education for all.  The Framework
for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs adopted by the World Conference

foresaw such a review in terms of Governments and organizations undertaking
mid-term evaluations of the implementation of their respective plans and
adjusting them as needed; and Governments, organizations and development
agencies undertaking comprehensive policy reviews at regional and global
levels (1995-1996).  In effect, UNESCO's review of its Plan of Action will be
a part of this larger review of progress and problems.  In keeping with the

decentralized nature of education for all follow-up, the review will involve
many partners and have many stages and aspects.  Donors will be invited to
make a self-assessment, identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of the
support they have provided to education for all in partner countries.  The
results of these self-assessments will then be examined in the regular

meetings among donors that take place in various forums.  The education for
all network of non-governmental organizations will undertake a review of the
actions by non-governmental organizations, both individually and
collectively, to promote basic education.  The UNESCO Collective Consultation
of NGOs on Literacy and Basic Education, which will be held in Japan in
September 1995, will be used to facilitate this review process.

35. The principal focus of these reviews will, of course, be upon the
progress of education for all in developing countries.  Guidelines for
Governments have been prepared to assist countries in reviewing their
activities.  The purposes of the review at national level are:  (a) to
construct a comprehensive picture of each country's progress towards
education for all since the 1990 World Conference; (b) to identify priorities
and promising strategies for overcoming obstacles and accelerating progress;
and (c) to revise national plans of action, as required.  It is also proposed

that the Jomtien partners organize regional or subregional meetings to enable
educators and policy makers from different countries to compare results and
identify strategies and approaches that have worked as well as those that
have not.  Such meetings should also serve to refocus national attention on
education for all and to give due recognition to those responsible for
achievements and progress.

36. The secretariat of the Forum will synthesize the results of the reviews
of education for all at the national level as well as those being carried out
by donors, non-governmental organizations and other partners.  This synthesis
of major findings will then be submitted to the Forum at its 1996 meeting for
an in-depth examination.  On the basis of its analysis and deliberations, it

is expected that the Forum will formulate a set of recommendations, addressed
to the various education for all partners, intended to ensure the greater
effectiveness of future action.  The individual countries, organizations and
agencies will then consider such proposals in accordance with their
respective procedures.  It should be emphasized that the mid-term review of
education for all is intended not only to analyse progress and problems, but

also to reenergize the entire education for all process by documenting what
has been achieved and underscoring what remains to be done.
                               V.  CONCLUSIONS

37. What are the messages that the Economic and Social Council and the
General Assembly should derive from the present report?

    (a) First, that progress is being made in the quest to provide education
for all and to achieve a literate world.  Yes, major problems remain and
continuing - even greatly increased - efforts are required, but the goal can
be achieved.  Indeed, even in the remaining years of the twentieth century, a
major breakthrough can be accomplished;

    (b) Secondly, that the organizations and agencies of the United Nations -
in fact the international community as a whole - are working together
effectively to promote progress towards education for all.  In part, this
reflects the correctness of the decentralized approach to follow-up adopted
at Jomtien and the effectiveness of the Forum established to promote
cooperation and coordination at the global level.  But, in the main, it

reflects a growing awareness that the progress and well-being of humanity
depend upon education.  Whatever the development objective - be it the
promotion of peace, the control of population growth, the reduction of
poverty or the protection of the environment - it cannot be achieved without
education.  The "glue" that holds the Jomtien partnership together is a
strong sense of shared purpose and common interest.

38. It is to be hoped that 1990 will be recorded in history as a turning-
point in the struggle against illiteracy.  Not only was it the International
Literacy Year, it was also the year which witnessed, for the first time, a
stabilization in the number of the world's illiterate adults.  Of even
greater importance, it was the year in which a powerful alliance dedicated to

education for all was forged at Jomtien.  Five years on, the spirit of
Jomtien is still very much alive and the collective effort to which it gave
birth continues to flourish.  Education for all is, more than ever, a
priority of the international community.


    a/  See UNESCO, Records of the General Conference, Twenty-fifth Session,
vol. 1 Resolutions, p. 71.

    b/  A/46/28-E/1991/112.



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Date last posted: 18 December 1999 16:30:10
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