Today marks the launch of GCE’s Global Action Week, calling on us all to ‘Vote for Education’. The campaign calls on people worldwide to help set the future direction of education for the next generation. Fifteen years to the day from the Dakar conference that set forth an expanded EFA vision and a set of six concrete goals, it calls on activists to find out what has worked since 2000 and what didn’t.
Just two weeks ago we launched the new EFA Report ‘Education for All 2000-2015: achievements and challenges‘, which showed that that there has not been overall success in achieving Education for All, but acknowledges dramatic progress by some countries along the way. This blog celebrates the successful efforts of some countries since Dakar, and extracts lessons we can learn from their achievements. Their stories are a huge source of optimism as we establish a new vision for the next 15 years.
(Goal 1) Early childhood care and education: Ghana
Lesson: At least one year of compulsory pre-primary education should be provided as part of an extended basic education cycle.
“Major interventions to improve early childhood care and education have included the abolition of school fees; support for needy pupils; production and supply of teaching and learning materials, staff capacity-building; provision of school uniforms and meals; mainstreaming kindergarten, and stronger collaboration among ministries and between schools and communities.” Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Hon. Minister for Education of the Republic of Ghana, Ghana
At the time of Dakar, just under half of children were attending pre-school in Ghana, while now there is universal enrolment. Ghana stood out from its neighbours in already having ECCE policies in 2000. Since then it has abolished school fees at this level, made pre-primary education compulsory for two years starting at age 3, dedicated resources to school materials and training teachers, all while providing extra support for the most disadvantaged children. Currently, The New Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020) provides a series of public-awareness campaigns to boost the image of early childhood education in the eyes of the public. The steady growth in enrolment rates speaks for itself.
(Goal 2) Universal Primary Education: India
Lesson: Efforts are needed to reach the marginalised, including better school infrastructure, gender-sensitive facilities, and school feeding programmes
“India’s efforts have been backed by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and the national Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme. To ensure continued participation of girls in education, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Girl, Educate the Girl) initiative has recently been launched.” Minister Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, India
India had almost 17 million out of school children in 2000, but has since achieved the target for universal primary enrolment by vastly improving access to schools for children of all backgrounds, especially girls and those from historically marginalised backgrounds. The share of schools with electricity more than doubled and the majority of schools now have paved roads access, making it easier to accommodate children in far-away areas. Something as simple as including ramps in schools enabled a sharp increase in enrolment of children with special needs. Gender parity has been achieved at the primary level by focusing on girls’ direct needs. School feeding programmes, free textbooks, back-to-school camps, recruiting female teachers, gender-responsive curricula and single-sex toilets have all been helpful to encourage girls’ participation in school.
(Goal 3) Youth and adult skills: Viet Nam
Lesson: Look outside of the formal education system
“In Vietnam, in addition to the formal curriculum, students participate in extracurricular activities and attend seminars on the environment, health and peace. Educating and providing children and adults with the skills they need to thrive in society is an important part of implementing the education development goals in the 21st century.” H.E. Mr. Pham Vu Luan, Minister of Education, Viet Nam
In 2005, an amendment to the national education law in Vietnam made non-formal adult education and literacy training a major component of the country’s overall educational system. This measure included provisions for skill advancement in the workplace, second-chance opportunities linked to the formal education system, and the development of people as citizens and essential participants in communities. Programmes are now diverse and aspire to serve many different needs of the population, for example through programmes that focus on HIV prevention, peace and human rights, gender, health care for mothers and children, prevention of drug use, nutrition, and the environment. Participation rates in adult education have also risen in recent years: there were almost 10 million participants in adult learning and nonformal education programmes in 2008, compared with just over half a million in 1999.
(Goal 4) Adult Literacy: Nepal
Lesson: Develop well planned and resourced national literacy campaigns
“Literacy is more than the personal ability to read and write. It is a powerful vehicle to empower people and help them obtain the adequate life skills and entrepreneurship capacities to tackle contemporary challenges and optimize opportunities for sustainable development. It is for this reason that our government made investing in literacy a priority through the successful National Literacy Campaign Programme.“ Chitra Lekha Yadav, Minister for Education of the Democratic Republic of Nepal
Nepal is one of the few countries among those analysed in the report where improvements in adult literacy rates were due to effective programmes targeting adults, and not simply because the composition of the adult population included more educated young adults and fewer illiterate older ones. An important reason for this positive performance could be the success of the government’s investment of US$35 million in the 2008–2012 National Literacy Campaign Programme.
(Goal 5) Gender parity and equality: Morocco
Lesson: Education plans and curriculum need to be gender sensitive
“Morocco has mobilized significant human and financial resources to develop a strategy to fight against disparities between girls and boys, having achieved significant results in terms of parity. This strategy is based on the implementation of a new adapted model of community schools, social support to reduce the impact of socioeconomic factors, and the development of non-formal education.” Ministry of National Education and Professional Training, Morocco.
Morocco has applied both human and financial resources to develop suitable policies to combat gender inequality in schools. And even though gender parity has not quite been achieved in primary schools—it has improved from 0.87 in 1999 to 0.95 in 2012—Morocco will reach the target soon if current trends continue. This progress is thanks to integrating a gender perspective into national education plans, strategic plans and policies, including the promotion of girls’ right to education and targeted responses to girls’ low enrolment. Other successful strategies include a significant recruitment of female teachers, building schools in remote rural areas, and addressing gender equality within and outside of the school environment.
(Goal 6) Quality of education: Mexico
Lesson: Tip the balance in favour of the marginalised
“The government has implemented programs to ensure educational quality across the board, with a particular focus on gender, marginalized groups and indigenous groups. Efforts have been made to improve digital literacy and the systematic evaluation of learning in order to guide educational policy. The country has also improved adult literacy and education programs.” Emilio Chuayffet Chemor Secretario de Educación Pública, México.
Mexico is an example of a country that has increased access and learning at the same time. Enrolment of 15-year-olds increased by almost 12 percentage points between 2003 and 2012, while the mean PISA mathematics scores increased from 385 to 413 points. The most disadvantaged students witnessed the largest increases. The key to this success has been implementing inclusive policies such as allocating more resources to the regions and schools most in need, and identifying marginalised groups as focal targets in educational reforms. Today, 96% of Mexico’s primary school teachers are trained.