|Education For All?|
The aftershock of the global financial crisis could deprive millions of children in the world’s poorest countries of an education. Two reports offer alternative ideas on how governments and donors should counter this ‘collective failure’. By UNESCO and Oxfam.
20th January 2010
19th January 2010 - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The aftershock of the global financial crisis threatens to deprive millions of children in the world’s poorest countries of an education, the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report warns. With 72 million children still out of school, a combination of slower economic growth, rising poverty and budget pressures could erode the gains of the past decade.
“While rich countries nurture their economic recovery, many poor countries face the imminent prospect of education reversals. We cannot afford to create a lost generation of children deprived of their chance for an education that might lift them out of poverty,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
The Global Monitoring Report, developed annually by an independent team and published by UNESCO, assesses progress towards the six Education for All goals to which over 160 countries committed themselves in 2000.
The 2010 Report, Reaching the marginalized, charts some striking advances in education over the past decade. Despite these gains, however, the world is not on track to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015. The report highlights the ongoing failure of governments to address extreme national inequalities and of donors to mobilize resources on the required scale. The authors estimate the annual financing gap for key education goals at US$16 billion – a significant increase over previous assessments.
Falling Short of the Goals
The progress of the past decade dispels the myth that poor countries are unable to achieve rapid progress in education. Reaching the marginalized warns, however, that many countries are likely to fall far short of the targets adopted in 2000, because of the failure of governments to address inequalities and of donors to deliver on pledges.
About 72 million primary school age children and another 71 million adolescents are not at school, and on current trends, 56 million primary school age children will still be out of school in 2015. Gender disparities remain deeply engrained, with 28 countries across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in school for every ten boys. There has been little progress towards the goal of halving adult illiteracy – a condition that affects 759 million people, two-thirds of them women.
A Collective Aid Failure
There has been a collective failure by the donor community to act on the pledge made in 2000 that ‘no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources’:
The report estimates that low-income countries could raise an additional $US 7 billion per year, or 0.7% of GDP, by increasing domestic resources and allocating more to education. However, even with this effort, there is still an estimated financing gap of US$16 billion annually for 46 low-income countries that must be bridged to reach the Education for All goals. The authors of the report call on the UN Secretary General to convene a high-level pledging conference in 2010 to address the financing shortfall.
Wealthy countries and international financial institutions have been exaggerating how much aid they have provided. “Rich countries have mobilized a financial mountain to stabilize their financial systems and protect vital social and economic infrastructure, but they have provided an aid molehill for the world’s poor,” said the Global Monitoring Report’s director, Kevin Watkins.
The Fast Track Initiative, the centrepiece of multilateral aid for education, needs fundamental reform. Payout rates are very low, developing countries have a weak voice, the private sector’s role is minimal and countries affected by conflict are poorly served.
Fighting ‘Education Poverty’ Is Key to Better Progress
Extreme and persistent inequalities linked to poverty, gender, ethnicity and language are holding back progress in education. Using a new measurement tool – the Deprivation and Marginalization in Education data set – the report explores the extent of acute disadvantage, using an ‘education poverty’ threshold of four years in school.
The report identifies policies that successfully counteract persistent inequalities, including improving accessibility and affordability by cutting fees and informal charges and offering targeted incentives; strengthening the learning environment by providing highly skilled teachers and expanded intercultural bilingual teaching; expanding entitlements and opportunities by integrating education strategies into wider anti-marginalization policies, such as social protection, reinforced legal entitlements and more fairly distributed public spending.
19th January 2010 - Oxfam International
International efforts to provide universal basic education in the poorest countries are now failing because of poor governance of the world’s education financing body and lack of investment by donors.
A new report published by international agency Oxfam today, “Rescuing Education For All” said the future of 72 million children currently out of school depended on a fundamental shift in the way education is funded globally. Oxfam called on G8 and G20 leaders to launch a Global Fund for Education at their annual summit in Canada in June.
This comes on the heels of a new UNESCO report that reveals a vast $16 billion annual education financing shortfall. Without this money, the goal of education for all children by 2015, agreed to by world leaders in 2000, will not be met.
Oxfam’s report highlights an alarming decline in aid commitments to the Education for All - Fast-Track Initiative (FTI), set up by world leaders in 2002 to help low-income countries achieve universal basic education.
“The scandal of the missing billions revealed by UNESCO today shows how fundamentally the FTI and other education donors have failed,” said Oxfam report author Katie Malouf. “Aid commitments for education are being conveniently forgotten in the economic downturn.”
In addition to being inadequately financed, the FTI suffers from lack of autonomy from the World Bank, weak governance and stakeholder participation, and bureaucratic hold ups, Oxfam’s report said. The Netherlands, United Kingdom, the European Commission and Spain are major contributors to the FTI. However, other G8 countries have neglected the initiative.
Malouf said: “Unnecessary Word Bank restrictions and red tape have resulted in unacceptable delays in getting money out of the door. For example a $20 million grant for Yemen, agreed to in 2006, has still not been released.”
“The economic crisis now is now threatening to make a bad situation worse for children in poor countries. Yet funds languish in a bank account in Washington, when they are urgently needed to get children into school.”
Oxfam’s report recommends the transformation of the FTI into a Global Fund for Education, independent of the World Bank and able to operate flexibly and in partnership with poor countries needing to build classrooms and hire teachers. “Without urgent reform of the FTI, all the money in the world is not going to make a difference,” Malouf said.
“Developing country governments have demonstrated their commitment to education, and they’re appealing for urgent support. An ambitious and effective Global Fund for Education must be the answer to that call.”
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