The Global Monitoring Report, developed annually by an independent team and published by UNESCO, assesses global progress towards the six Education for All goals to which over 160 countries committed themselves in 2000. The 2010 Report, released in January this year, ‘Reaching the Marginalised’, charts some spectacular advances in education over the past decade, a striking contrast with the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990s. Since 1999, the number of children not attending school has fallen by 33 million – and more children are completing a full cycle of primary education.
Sub-Saharan Africa has increased enrolment at five times the rate achieved in the 1990s, with countries such as Benin and Mozambique registering rapid advances. In South and West Asia, the number of children out of school has been more than halved, partly through policies aimed at getting more girls into school. In India, the number of children not in school fell by almost 15 million in just two years, from 2001 to 2003. The gender gap has also narrowed. In the space of one primary school generation, Senegal has moved from 85 girls for every 100 boys to an equal number of girls and boys. However, all is not well with economic recession forcing the donor countries to reduce their grants.
Falling short of the goals
With less than five years to the 2015 target date, the Global Monitoring Report warns that the window of opportunity for getting on track is closing. The global indicators highlighted as a cause for concern are:
■ On current trends, 56 million primary school age children will still be out of school in 2015
■ Another 71 million adolescents are currently not at school
■ Gender disparities remain deeply ingrained, with 28 countries across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in primary school for every ten boys
■ Girls still account for 54 per cent of the children out of school– and girls not in primary school are far less likely than boys ever to attend school
■ 10.3 million additional teachers will be needed worldwide to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015
■ There has been little progress towards the goal of halving adult illiteracy – a condition that affects 759 million people, two-thirds of them being women
■ Child malnutrition remains a major barrier to progress in education, with 178 million children aged 0-5 years old affected and the numbers rising
■ far too many young people emerge from primary school unable to read or write. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, young adults with five years of primary schooling have a 40 per cent chance of being illiterate.
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’. In fact, the Report adds that a financing gap of US$16 billion a year must be bridged to reach the Education for All goals. It claims that rich countries are exaggerating how much aid they have provided to help poor countries cope with the financial crisis and the Fast Track Initiative is not working as the principal global education aid coordination body needs fundamental reform.
Aid commitments to basic education, having stagnated from 2004, fell by more than one-fifth in 2007. The aid budgets of three major donors – France, Germany and Japan – continue to reflect a relative neglect of basic education, as they commit over half of their education aid to post-primary levels. Spain, on the other hand, has led the way by increasing its aid to basic education by 78 per cent since 1999.
The Report estimates that low-income countries could raise an additional $US 7 billion per year, or 0.7 per cent of GDP, by increasing domestic resources and allocating more to education. However, even if governments maximise their efforts to increase domestic spending on education, the financing gap is estimated by the Global Monitoring Report to be US$16 billion annually for 46 low-income countries. Previous estimates have underestimated the cost of achieving core education goals, partly because they have failed to count the additional spending needed to reach deprived groups. The UNESCO Report acknowledges that increasing aid will be challenging for donors in a period of acute budget stress. Aid levels will have to rise markedly, however, to close the Education for All financing gap of US$16 billion: current aid for basic education in the 46 countries covered amounts to just US$2.7 billion.
The centrepiece of multilateral aid for education needs fundamental reform. The Fast Track Initiative has achieved some significant results, but the Global Monitoring Report identifies wide-ranging problems that have diminished its effectiveness. Payout rates are very low, developing countries have a weak voice in governance, the private sector’s role is minimal and countries affected by conflict are poorly served.
The Report calls for fundamental reform of the Fast-Track Initiative. Drawing on the experience of global health funds, the authors call for more effective multilateral approaches in education, with a focus on closing financing gaps, raising learning achievement and strengthening equity.
In addition, aid effectiveness needs to be improved to fix problems with aid predictability, donor coordination and donors’ failure to use national financial management systems. Donors also need to adopt more flexible approaches in order to scale up support to conflict-affected countries, which account for one-third of children not in school, but less than one-fifth of aid to education.
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, wasting human potential and undermining prosperity. Lost opportunities for education hinder economic growth, and efforts to reduce poverty and improve health.
Using a new measurement tool – the Deprivation and Marginalisation in Education data set – the Report explores the extent of acute disadvantage, using an ‘education poverty’ threshold of four years in school, the minimum required to acquire basic literacy, for young adults in the 17-22 year old age range. The report identifies 22 countries with 30 per cent or more young adults below the four year threshold, and 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have 50 per cent or more below the threshold.
The Global Monitoring Report data set reveals stark differences in education opportunity within countries:
■ Being born into a poor household significantly raises the risk of deprivation. In the Philippines, there is a four-year education gap between the richest and poorest households. The gap in India is seven years.
■ Gender interacts with wealth and location. In Nigeria, the average youth aged 17-22 has received seven years in education. For poor rural Hausa females, that figure drops to less than 6 months.
■ Disparities within countries are often bigger than disparities between countries. In Mexico, one quarter of the young adults in the southern state of Chiapas have fewer than four years of education – a figure that falls to 3 per cent for the Federal District.
■ Some groups face acute disadvantage. In Kenya, 51 per cent of male Somali pastoralists aged 17-22 have less than 2 years in school, rising to 92 per cent for females.
■ Language and ethnicity often reinforce marginalisation. Turkey has made rapid progress in education, but Kurdish-speaking females from poor households average around three years in school, which is at par with the national average for Chad.
Marginalisation in education is fuelled by structural disadvantages, bad policies, and neglect by political leaders. The report identifies policies that successfully counteract persistent inequalities in education, including:
■ Improving accessibility and affordability
Governments need to go beyond removing formal school fees for basic education to cutting informal charges, and providing targeted incentives for disadvantaged groups. An innovative programme in Cambodia, for example, which supplies grants to families of girls who reach the final grade of primary school on condition that they then go on to secondary school, is estimated to have increased enrolment among participants by 30 per cent.
■ Strengthening the learning environment
Governments need to ensure that marginalised children have access to highly skilled teachers, by offering incentives for deployment to remote rural areas and disadvantaged urban areas, and by recruiting teachers from ethnic minorities. The experience of Bolivia, where inter-cultural bilingual teaching has expanded rapidly since the mid-1990s, shows how such reforms can help to overcome language-related disadvantages, while at the same time challenging discriminatory social attitudes.
■ Expanding entitlements and opportunities
Education strategies need to be integrated into wider anti-marginalisation policies. Social protection policies, including cash transfers, are a key way to counteract poverty and vulnerability. Half of the households that receive cash under an Ethiopian programme, for example, report being able to keep children in school for longer as a result. Legal entitlements also have a role to play, and are most effective when backed by political mobilisation, as demonstrated by the success of New Zealand’s Kohanga reo (Maori) language movement. Redistributing public spending more fairly is also crucial, and in Brazil it has been a central pillar of wider strategies aimed at breaking the links between poverty, inequality and marginalisation in education.
Inputs from EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010: Reaching the Marginalised, UNESCO.