what: the Education for All (EFA) movement was conceived at the World Conference on Education for All convened by UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank in 1990. That year, in Jomtien, Thailand, delegates from 155 countries, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs agreed to universalise primary education and reduce illiteracy massively before the end of the decade. The World Declaration on Education for All affirmed: “Every person - child, youth and adult - shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs.”
challenge: more than 40 years ago, the nations of the world, speaking through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, asserted that "everyone has a right to education". This ambitious goal has only been partially achieved: the overall adult literacy rate has risen to 85 per cent for men and 74 per cent for women; enrolment in primary schools rose from 599 million in 1990 to 681 million in 1998; the number of out-of-school children has fallen from an estimated 127 million to 113 million.
Despite notable efforts by countries around the globe, the following realities persist:
monitoring: the Education for All Global Monitoring Report is the primary instrument for assessing global progress towards achieving EFA goals: it tracks progress, identifies effective policy reforms and best practice in all areas relating to EFA, draws attention to emerging challenges and seeks to promote international co-operation in favour of education.
- at least 875 million adults remain illiterate, of which 63.8 per cent are women – exactly the same proportion as a decade ago;
- more than one-third of the world's adults have no access to printed knowledge, new skills and technologies that could improve the quality of their lives and help them shape and adapt to social and cultural change.
why: here are the six Education for All goals…
expand early childhood care and education;
provide free and compulsory education of good quality by 2015;
promote the acquisition of life-skills adolescents and youth;
increase adult literacy rates by 50 per cent by 2015;
eliminate gender disparities in education by 2005 and achieve gender equality by 2015;
enhance educational quality.
follow-up: during the 1990s, education was finally acknowledged as a right and its importance for social and economic development stressed. Civil society began to play a more active role and NGOs became more outspoken. A momentum was thus created. The ‘World Education Forum’, held in Senegal in 2000 to review advances in basic education and to reinvigorate commitments to EFA, was an expression of that change. On that occasion, some 1,100 participants from 164 countries adopted the “Dakar Framework for Action”, committing themselves to achieving quality basic education for all by 2015.
annual event: since then, the anniversary of the World Education Forum (Dakar, April 2000) is an annual opportunity to renew the momentum generated in Dakar and to provoke public debate on Education for All. Each year a global Education For All Week is organised throughout the world. All education actors - whether teachers, pupils, parents, civil society organisations, schools, international organisations are encouraged to be part of it.