Key education goals elusive in more than 70 countries, UN agency reports

13 November 2002

While 83 countries are on track to achieve universal education by 2015, a key goal set at a forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000, nearly an equal number will not make the target, with some even going backwards, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today in a new report.

While 83 countries are on track to achieve universal education by 2015, a key goal set at a forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000, nearly an equal number will not make the target, with some even going backwards, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today in a new report.

According to the report, 28 countries, accounting for over 26 per cent of the world's population, may not achieve any of the three measurable goals set in Dakar - universal primary education (UPE), gender equality and the halving of illiteracy rates. Meanwhile, 43 countries covering 35.6 per cent of the world's population risk falling short of at least one of the three targets. Two-thirds of the countries that are not expected to achieve any of the goals are in sub-Saharan Africa, but they also include India and Pakistan.

In addition to those three goals, the World Education Forum in Dakar also agreed to expanded early childhood care and education, increased learning opportunities for youth and adults and improvement of all aspects of education quality.

In declaring that UPE is unlikely to be reached in 57 countries at current rates of progress, the report says 41 of these countries, including some Central and East European nations, have even been moving backwards. While the goal of gender parity is supposed to be met by 2005, 31 nations remain at risk of not meeting this goal even by 2015. However, 86 countries have already achieved gender parity and another 35 are close to doing so.

The report says unless a much greater effort is made, 78 countries - including four of the world's most populous countries, Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan, which alone account for 61 per cent of the world's illiterate adults - will not be able to halve their rate of illiteracy by 2015. The report also finds that the cost of providing education for all has been underestimated, partly because the high cost of conflict and HIV/AIDS on education has not been taken into account.

According to the report, while HIV/AIDS alone will add $975 million to the annual bill for achieving UPE, the cost of education has greatly increased in 73 countries dealing with internal crises or engaged in post-conflict reconstruction.

To meet the expense, the report says major education and economic reforms and increased external aid will be required in many countries, and adds that an extra $5.6 billion will be needed each year to achieve the UPE and gender goals alone. Total bilateral aid to education, which accounts for 70 per cent of all such financial support, fell by 16 per cent over the past decade due to conflict, the inability of national institutions to absorb funds rapidly and the reluctance of some governments to reform education systems and policies.

 

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