|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference to Launch Global Monitoring Report on Education for All
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today launched an independent report that calls for a new global financing initiative that could help fill an annual $16 billion funding gap in education, amid evidence that many countries were not on track to meet the pledges made at the 2000 World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, 10 years ago.
At a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, Kevin Watkins, editor of Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2010: Reaching the Marginalized, said that despite falling numbers for non-school-attending children worldwide, the international community was still a long way from attaining the goal of universal primary education.
Some 72 million children of primary school age were currently not in school, as were a similar number of junior-secondary-aged children, he said. For those attending school, the poor quality of education in some cases meant that not all of them were better off, and that there were still 700 million illiterate adults in the world. That number was only slowly declining.
Quoting from the report, he said that unless Governments strove harder to improve their position, “there will be something like 52 million primary-school-aged children out of school on the  deadline for achieving the goals that were set in 2000”. And, while some countries had trouble absorbing aid owing to poor governance, others struggled due to the very lack of aid. “We argue that the international donor community has collectively failed to deliver on the commitments that it made to support education for all back in 2000,” he said.
More investment was needed for teacher recruitment, books, and financing incentives to enable children from marginalized populations to attend school, he continued. Low-income countries had left the Dakar Conference with an understanding that “if they got serious about planning, the financial taps would be turned on”. Instead, aid for education had stagnated over the years, resulting in a $16 billion-a-year financing gap. Education commitments for 2009 had been cut by 20 per cent, with funding for basic education hit particularly hard.
He said the low level of funding signalled a need to reform the international Fast Track Initiative -- a global partnership between developing countries and donors to accelerate progress towards universal primary education. The mechanism did not allow resources to move fast enough, causing donors and philanthropic organizations to circumvent it altogether. In addition, there had been a collective failure among education advocates to draw interest to education-related goals. By contrast, he pointed out, the health sector had generated enough corporate interest to establish innovative financing mechanisms to finance global health needs.
Though the report warned of countries being off-track in terms of education goals, situations could change quickly for the better, he said, noting that the United Republic of Tanzania ‑‑ once thought to have had few prospects for achieving the 2015 target year ‑‑ had since put an additional 3 million children in school while reducing its national drop-out rates. There were also indications of improvement in the quality of learning achievements. He also singled out for praise the West African nations of Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal, saying they were doing well, even while remaining off-track.
He said the report also sought to turn the spotlight on children falling behind, including child labourers, young people living in urban slums, and those who spoke minority languages in addition to being members of indigenous communities. It did so by use of a “deprivation and marginalization in education” indicator, which measured the share of population in more than 40 countries with less than four years of school and less than two years of schooling. Hopefully, policymakers would use it to fine-tune their policies.
The report recommended a variety of actions, including cash transfers for marginalized groups, targeted incentives for ethnic minorities, and a focus on school construction in the most marginal areas, he said. It also contained suggestions for delivering education in ways that could reach slum households and others facing extreme circumstances.
Asked to comment on the situation in Brazil, Mr. Watkins described the country’s successful programme for transferring cash to poor households, whereby between 1 and 2 per cent of gross domestic product was transferred to slum dwellers and poor minorities. There was strong evidence that families receiving transfers were able to keep their children in school, and those children were making the transition from primary to secondary school.
Brazil also had a system for redistributing resources from richer to poorer states, he continued, explaining that up to 20 per cent of education financing in the country’s poorer states came from that programme. As a result, the education financing gap in Brazil was beginning to shrink.
He argued that, while the benefits of education were not as profound and immediate as those of world health programmes, they were powerful in the long term. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, death rates among children with educated mothers were one fifth lower than those of children whose mothers were uneducated. “I think the evidence is clear that if you get education wrong, it’s very difficult to make progress over the longer terms in areas that do save lives,” such as providing women with antenatal care or children with decent nutrition.
The report described the effects of the financial crisis on education across low-income countries, he said. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, per-pupil financing in primary education was 10 per cent lower than would have been expected before the crisis, as a result of lower growth and reduced Government revenues.
He said data for the report came from official Government databanks as well as household surveys.
* *** *