Education for All (EFA)
Education is a right, like the right to have proper food or a roof over your head. Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education”. Education is not only a right but a passport to human development. It opens doors and expands opportunities and freedoms. It contributes to fostering peace, democracy and economic growth as well as improving health and reducing poverty. The ultimate aim of Education for All (EFA) is sustainable development.
In the year 2000, the world’s governments adopted the six EFA goals and the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the two most important frameworks in the field of education. The education priorities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are shaped by these objectives.
The two sets of goals are an ambitious roadmap for the global community to follow. They offer a long-term vision of reduced poverty and hunger, better health and education, sustainable lifestyles, strong partnerships and shared commitments.
The EFA goals and MDGs are complementary: as Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, says: “When you fund education, you are securing progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals”.
Education for All Goals
- Goal 1: Expand early childhood care and education
- Goal 2: Provide free and compulsory primary education for all
- Goal 3: Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults
- Goal 4: Increase adult literacy
- Goal 5: Achieve gender parity
- Goal 6: Improve the quality of education
Millennium Development Goals
- Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
- Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
- Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
- Goal 5: Improve maternal health
- Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
- Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
As the lead agency in charge of coordinating the multiple partners in the EFA movement, UNESCO monitors global progress towards the six EFA goals, in particular by publishing an annual EFA Global Monitoring Report that tracks the achievements of countries and the international community.
Why is education important?
Pupils attend a class in an all girls' school as part of a World Food Programme (WFP) food-for-education scheme, encouraging student enrollment.
- Education beats poverty: one extra year of schooling increases a person’s earnings by up to 10%. 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.
- Education promotes gender equality by helping women control how many children they have. In Mali, women with secondary education or higher have an average of three children, while those with no education have an average of seven children.
- Education reduces child mortality: a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age five. In Indonesia, child vaccination rates are 19% when mothers have no education and 68% when mothers have at least secondary school education.
- Education contributes to improved maternal health: women with higher levels of education are most likely to delay and space out pregnancies, and to seek health care and support.
- Education helps combat HIV, malaria and other preventable diseases. In addition, it facilitates access to treatment and fights against stigma and discrimination.
- Education encourages environmental sustainability. It allows people make decisions that meet the needs of the present without compromising those of future generations. The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), launched in 2005, urges countries to rethink education, curricula and teaching practice in ways that complement the drive to achieve EFA.
- Education helps global development. An estimated $16 billion in aid is needed annually to reach the EFA goals in poor countries. However, in 2008 poor countries received only $2 billion in aid for basic education. The worldwide military expenditure for 2009 was $1.5 trillion.
Additional information can be found in the booklet “Education Counts” (originally presented as an exhibition in UN Headquarters, New York, during September-November 2010)