UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

Guidelines on Basic Educa, with Special Attention to Gender Disparities


This document has been prepared by the Secretariat of the United Nations 

Inter-Agency Task Force on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of 

Action.  For further information please contact the United Nations 

Population Fund, Task Force on ICPD Implementation, 220 East 42nd Street, 

New York, NY 10017 USA, or send E-mail to: pierce@unfpa.org







1.   In the last five years, following the World Conference on

Education for All at Jomtien, Thailand, 1990, four United Nations

sponsored world conferences have taken place, each underscoring

basic education as a corner stone for human development.  These

conferences in addition to those held at sub-regional and regional

levels have resulted in a multitude of recommendations,

declarations and action plans to achieve education for all. The

time has come for the United Nations system and the specialized

agencies to strengthen inter-agency co-ordination in order to

improve the effectiveness of their contributions towards making

education for all a reality.  

2.   Basic education is considered to be the essential learning

required by all members of the community to ensure social and

economic progress.  The ICPD Programme of Action recognizes basic

education as an urgent priority and draws attention to its links

with demography and social and economic development.  It states

that "Everyone has a right to education, which shall be directed to

the full development of human resources, and dignity and potential,

with particular attention to women and the girl child.".... 

Recognizing that the effectiveness of the implementation of the

Programme of Action depends on an inter-disciplinary approach and

must fit into a national development context, paragraph 10 of the

General Assembly Resolution 49/128, Report on the International

Conference on Population and Development, "calls upon the organs of

the United Nations system and the specialized agencies to undertake

the actions required to give full and effective support to the

implementation of the Programme of Action."  In response to the

resolution, the inter-agency Task Force on the Implementation of

the ICPD Programme of Action proposed that its basic education

goals be pursued within the United Nations co-ordination system led

by the Resident Co-ordinator, and within the context of the World

Conference on Education for All (Jomtien), the United Nations

Conference on Environment and Development (Rio), ICPD (Cairo), the

World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen) and the upcoming

Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing).

3.   The Resident Co-ordinator is expected to establish a modality

for inter-agency co-operation which would serve as a catalyst for

national initiatives in basic education. Such a strategy would

recognize UNESCO as the lead agency and the complementary  roles of

other agencies, foremost among them, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and

the World Bank. The guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive

and will not hinder individual agencies from pursuing their

respective mandates but rather will enhance the complementarity of

their programmmes and allow the UN system to contribute more

appropriately to the achievement of basic education.  In essence,

it will facilitate more integrated planning of UN inputs to basic

education within a national development framework and will help

foster a dialogue between the UN system and governments in

achieving the targets for basic education for all.

4.   Eliminating  disparities between male and female is essential

to achieving basic education for all.  There is consensus among

governments and agencies on the importance of educating girls and

women. However, there is still some reserve about committing

resources to make this objective a reality.  The Resident Co-

ordinator should be committed to the elimination of disparities

between male and female in basic education.  He/she is expected to

keep the education of girls and women high on the national agenda

through support to advocacy, national dialogue and programmes and

projects intended to improve girls' and women's access to good

quality basic education.  In addition to disparities between male

and female, there are disparities associated with poverty,

geographical location and ethnicity.  It should be recognized that

basic education must aim to eliminate inequalities in the society

and to promote peace and tolerance among all peoples.

5.   The interplay between culture and education influences

achievements in basic education, particularly among cultural

minorities and disadvantaged groups.  Strategies for basic

education should seek to capture those aspects of the culture which

can be utilized to enhance learning.  Support should be given to

programmes which allow for the expression and understanding of

diverse cultures and the acceptance of cultural differences as they

relate to basic education for human development.  

The Strategies for Co-ordinating Basic Education

6.   Already the Statement on the Role and Functioning of the

Resident Coordinator System provides a framework in which the co-

ordination of substantive areas, such as basic education can be

accommodated.  The Resident Co-ordinator needs to harmonize three

inter-related aspects of planning and programming. They concern: a) 

governments and national Education For All (EFA) mechanisms, b) the

activities/programmes of the various agencies, and c) the inter-

national and global priorities for basic education.

a)   Relationship to government and national EFA mechanisms

7.   The primary responsibility for co-ordinating basic education

as well as the inputs from bilateral and multilateral organizations

rests with the government.  But, a co-ordinated, inter-agency group

can encourage governments to increase resources to education and to

give priority to programmes directed towards improving educational

opportunities for girls.  Special support would be given to

programmes designed to reduce drop-out rates among girls as well as

increase their access to good quality education.

8.   The Resident Co-ordinator is expected to plan joint

working/training sessions with national officials  and UN agencies

on selected themes/issues related to basic education.  This will

allow for the exchange of ideas, the consolidation of objectives,

the rationalization of activities and the identification of

investment priorities.  This is particularly critical in the case

of major education reforms, policy discussions or major joint-

agency initiatives in basic education, which may provide a good

opportunity for integration of reproductive health considerations. 

The United Nations System can play an important role in raising

education above narrow sectarian interests and in keeping with a

changing socio-economic and cultural environment.

9.   The development of practical cost-effective policy and plans

for the achievement of quality education for all must be seen as a

priority activity in which the United Nations System can assist

countries.  Whilst the drawing up of such a blue print for

achievement of good quality education for all may be seen as a

largely technocratic process, the wide acceptance of the blue print

as a national programme by a wide spectrum of professional,

business and other interests is absolutely essential. 

b)   Relationship to the agencies - the Resident Co-ordinator as a

team leader

10.  The leadership of the Resident Co-ordinator will be essential

in identifying the inter-related areas for support by the UN

agencies. Given the various disciplines of the United Nations, an

inter-agency approach can create an enabling environment by

promoting inter-agency supported studies, programmes and evaluation

exercises.  It will allow for the timely sharing of experiences,

discussions of problems and solutions and the review of progress

made. The Resident Co-ordinator should also facilitate inter-change

of staff expertise between and among programmes and activities.

c)   Relationship to basic education - achieving national and

global priorities

11.  Keeping in mind that the "primary objective of the operational

activities for development within the United Nations system is to

promote the self-reliance of recipient countries through

multilateral cooperation", co-ordination for promoting basic

education should seek to release "national energies",  to sustain

good quality basic education which is accessible to all citizens

and which uses local organizations wherever possible.   This goes

beyond identifying national resources.  It requires the creative

and imaginative use of such resources to increase the demand and

supply of basic education as well as to promote learning

achievement which will help learners to understand better and  cope

with a changing socio-economic environment.  It is essential to

personal and national development that the expected outcomes of

basic education be defined within the national context.

12.  An underlying objective for basic education improvements is to

bring about change and innovation in the education system. 

Traditionally changes in education tend to be evolutionary and

somewhat slow.  Under the leadership of the Resident Co-ordinator,

the inter-agency group can be a catalyst for change.  Changes for

improvements can be put into three categories, those which will: a)

need few inputs and are not costly. Normally such changes can be

effected through policy and policy dialogue, (for example,

increasing the proportion of female teachers recruited to the

teaching profession requires a policy decision);  b) need small

scale funding;  c) require large scale financing and for which much

programming and planning must be done.  Having identified the

categories of change, the inter-agency group can assist the

government to address them in a timely manner and at a pace which

allows development to be sustained by national resources.

13.  Education for all is the business of all.  Partnerships should

be encouraged and simultaneously basic education monitoring

mechanisms should be established or strengthened to ensure that

standards are maintained. The contribution of the private sector

and NGOs should be assisted and encouraged. The active

participation of Communities in the provision of their education is

of paramount importance and every effort should be made to

encourage and recognize their role.  At the same time efforts need

to be made to bring the quality of education in poor communities on

a par with that of more affluent ones.  


14.  Expanding access to basic education to unserved and under-

served groups in ways that are more responsive to local needs (e.g.

the establishment of small multigrade schools in remote areas and

the provision of good quality non-formal education for youths)

should be addressed.  Alternative delivery systems for the

education of the school age-group should articulate with the

education mainstream.  Everyone should have access to good quality

basic education regardless of their social, cultural, geographic

and economic situations.

15.  Improving basic education quality has continued to challenge

governments and agencies.  Basic education is expected to help

young people to develop decision-making skills needed for them to

function effectively as adults. The implications are that their

education must meet their basic learning needs and the teaching and

learning process should be participatory so that attitude formation

and learning can take place in a meaningful context.  The Multi-

channel approach  (expanding educational opportunities through a

range of delivery options - distance learning schemes, traditional

media, radio, television, audio tapes, etc.)  may be utilized to

enrich educational programmes and reach remote and deprived groups. 

Multi-channel approaches are most effective when there is a

supportive environment - one in which the individual is ready to

learn and the channel or channels can be maintained. 

16.  Basic education strategies must be informed by good quality

data, an important area for institutional strengthening in the

improvement of basic education data management. It is one of the

most complex and challenging problems to be addressed in the

education sector.  Efforts should be made to strengthen the

national capacity  to improve data sources (starting at the

classroom level) and management information systems.  All data

should be disaggregated according to sex (male and female) to allow

for the monitoring of progress on the education of girls and women. 

Other examples of key areas for strengthening are research and

evaluation, supervision and management, and the training of all

levels of educational personnel. In all these efforts, attention

should be paid to adequate representation of women personnel as

well as the elimination of traditional gender biases.

17.  Information sharing, the transfer and adaptation of successful

experiences within the country would help to promote programmes for

the unserved and under-served groups.  It is important that

information be disseminated through various channels including

traditional means and packaged in various forms to allow both

literate and illiterate persons to understand the key messages.   

18.  Adult literacy, skills training and continuing education

should be given priority.  The Resident Co-ordinator can exercise

leadership in supporting the convergence of services, that is, the

"bringing together" of health, education, social welfare and

agricultural services in a comprehensive whole at the community

level.  Early childhood care and education should be addressed at

the community level with emphasis on the education of parents or

caregivers to enhance the overall development of young children.

19.  Rigorous monitoring, evaluation and reforms needed to create

the required dynamism to achieve education for all targets should

be encouraged.  A manageable number of key indicators should be

identified for assessment.  Some areas of concern may be evaluated

through sample research. Special attention needs to be given to

progress in reaching excluded groups (among them girls and women),

educational achievement  and non-academic areas such as values and

attitudes.   It is important to recognize those strategies which

have reached their threshold of usefulness and which must be

changed, sometimes radically, to foster further improvements.


                     SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

World Declaration on Education for All and

Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs

Adopted by the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA),

Jomtien, Thailand, 5-9 March 1990.

The main authoritative reference as in the goals and concepts

adopted by the World Conference.

World Conference on Education for All monographs;

  I)  Education for All:  Purpose and Context

 II)  Education for All: An Expanded Vision

III)  Education for All: The Requirements

Final Report: Meeting Basic Learning Needs

Inter-Agency Commission (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank)

World Conference on Education for All, Jomtien, Thailand, 1990.

The Delhi Declaration on Education for All in the Nine High

Population Countries Adopted at the Education for All Summit,

New Delhi, India, 12-16 December 1993.


The documents (panel proceedings and final report) present the

declaration and framework for action to achieve primary education

and literacy for all, in the world■s high-population countries;

Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria

and Pakistan.

Final Report: Prospects for Providing Universal Access to Primary

Education International Consultative Forum on Education for All,

Paris, 4-6 December 1991.

Final Report: Quality Education for All

International Consultative Forum on Education for All, New Delhi,

8-10 September 1993. The International Consultative Forum is a

global mechanism established by the World Conference to promote and

monitor progress towards Education for All goals.

The Istanbul Declaration and Action Framework

Adopted at the First International Congress on Population,

Education and Development (ICPED), Istanbul, Turkey, 14-17 April

1993.  UNFPA, UNESCO. The declaration focuses on the role of

population education in human development with a view to strengthen

the integration of population education into both formal and non-

formal education systems.

Status & Trends: focus on primary schooling

UNESCO for the International Consultative Forum on Education for

All, 1993

Status & Trends: focus on basic education and development

UNESCO for the International Consultative Forum on Education for

All, 1994

Beyond Jomtien, Implementing Primary Education for All

A. Little, W. Hoppers, R. Gardner,

MacMillan Press, London, 1994

A book that offers lessons from six projects designed to promote

education for all, which all anticipated much of the Jomtien vision

and many of its aims (Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Guatemala,

Andra Pradesh and Rajasthan in India).

Educating All the Children

C. Colelough with K. Lewin

Oxford University Press, 1992

A study of why a growing number of children remain out of school in

developing countries, how this trend can be reversed and what

resources and policy changes would be required, nationally and

internationally, if schooling for all children were to be achieved

by the year 2000.

Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries

M.E. Lockheed, A. Verspoor and associates

World Bank and Oxford University Press, 1991

A comprehensive review of both the scholarly literature and donors■

experience, discussing strategies for improving different aspects

of primary education.  The book contains a large number of figures

and tables and provides data on 129 countries.

What are we waiting for?

M.B. Anderson

UNICEF, N.Y., 1992

A review of the world situation of basic education, including a

presentation of some innovative educational programmes, which urges

the world to affirm the goals of education for all.

Educating Girls and Women, A Moral imperative

Education Section, Programme Division,

UNICEF, N.Y., 1992

A summary of the magnitude and causes of gender disparities in

education, highlighting some possible strategies.  The booklet

suggests that affirmative action is needed to promote girls■

education and sustainable development.

Basic Education and National Development, Lessons from China and

India M. Ahmed with Cheng Kai Ming, A.K. Jalaluddin and K.

Ramachandran UNICEF, N.Y., 1991

A presentation of policy and strategy lessons for the development

of basic education, based on two reviews of progress in basic

education in China and India, prepared by two teams of researchers

from the respective countries.

Investing in the Future: Setting Educational Priorities in the

Developing World J. Hallak

UNESCO (International Institute for International Planning) and

Pergamon Press, 1990 A book primarily addressed to national policy

makers, describing how educational policies can be formulated, the

priorities for educational development established, and appropriate

strategies designed, based on a through understanding of the

specific local conditions.   


                        AGENCY PROFILES

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


     UNESCO is the UN Specialized Agency for Education, Science and

Culture.  Education for All (EFA) is the undisputed priority area

within its vast educational programme.

     However, UNESCO also works on many aspects and levels of

education, which have a bearing on EFA, e.g. the training of

teachers, educational planning, educational statistics and

indicators, or curriculum development including such specific

aspects as population education, environmental education, education

for peace and international understanding, or education against

AIDS and drug abuse.

     UNESCO initiated and co-sponsored (with UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA,

the World Bank and other agencies) the World Conference on

Education for All (Jomtien 1990) and the Education Summit of Nine

High-Population Countries (Delhi, 1993).

     In the EFA, UNESCO pursues a strategy where primary education,

non-formal education programmes and adult literacy are seen as

linked and mutually reinforcing.  Programmes which aim at expanding

access for girls and women, but also for disadvantaged groups and

learners with special needs, are complemented by programmes which

seek to improve quality and relevance of basic education, and

enhance learning achievement.

     Under its Regular Programme, voted by the General Conference

every two years, UNESCO co-operates with Member States in such

activities as: organization of training programmes tailored to a

country■s requirements; providing technical advice on specific

educational questions; carrying out action and policy oriented

studies on educational issues; undertaking educational sector work;

facilitating policy dialogue and experience exchange between

countries in the same region or sub-region.

     UNESCO also undertakes ■extrabudgetary programmes■ in EFA,

typically country-specific operational field projects, but also

geared to inter-country co-operation.  These tend to be funded by

bilateral donors on a funds-in-trust basis.  UNESCO also co-

operates with UNDP, the World Bank and regional development banks

through TSS-1 and TSS-2 arrangements, as well as for the execution

of TA components of educational loan programmes.

     In practice, UN Resident Coordinators may call upon UNESCO■s

services either by contacting Headquarters directly, or linking up

with the growing number of UNESCO field offices.  UNESCO maintains

at present 52 field offices with either a country-specific, sub-

regional or regional mandate.  This field network is being

continuously expanded and strengthened. 

     Three UNESCO-affiliated International Education Institutes are

also available to work with countries and UN Resident Coordinators:

the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) in

Paris, specialized in training and studies on educational planning:

the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE) in Hamburg, specialized in

training and studies on literacy and adult education; the

International Bureau of Education (IBE) in Geneva, a worldwide

centre of educational documentation and research.                



     UNESCO Headquarters           7, Place de Fontenoy

     Basic Education Division      75352 Paris 07 SP

                                   Fax: 33 1 40 65 94 05

     UNESCO Office for Education   12, avenue Roume, B.P. 3311    

     in Africa - BREDA             Dakar, Senegal

                                   Fax: 221 23 83 93

     UNESCO Regional Office for    Casilla 3187

     Education in Latin America    Santiago, Chile

     and the Caribbean  - OREALC   Fax: 56 2 209 18 75 

     UNESCO Regional Office for    P.O. Box 2270

     Education in the Arab States  Wadi Saqra, Amman, Jordan 

     - UNEDBAS                     Fax: 962 6 68 21 83

     UNESCO's Principal Regional   Prankanong, Post Office

     Office in Asia & the Pacific  P.O. Box 967

     - PROAP                       Bangkok, Thailand

                                   Fax: 66 2 391 08 66

     IIEP                          7-9 rue EugŐne Delacroix       

                                   75116 Paris, France

                                   Fax: 33 1 40 72 83 66


     IBE                           15, route des Morillons

                                   1218 Grand Saconnex,


                                   Fax: 41 22 798 14 86

     UIE                           Feldbrunnenstrasse 58

                                   20148 Hamburg, Germany

                                   Fax: 49 40 41 07 723

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 

     UNFPA uses a three-pronged approach to create awareness about

population issues (IEC activities):

               Public Information/Advocacy

               Population Education

               Population Communication

     Population Education takes place in both formal and non-formal

education and has expanded rapidly since the 60's and its first

tentative introduction into the school systems and curricula.   One

of the main contributions of Population Education has been its

emphasis on the teaching of gender issues and the importance of

educating girls, which was also highlighted during the EFA Summit

of the Nine High Population Countries in New Delhi.  UNESCO, with

UNFPA funding, is the primary source of international expertise on

Population Education for the formal sector.

     In April 1993, the Istanbul Declaration, adopted at the

International Congress on Population, Education and Development,

stated that "Population Education should be part of every school■s

curriculum along with reading, writing and arithmetic."

     The 1994 International Conference on Population and

Development (ICPD) adopted a Programme of Action whose principles,

goals and recommendations will influence the Fund■s policies and

operational work for the coming years.  One of its three goals is

expanding the availability of education especially for girls and it

calls on countries to consolidate the progress made in the 90's

towards providing universal access to primary education as agreed

upon in Jomtien.  According to the holistic approach of the

Programme of Action, which makes cooperation within the UN system

and outside it crucial to success, UNFPA will undertake strong

advocacy in support of girls■ and women■s education and will

continue to be an active partner in the EFA initiative together

with UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF and others.

     Specifically, UNFPA supports:

     advocacy for the education of girls and the achievement of

     female education goals as specified in the ICPD Programme of

     Action, with particular attention to primary and secondary

     education of girls.  Such advocacy spells out those

     interventions known to promote female enrolment and retention

     of girls in school, e.g., quality education, female teachers,

     flexible schedules, incentive programmes for girls' education,

     female extension workers, etc.; activities to improve the

     quality and relevance of school curricula through the

     introduction of population education including gender equity,

     responsible reproductive behaviour and decision-making skills.

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

     Enhancement of the institutional strengths of constituents to

promote social justice and protect workers■ well-being and family

welfare through basic education activities of several kinds is a

major concern of the International Labour Organisation.  In the

ILO, therefore, basic education is viewed as a process of

developing awareness, knowledge, potential, and skills to

contribute in the most efficient manner to the production of goods

and services, and to survive in the workplace.  ILO programmes

accordingly aim to build national capacities for organizing,

bargaining and representing the interests of the social partners

and for disseminating information and raising awareness on key

issues which affect worker status and productivity.  They include

efforts to promote tripartite participation in policy design and

programme implementation and to support trade union activities

designed to safeguard and ameliorate conditions of vulnerable

groups including women, youth, working children, rural and disabled

workers and workers in the informal sector.

     Activities to promote basic education include technical

cooperation projects to develop capacity for designing, planning

and organizing educational programmes; provision of advisory

services in development of curricula; assistance in the preparation

and publication of training materials (manuals, study guides,

various forms of teaching aids, etc.), organization of seminars,

conferences, workshops; and meeting and provision of grants and

fellowships.  With regard to basic education on population and

reproductive health issues in work settings, there have been

successful programmes with ILO's constituents - governments,

employers and workers organizations - in more than sixty countries

for over quarter of a century.

World Food Programme (WFP)

     Human resources development has always been a priority area of

action for the World Food Programme, which since its creation has

allocated over 50% of its development food assistance to projects

having such objectives.  As WFP believes that investment in basic

education is one of the most effective tools for human resource

development, the vast majority of this type of assistance has been

channelled through school feeding programmes.  As of December 1994,

WFP was providing support to 44 primary school feeding projects,

with a total commitment of US$535 million.  Besides these currently

operational projects, during 1994 new projects were approved which

will provide assistance to over one million additional



     WFP's assistance to school feeding programmes is tailored to

address specific problems in the educational sector in individual

countries.  Aid is most often aimed at encouraging parents to enrol

their children, especially girls, in primary school and to ensure

they complete the full cycle.  Once children are enrolled in

school, feeding plays an essential role by relieving short-term

hunger, improving children■s ability to concentrate and to benefit

from their education.  As school feeding alone cannot ensure gender

equality in education, WFP collaborates with Governments, NGOs and

other agencies in development of complementary activities to

promote basic education for girls.  In light of growing evidence of

the importance of early stimulation in preparing children for

primary school, WFP is exploring possibilities for increasing

support to pre-primary education.

     WFP support to basic education is targeted to the most

disadvantaged groups in the countries assisted.  In some cases, WFP

assistance helps to provide children of extremely poor and

marginalized groups the only opportunity for primary education.

     In pursuing the Programme approach and greater inter-agency

collaboration, WFP will continue to seek more innovative ways to

use food aid in support of basic education.  It is hoped, for

example, to increase the coverage of literacy and numeracy training

for women in rural development projects, to ensure they are able to

put into practice the marketable skills which they learn through

such projects' training components. 

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

     UNICEF policies, strategies and actions in basic education are

in harmony with the education objectives of the ICPD.  UNICEF

strongly and explicitly advocates affirmative action in favour of

girls' education.  UNICEF country programmes strive to mainstream

girls in the formal system by making it more responsive to girls'

special needs and concerns.  UNICEF also supports nonformal

education programmes of equivalent quality.  Training of female

teachers and administrators; gender sensitization of textbooks,

curricula and teacher training materials; mobilizing parents and

communities to get involved in the education of girls; and

sensitization of the civil society about the benefits of girls■

education are important areas of UNICEF support in basic education. 

While most of the activities will be at the national level, the

regional offices provide technical support in training, curriculum

development, collection of gender disaggregated data and monitoring

progress.  At the global level, UNICEF has been active in the

development of policies and strategies and advocacy for them as

well as mobilizing resources for girls' education. 

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