Published on Tuesday, April 4, 2000 by the InterPress Service
New Coalition Launches The 'Global Action Plan for Education'
by Marwaan Macan-Markar
MEXICO CITY - A coalition of international education activists launched its Global Action Plan for Education÷ Monday, in an effort to secure the basic right to quality education for millions of the world's children.
Led by the Brussels-based Education International (EI), a non- governmental organisation (NGO) of teachers unions, the coalition seeks to get every child into primary school by 2015 through its initiative.
The coalition, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), had scheduled press conferences Monday in five cities -- Washington D.C., Sao Paulo, Brussels, Durban and New Delhi -- to identify those it hoped to win endorsements from for its plan.
Government leaders will top that list, states the GCE. It aspires to put pressure÷ on them to agree on its global plan before it is taken up at the forthcoming World Education Forum, to be held in Dakar, Senegal, from Apr. 26-28.
The urgency of the GCE's efforts stems from what it sees as the failure o f the world's leaders to achieve the promised education for all,÷ made 10 years ago at the World Conference on Education for All, held in Jomtien, Thailand.
A dismal catalogue of facts buttresses GCE's argument. Currently, over 125 million children, two-thirds of them girls, are out of school. Furthermore, millions more drop out of school in the early grades, most of them before becoming literate.
According to the GCE's estimates, if the current trend continues, there will be 57 million primary school age children out of school in 2015 in Africa. These children will account for about three-quarters of all children in the world denied the right to education.÷
In addition, studies conducted by the GCE reveal that the quality of public education is abysmal across much of the developing world.÷ And the present number of illiterate adults reflects this reality close to 880 million, more than what it was in 1990.
To rectify this situation, the GCE's plan calls for national education policies that guarantee at least eight years of free access to education for children, whether through formal schooling or through equivalent quality non-formal programmes within the public system.÷
To achieve success, furthermore, the plan stresses that education policies should pay attention to the following priorities: 7 Improved learning conditions, including properly equipped classrooms, a supply of quality textbooks and fair and regular salaries for teachers. 7 Relevant, realistic and regular curricula. 7 Better student readiness, through early childhood development programmes. 7 Effective measurement of progress, including monitoring of indicators of education quality. 7 Long-term financial stability. 7 Equity in education policy and spending, and the removal of policies (such as cost sharing) which pose a barrier to the education of poor children, girls and women.
Such an initiative, states the plan, will require governments to make a concerted effort to mobilise political and financial resources.
According to current estimates, the global cost of meeting the GCE's target works out to eight billion dollars a year. And to facilitate such an investment, the plan spells out the manner in which the financial burden should be borne.
Developing countries, for instance, are expected to mobilise half of this amount through increased resource mobilisation and the redistribution of wasteful public spending, such as military expenditure.
That can be achieved, argues the GCE, if governments give a higher priority to education and strive to increase the total amount of resources invested to at least six percent of a country's gross national product (GNP).
As Elie Jouen of EI points out, It is time that governments and the international financial institutions recognise education is a fundamental human right and that provision of quality education for children, young people and adults is a core responsibility of the state.
The international community, states the plan, will have to mobilise funds to meet the remaining half of this global education budget, for which three areas have been identified.
In the GCE's view, increased development assistance will have to be the major contributor, by allocating at least eight percent of aid budgets to basic education, which will be a four-fold increase from the current amount, estimated at two percent of aid budgets. Through such a measure, the GCE expects to raise around three billion dollars of the annual amount.
The plan also intends using the current debt relief initiatives to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) to its advantage. What it proposes is for a significant slice of debt relief flows to be directed towards basic education. Further, it also recommends that debt swap arrangements could be developed to finance education initiatives in middle-income countries.
Private capital, according to the plan, will serve as the final resource. Here, the GCE has funding from NGOs, foundations and other private sources in mind.
Given the dire conditions in Africa, the plan makes a special appeal for the continent, under its section, A Compact for Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces particularly severe challenges in education,÷ the plan declared. It is now the only part of the developing world in which the number of children out of school is increasing.
Failure to take cognisance of such needs, admits the GCE, will only further delay the provision of the right to education that has already been denied to so many children. Without a concerted international effort, basic education for all will continue to elude us beyond 2015, with grave consequences for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.