Education for All (EFA) progress is stalling less than three years before 2015, the target date for achieving EFA and the Millennium Development Goals, shows the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR). The report, entitled “Youth and skills: Putting education to work”, has a specific focus on skills necessary for young people to become productive citizens and gainfully employed. It was launched in Paris, France, and around the world on 16 October 2012.
The GMR shows that, although efforts have been made, particularly towards the achievement of the goal of universal primary education, not enough progress has been realised to ensure the achievement of all EFA goals by 2015. Less than half the world’s young children received pre-primary education in 2010, while over 60 million children of primary school going age and 71 million adolescents of lower secondary school age were still out of school by the same year. In the same year there were still 775 million adults who could not read or write.
Universal primary education and other EFA goals endangered
Highlighting some of the progress achieved and worrying trends, the GMR observes: “The number of primary school age children out of school has fallen from 108 million to 61 million since 1999, but three-quarters of this reduction was achieved between 1999 and 2004. Between 2008 and 2010, progress stalled altogether.” In fact, the GMR reveals that between 2008 and 2010, out-of-school numbers increased in sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 million. This worrying trend shows that universal primary education and other EFA goals are highly likely to be missed.
While the GMR notes that “teachers are the most important resource for improving learning,” the shortage of trained teachers persists in many countries around the world, presenting a major obstacle to achieving the EFA goals. The latest estimates suggest that 112 countries need to expand their workforce by a total of 5.4 million primary school teachers by 2015. New recruits are needed to cover both the 2 million additional posts required to reach the goal of universal primary education.
Importance of teachers in achieving EFA goals
EI welcomes the GMR’s recognition of the importance of teachers in achieving EFA goals and calls upon national governments and authorities around the world to invest in educators and their training, continuing professional development, salaries and conditions of service.
The GMR rightfully observes that most countries that accelerated progress towards EFA over the last decade did so by increasing spending on education substantially or maintaining it at already high levels. The report acknowledges the ambition of many countries to reduce or abolish tuition fees, but not much can be achieved unless the issue of indirect costs of primary and secondary education, and the financial barrier that these would form for many families is addressed. EI insists that sustainable and equitable progress in education can only be achieved by investing and strengthening public education. Privatisation and marketisation of education is certainly not the way to go as it would lead to exclusion.
Another worrying trend is that aid to education stagnated at US$13.5 billion in 2010. Of that amount, US$5.8 billion was for basic education. This amount is far too low to close the external annual financing gap of US$16 billion.
Additionally, EI challenges results based approaches to aid and education promoted by certain development partners, as reflected in the GMR. A narrow approach to learning, based on high stakes testing, will result in the degrading of other school subjects and essential skills, forcing teachers to ‘teach to the test’.
Governments must allocate at least 6% of their country’s GDP to education
This year’s report stresses the need to develop young people’s skills for work, noting the fact that governments around the world are grappling with the long-term consequences of the financial crisis and the challenges posed by increasingly knowledge-based economies. EI agrees and insists that governments and development partners should invest in education, including vocational education and training in order to ensure that young people develop to their full potential.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, welcomed the launch of the 2012 GMR and urged governments and the international community to scale up their investment in education and accelerate progress towards the achievement of EFA goals: “We urge governments to allocate at least 6% of their country’s GDP to education and all development partners to allocate least 10% of official development assistance to basic education,” said van Leeuwen.
The 2012 GMR is available here