Ministers at UN meeting urge nations not to slash education budgets amid financial crisis

28 November 2008

With hundreds of millions of people around the world with little or no access to education, participants at a United Nations conference in Geneva urged governments not to cut funding for this critical sector amid the current financial turmoil.

Participants at the week-long International Conference on Education, which ended today, voiced concern at the impact of the global financial crisis, warning that it “will have a disproportionate impact on the poor – those who carry the least responsibility for these events.”

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which organized the conference, the hundreds of millions around the world with little or no access to education include 75 million out-of-school children – more than half of whom are girls and one third are disabled.

Many of these children are working and many belong to indigenous groups and linguistic minorities, or are living in conflict and post-conflict situations. There are also some 776 million adults who lack basic literacy skills.

In the current economic environment, providing quality education was all the more important since education was crucial to reducing poverty and improving health and livelihoods, stressed the participants, which included ministers, education experts and civil society representatives.

“Funding for education should be a top priority and… the financial crisis should not serve as a justification for a reduction in the allocation of resources to education at both the national and international levels,” they stated.

The conference recommended a number of steps that governments could take to improve their education systems and ensure more inclusive education. These include equipping teachers with the skills and materials they need to teach diverse populations, and promoting the greater participation of those concerned in decision-making.

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