Cover Image
close this bookThe Challenge of Universal Primary Education - Strategies for achieving the international development targets (DFID, 2001, 49 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDepartment for International Development
View the documentForeword by the Secretary of State
View the documentExecutive summary
Open this folder and view contents1. Target statement
Open this folder and view contents2. Defining the challenge
Open this folder and view contents3. Experience to date
Open this folder and view contents4. Meeting the challenge
Open this folder and view contents5. Priorities for DFID
Open this folder and view contents6. Monitoring progress
Open this folder and view contentsAnnexes
View the documentBack Cover

Executive summary

1. This paper focuses on the education dimension of poverty reduction, and specifically the attainment of the International Development Targets for education, which are to:

· achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015;

· demonstrate progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005.

2. The World Conference on Education for All, held in Jomtien in 1990, identified six dimensions to ensuring that every person - child, youth and adult - should be able to meet their basic learning needs. These go beyond primary education to include early childhood care and development, adult literacy, and basic skills training. But Universal Primary Education remains at the core of attempts to achieve Education for All, and although primary school enrolments have increased since 1990 by an average of 10 million children each year, the goal still eludes many developing countries. The World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000, reaffirmed the vision of Jomtien but called for a new level of commitment, designed to achieve targets that have been stated regularly but rarely delivered. This paper is a contribution to meeting the commitments endorsed by more than 180 countries in the Dakar Framework for Action.

3. An estimated 113 million children still are not enrolled in school, two thirds of whom are girls. Where children do go to school, too often ineffective schools limit learning. Without increased and improved levels of education, poverty will not be eliminated and sustainable development will not take place.

4. Universal Primary Education and greater gender equality are achievable but a business as usual approach will not work. A more strategic view is required which recognises the central importance of education in the elimination of poverty, and gives strong political weight and appropriate policy and resource priority to the realisation of the International Development Targets.

5. The education of girls is one of the most important determinants of development. If girls continue to be overlooked, the International Development Targets will not be met. Gender equality in schooling also helps to promote the empowerment of women in society more generally; and, since women make up as many as 70% of the world’s poor, this is not only good in itself, it is vital to development.

6. The paper defines the challenges set by the education targets, assesses the lessons of national and international efforts to date, and identifies a set of major national and international priorities for action. It sets out the implications of this analysis for the work of DFID, and underscores the importance of effective monitoring of progress towards the targets.

7. Section 1 underlines the importance of education as a basic human right; a right which promotes other rights and responsibilities which contribute to economic and social development. Education empowers people to participate in the transformation of their lives and the societies in which they live. Without improved levels of education, sustained and broad-based economic growth will not take place.

8. The education targets are not the sum total of education goals and aspirations. Quality primary education for all is the priority target internationally, but it is an objective which should be set firmly within a process designed to expand and develop opportunities across the education sector as a whole.

9. Section 2 defines the scale and geography of the challenge. It is in sub-Saharan Africa that the size and complexity of the challenge is greatest. Only 61% of school age children are enrolled in school. Conflict and the AIDS pandemic threaten those gains that have been made. Poverty, gender discrimination and social exclusion are all barriers to Education for All. But these barriers can be broken down through greater integration of education and other related policies.

10. Section 3 argues that the experiences of the past decade - positive and negative - point to a set of important lessons which should inform the work of governments and the wider international community. Key amongst these are: the central role of government; the need for policies which are inclusive of all children; the importance of quality; and the need for funding agencies to work more collaboratively with governments and with each other.

11. Section 4 identifies priorities and strategies for action. This section argues that for the targets to be achieved there must be sustained commitment by national governments to sound, long-term policies which recognise the strategic contribution of primary education to development. Governments will need to tackle the core issues of access, affordability, quality, inclusion and the effective application of modern technology. Achieving gender equality will require major culture shifts. The problems of insufficient, inefficient and inequitable financing for education, and weak institutional capacity to design and implement reform and development, must be addressed. Participation by civil society will be essential.

12. The international community also has clear obligations. The priority is to give strong commitment and provide well co-ordinated support for Universal Primary Education and gender equality within comprehensive frameworks of assistance at the national level.

13. DFID is one of many agencies committed to the International Development Targets. Section 5 outlines a broad, threefold strategy for DFID:

· Contributing to the development and co-ordination of international commitment, policies and programmes designed to achieve Universal Primary Education and Education for All.

· Strong, well-targeted country programmes - with priority given to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia - which will provide strategic assistance to governments and civil societies committed to achieving Universal Primary Education and gender equality within sound education sector, poverty and development frameworks.

· Knowledge and research strategies and outcomes that will contribute to the ability of the international community, including national governments, to learn lessons, share experience and monitor progress.

14. Section 6 underscores the importance of developing capacity to monitor progress towards the targets, nationally and internationally, and for DFID to assess carefully the effectiveness and efficiency of our contribution to achieving Universal Primary Education and gender equality.