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close this bookMeeting Basic Learning Needs: A Vision for the 1990s (UNICEF - UNDP - UNESCO - WB - WCEFA, 1990, 170 p.)
close this folder1. Global Challenges and Human Development
View the documentA. Introduction
Open this folder and view contentsB. The Global Challenges
View the documentC. Constraints on Human Development
View the documentD. The Role of Human Development in Addressing Global Challenges
View the documentE. Defining Basic Learning Needs
View the documentF. New Opportunities for Human Development

E. Defining Basic Learning Needs

From the preceding discussion of human development and its potential effects, it is possible to identify basic learning needs in general terms along both personal and societal dimensions. These needs comprise both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning. The scope of basic learning needs and how they should be met varies with individual countries and cultures, and inevitably, changes with the passage of time.

The satisfaction of these needs empowers individuals in any society and confers upon them a responsibility to respect and build upon their collective cultural, linguistic and spiritual heritage, to promote the education of others, to further the cause of social justice, to achieve environmental protection, to be tolerant towards social, political and religious systems which differ from their own, ensuring that commonly accepted humanistic values and human rights are upheld, and to work for international peace and solidarity in an interdependent world.

Basic education facilitates the ability to meet other basic needs - adequate nutrition, shelter and clothing, and access to health services and clean water. All of these basic human needs are interdependent, but basic education promotes accomplishment of, and increases the individual benefits from, the satisfaction of other needs.

The possession of basic learning also is a prerequisite and a complement to other sources of social and economic development. It can help resolve the problems of economic decline, widening economic disparities, dislocation and disadvantage, environmental degradation, and excessive population growth. Another and no less fundamental aim of educational development is the transmission and enrichment of common cultural and moral values. It is in these values that the individual and society find their identity and worth. Moreover, sound basic education is fundamental to the strengthening of higher levels of education and of scientific and technological literacy and capacity and thus to self-reliant development.

Basic education is more than an end in itself. It is the foundation for lifelong learning and human development on which countries may build, systematically, further levels and types of education and training.

Box 1.07. Korea: Providing Primary Education for All

Historically, Korea illustrates a country whose educational policies, particularly in the finance area evolved in support of their rapid industrialization. Korea was able to invest a large proportion of its GNP in education because of its commitment to, and broad and flexible approach to, educational finance. Including all sources of finance, the percentage of GNP going to education was 8.8 percent in 1996 and rose to 9.7 percent in 1970. About 71 percent of educational expenses were paid for by students and their parents. These were used for construction and operation of schools, as well as for out-of-school household expenses on books, school supplies, transportation, extra curricular activities and room/board. In the mid-1960s, out-of-school expenses accounted for 80 percent of household educational expenditures, close to one half of which were for primary education. A large share of these expenditures went for the purchase of textbooks at the compulsory education level since only a quarter of the students got them for free.

The central government concentrated expenditures on primary education. By allocating three-fourths of its national public education budget to compulsory education and relying on private schools and parents’ willingness to pay for secondary and tertiary education, Korea achieved primary education for all, while at the same time satisfying the strong and growing demand for post-primary education. In 1965 public schools accounted for 99 percent of primary enrollment, but they served only 45.5 and 27.4 percent of enrollment at the academic secondary and tertiary levels of education, respectively.

Korea also made use of local institutions in the finance and provision of primary education. As early as 1949, Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) played an important role in the finance of primary education. Despite the ambitions of the Education Law, the central government could provide only 15 percent of the revenues needed to finance primary education. Hence, the PTAs, which were originally organized to supplement teacher salaries and to increase parental involvement in school decision making, provided 75 percent of the funds for local schools, with local governments contributing another 10 percent. In the sixties local sources provided between 20 and 25 percent of the total amount of local education expenditure at the primary level. In 1970, PTAs were reorganized as the “Yuksonghoe” (voluntary parent-teacher association) with the same objective as before. With the reorganization, the Yuksonghoe fees amounted to 28 percent of the public budget for compulsory education in 1974.

Finally, the central government provided grants to local schools for compulsory education, amounting to 78 percent of total local government expenditures in 1970. Conscious of the inequality among communities, the national government has attempted since 1982 to equalize public expenditure among primary school districts across the country by means of formulas that distribute national funds on the basis of local need and ability to pay.