Education International
Education International

UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2010: Too many children still out of school

published 3 June 2010 updated 24 March 2011

Education International has responded to the Education For All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2010. The report is an annual publication that monitors progress towards achievement of the six Education For All (EFA) goals that were agreed in Dakar in 2000. It is produced by an independent team working under for UNESCO. This year’s edition focuses on the theme of ‘Reaching the marginalised’ and was launched in January at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

EI’s response to the GMR scrutinises and summarises the main findings of the report. This will be published and distributed to EI affiliates in June. A brief summary of EI’s analysis is provided here.

Main findings of the GMR: Progress on the EFA goals

While the GMR notes that there has been progress towards the achievement of the six EFA goals, it admits that these targets are unlikely to be achieved by 2015. For example, despite the number of out of school children having fallen by 33 million worldwide since 1999, there are still 72 million children out of school, with the majority of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia. Based on current trends, 56 million children will remain out of school in 2015.

Similarly, based on current trends, the EFA goal to achieve 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy will be missed. Despite steady progress, with 759 million adults, two-thirds of whom are women, still lacking basic literacy skills, the GMR warns that unless more is done to accelerate progress, an estimated 710 million adults will remain illiterate in 2015. It is also clear from the evidence presented in the report that the situation is no different concerning the other EFA goals: the targets on gender parity, early childhood education and life-skills for young people and adults will also be missed. These statistics should be a clear wake-up call to governments, donors and other education stakeholders that we must all invest in education now!

Impact of economic crisis and declining donor support

This year’s GMR came out during the most severe global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Education systems in many of the world’s poorest countries are just starting to experience the aftershocks of a crisis that originated in the financial systems of the industrialised world. There is an imminent danger that after a decade of encouraging advances, progress towards the EFA goals will stall or even reverse, because of slower economic growth, rising poverty and subsequent pressures on government budgets. The report confirms EI’s argument that the economic crisis threatens human development targets, including education. However, the global economic crisis cannot be used as an excuse to deprive another generation of young people and adults of their fundamental right to quality education.

The GMR also reveals that aid disbursements are stagnating. Despite an increase in levels of aid over the last decade – reaching US$ 10.8 billion for education in 2007, more than double the 2002 level – the overall commitment levels are stagnating around the 2004 level of US$ 12 billion. There are also no signs of giving priority to education in overall aid packages. In 2010, education expenditure accounts for the same 12% allocation as in 1999-2000. EI supports the GMR’s recommendation to increase resource mobilisation to strengthen equity in public spending, and for donors to honour and increase their aid commitments.

Specific focus on marginalisation

The GMR 2010 emphasises the overarching need to reach out to learners who are marginalized, for whatever reason, whether it be poverty, remote rural location, ethnic status, gender, language, disability, or any other factor. EI strongly supports the Report’s recommendation that governments have to do far more to extend opportunities to marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities, poor households in deprived and remote rural areas, children with disabilities, those affected by HIV/AIDS or armed conflict.

Marginalisation and quality issues cannot be addressed without also dealing with the shortage of qualified teachers. In order to close the gap between the numbers of teachers required and those available – 10.3 million new primary teachers will be needed to achieve the EFA goal of universal primary education by 2015 – we need politically courageous national and international strategies, based on sustainability and quality. Short-term measures only sacrifice quality for quantity. Governments also need to invest in quality initial and in-service training of teachers and professional development, as these are the cornerstones of quality education.

By Dennis Sinyolo.

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 34, June 2010.