A Global Priority: Education for All

By Bolton, Sally | UN Chronicle, December 2005 | Go to article overview

A Global Priority: Education for All


Bolton, Sally, UN Chronicle


Adult literacy rates continue to be a major obstacle to achieving the six Education for All (EFA) goals and overall poverty reduction, according to the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006--Literacy for life.

The report, launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in London on 9 November 2005, focuses on the world's 771 million adults living without minimal literacy skills. This global challenge predominantly affects developing regions, although highly developed countries were also found to have significant numbers of young people and adults with weak literacy skills. Findings are based on data from the 2002/2003 school year, reporting on change since 1998. Across the board, progress over the five years was found to be steady but insufficient to reach, or come close to reaching, the EFA goals.

In the area of early childhood care and education, enrolment ratios are rising rapidly and the gender gap is slowly closing across sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia, and the Arab States; however, this sector continues to be a low public policy priority. Progress towards universal primary education has been slow overall, with the world's net enrolment ratio increasing by only one percentage point, from 83.6 per cent in 1998 to 84.6 in 2002. While significant advances have been made in

least developed countries, access to primary schools, the quality of teaching and charging of fees for primary education pose major barriers to further progress.

Both secondary and tertiary education have seen rapid enrolment increases, with the global number of students in secondary education rising from 430 million in 1998 to 500 million in 2002, and in tertiary education, from 90 million in 1998 to 121 million in 2002. Growth rates are particularly strong in developing countries and are, on average, more than twice those observed in developed countries. However, learning achievement remains an overriding concern, with data showing that average achievement levels have decreased in recent years in some countries. …

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