Education for All (EFA)
Remarkable progress has been made in education since the beginning of the decade
- The 2000-2010 period was marked by unprecedented progress worldwide, notably towards universal primary education. The number of out-of-school primary-aged children has dropped by almost 37 million worldwide since 1999.
- More girls are enrolled in school than ever before, from primary to tertiary education.
- The number of secondary students has risen substantially - more than four times the increase in the number of primary students.
- In about 70 out of 110 countries with data, public spending on education has increased as a share of national income.
- Other goals such as expanding early childhood care and education and promoting learning and skills for young people and adults are harder to measure, but efforts to develop appropriate policies are bearing fruit.
A major reason for the rise in primary school enrolments in sub-Saharan Africa - notably Ethiopia and Tanzania - as well as in South and West Asia is the abolition of school fees. Another is the prospect of a midday meal. Ghana’s Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education programme not only did away with school fees but introduced a National School Feeding Programme.
But it is clear that many challenges still remain.
- The momentum built up since 2000 has begun to wane. There were 69 million children out of school in 2008. Business as usual would leave 56 million children out of school in 2015.
- Inequalities in access to education and learning achievement are the main barrier to achieve the EFA goals. Poverty remains the major marker of disadvantage. Other population groups that have been marginalized include indigenous populations and remote rural groups, street children, migrants and nomads, the disabled and linguistic and cultural minorities. New approaches must be tailor-made for such groups – simply increasing opportunities for standard schooling is not enough. Discrimination against girls and women in education also continues. More than 55% of out-of-school children are girls. Two out of three countries in the world face gender disparities in primary and secondary education and as many as half will not achieve the goal of gender parity by 2015.
- Special efforts – from recruiting female teachers to supporting poor families to making schools more girl-friendly – are needed to redress the balance.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) promotes action on girls’ education by mobilizing partners and lobbying for the high-level political action needed to ensure that every girl, as well as every boy, receives a quality education.
Afghan refugee girls attend school in Varamin, Iran.
- Literacy and the quality of education remain among the most neglected of all education goals, with about 796 million adults lacking literacy skills today. Two-thirds are women. Millions of children are leaving school without having acquired the knowledge and skills they need to fully participate in society. In twenty-two countries, 30% or more of young adults have fewer than four years of education, and it rises to 50% or more in eleven sub-Saharan African countries.
- Teachers are the key agents to improve the quality of education. In total, 99 countries will need at least 1.9 million more teachers in classrooms by 2015 (than there were in in 2008) to provide quality primary education for all. More than half of the additional teachers are needed in sub-Saharan Africa (1,056,000). Other regions in need of additional teachers include the Arab States (281,000), South and West Asia (260,000) and North America and Western Europe (152,000).
- In recent years, many countries have increased their education budgets and international aid for education has risen. Yet an additional US$16 billion is needed to provide basic education for all children, youth and adults by 2015.
- In addition, the impact of the current financial and economic crisis is driving millions of people into poverty. It might harm education in developing countries as both households and governments to invest in education.