PART III. Preliminary report on the implementation of Recommendation No. 77 adopted by the International Conference on Education at its 42nd session
1. The Chairman of the Commission introduced the meeting related to item 8 of the agenda, relative to the implementation of Recommendation No. 77 of the 42nd session on literacy education, by calling the attention of delegates to document ED/BIE/CONFINTED 43/4, containing an analysis of the replies of Member States to a questionnaire circulated by the IBE on the follow-up to the above-referenced recommendation. He then invited the representative of the Director-General, Mr Victor Ordonez, to explain the purpose and goals of the session.
2. The representative of the Directorg General informed the Commission of UNESCO's urgent concern to sustain the momentum of the Education for All Movement launched at the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand, in March 1990. He explained that the purpose of the present working session was to learn of the views and experiences of the Member States in their efforts to achieve education for an and to have their recommendations as to measures that might speed their progress towards this vital goal. He informed the Commission of recent steps taken to strengthen international support to the education for an initiative, including the expansion of the steering committee of the Education for AU Forum to include, in addition to the four original sponsors of the Conference (UNESCO, UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank), a number of additional partners actively engaged in the follow-up of the Conference. This, he noted, is in keeping with the intent and spirit of the Jomtien Movement which caned for enlisting the support of new partners to speed progress towards education for all.
3. This report includes a number of the highlights of the discussion which ensued in the Commission. All of the delegates who spoke emphasised their firm belief in education for an as an essential human right and a development imperative. They noted that despite competing priorities and, in many cases, a serious lack of resources, their commitment to achieving the goals set forth at the Conference on Education for AU had not wavered. Several noted, however, that making progress in education requires adequate resources as wed as a strong political win. Unfortunately, while the latter was present, the former was often severely wanting. They also observed that time was running out. Only seven years remain before the year 2000 arrives.
4. A majority of speakers briefly informed the Commission of their national targets for 'education for ad by the year 2000. Broadly speaking, the targets were defined in terms of access to primary education and elimination of illiteracy among adults. Several speakers referred to the process of review and definition of 'education for all' targets, for example, in the form of round tables and strategic planning workshops, which had taken place in their countries since Jomtien. In some countries it still remained a challenge to achieve universal primary education, while in others this goal had been attained, at least from a purely quantitative standpoint, but the quality of education and 'the level of learning' (in the words of one speaker) remained low. Elimination of illiteracy continued to be a major challenge in most countries despite increasing enrolment in primary education. A majority of speakers anticipated some progress in reducing the rates of adult illiteracy by the year 2000. Several speakers highlighted particular target groups which represented difficult challenges, notably girls, children living in rural areas, children of nomads and children with special educational needs. The latter two groups, in particular, were singled out by one speaker as areas where co-operation with external agencies would be desirable.
5. Many speakers emphasised the current concern in their countries over the quality of basic education, and reported on measures being taken to ensure that curricula, textbooks and learning materials were appropriate for the needs of the target groups. Most speakers reported positively on the progress being made towards the achievement of education for all goals, even if in some cases this apparently has been slower than was originally hoped for. For example, one speaker mentioned the specific problem of the distances the children had to travel in order to attend school; tackling this problem had proved to be more difficult than had been anticipated. Non-formal mechanisms and approaches were mentioned in many of the experiences reported, although one speaker expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of readiness of donors to fund project proposals in this area. Several speakers reported on stepped-up efforts ill the area of adult education, and one speaker in particular stated that the 'campaign' approach was being discarded in favour of strengthening the regular adult education services so that they could provide sustained educational support for the adult population.
6. There was a consensus on the need to continue and strengthen inter-agency co-operation at the regional and international levels in implementing the goals established in Jomtien. UNESCO was urged to play a leading role to this end. In general, delegates considered that basic education and literacy had achieved high visibility following the World Conference on Education for All and the International Literacy Year, both of which took place in 1990 Indeed, one delegate referred to education as the 'Cinderella' of development agencies.
7. Several delegates suggested that UNESCO could play a key role by sewing as 'broker' between developing countries seeking to fund projects and donor agencies looking for projects which merit support. To do this, it was suggested that UNESCO would have to be able to inform agencies in developing countries of donor requirements and effectively follow up with donor agencies on projects submitted to them in accordance with their requirements. One delegate observed there was a need for clarifying priorities. She noted that while the important and essential role of non-formal education is widely recognised, many donors still remain reluctant to fund it. Reference was also made to the important role that non-governmental organisations can play in assisting Member States to achieve education for all.
8. Delegates suggested numerous ways in which progress towards education for all could be accelerated: increased financial support from donors, the provision of paper, books and teaching materials; training of key staff and assistance in the inservice training of teachers; and provision of technical assistance in areas such as monitoring and evaluation. It was also stressed that UNESCO must continue, in every way possible, to ensure that education for all remains high on the agenda of international agencies and donor countries.
9. In response to a question raised by the Chairman, one delegate suggested that in preparing future reviews of the follow-up to Recommendation No. 77, or other recommendations, it would be preferable if the analysis were presented on a regional basis and preceded by essential information on the situation in the region.
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