Broadening the Scope of Basic Education.
Schooling alone cannot hope to meet the burgeoning needs of education for all by the turn of the century. The fact that learning begins at birth and sets the stage for further learning was addressed in two roundtables, one examining early childhood care and education, and the other, the role of the family and the community in child development. The presentations stressed that the young child's mental and physical development were most rapid in the early years and that informal education within the family constellation was a powerful prerequisite for success in formal education. Research presented increasing evidence that early interventions can have strong influence on readiness, enrolment, progress, and learning in primary schools, especially for the undeserved and disadvantaged, in moderating gender differences, and promoting parent and community involvement and responsibility for their children's later learning. When communities develop even the most basic child care programmes, the barriers between school and community are broken, the transition into primary school is eased and children do better when they get there. The discussions centred on the costs of taking such efforts to scale, the need to consider the training of more paraprofessionals from the community in this field, and the concern that early childhood education and development not be aeuphemism for pre-school education. Rather, it was suggested that such interventions be seen as early human development, including nutritional, health, social and emotional development as well as cognitive and language development.
While primary schooling was considered the main delivery system for basic education, supplementary, alternative programmes of equivalent standard and support should be encouraged to meet basic learning needs, especially for those children who have no access to a primary school. The thematic roundtable on distance education, particularly interactive radio, affirmed dramatic improvements in learning achievement, teacher quality, school-community relations, and reaching isolated and marginalized groups with quality, affordable, and sustainable education. The illustrative roundtable of ALER (Latin American Association of Radio Education) provided a further example of the power of alternative educational delivery systems in broadening the scope and method of education 'horizontally' and giving a voice to many potential learners outside the formal school system.
Illustrative roundtables on nonformal education and training programmes for out-of-school youth and adult illiterates in the Caribbean, Mali, Zimbabwe, Iraq and China provided many practical insights and examples into meeting the basic learning needs of out-of-school populations in such areas as skill training, health, nutrition, family planning, environmental protection, family life and other knowledge, skill and attitudinal domains. The discussion on alternative delivery systems stressed the need for providing credible, quality standards for such efforts and increasing government financial support to such programmes. There was a general concern for not developing dead-end, second class educational activities, nor leaving such programmes as a residue for under-resourced NGOs to carry. It was noted that while governments should increase their financial and quality control functions, given the heterogeneous and contextual nature of learner needs, they ought to further facilitate greater local initiative, participation, and control over such programmes.
Finally, the thematic roundtables on "Information, Learning and Grassroots Participation," and "Mobilizing for Education for All", highlighted the need to include electronic and traditional mass media in a broadened range of mechanisms for promoting learner participation, active learning, and delivering basic education to all. Illustrations of modern and traditional technologies from India and Bali were utilized to show the power of mass media to convey basic knowledge and change behaviour. Libraries, too, can play an important role in meeting basic learning needs. Indigenous knowledge and information systems were also discussed as potentially valuable and credible elements of basic learning systems. The importance of the 'soft' technologies of organisation and process, especially emphasizing popular participation and local control, was noted as an essential complement to the 'hard' technologies being promoted in education programmes worldwide. Educational activities that have the potential to 'empower' as well as to 'inform' should be more highly valued and utilized.
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