E. Progress and Prospects
Since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights articulated
the right of everyone to education, the nations of the world frequently have
established specific targets to make the right a reality. The 1956 Lima meeting
and the 1963 Santiago Conference of Ministers of Education focused on free and
compulsory education in Latin America and the Caribbean; similar conferences in
1960 in Karachi and 1962 in Tokyo established the Asian model with goals of
primary school gross enrolment ratios of 70 percent by 1964 and 90 percent in
1980. The Addis Ababa conference in 1961 affirmed the goal of universal primary
education in Africa by 1980.
Ironically, the primary enrolments attained in 1970 and 1980
exceeded those projected by these UNESCO regional meetings, and yet universal
primary education still was not achieved in many countries. The phenomenal
growth of aggregate enrolments during the 1960s and 1970s was offset by rapid
population growth and a widening divergence among the achievements of individual
countries and geographical regions.
In the 1980s, Asia has consolidated its gains, and in the more
developed countries emphasis has shifted from concerns with aggregate access to
issues of achievement and equity for disadvantaged populations. In much of
sub-Saharan Africa and in the least developed economies elsewhere, however, the
1980s have been a period of stagnation and, for some, a retreat from the goals
of universal access.
The low-income economies (excluding China and India) have seen
growth in primary enrolments fall from an average annual rate of 5.6 percent in
1975-80 to 2.7 percent for 1980-87. During this same period population growth
increased annually from 2.7 percent to 3.4 percent on average and was
accompanied by negative real economic growth rates for certain Sub-Saharan
countries. Most middle-income countries maintained enrolment growth in
proportion to population growth, but many faced mounting concern about the
effectiveness of education (as measured in part by learning achievement) and the
efficient utilization of funds. The lower-middle-income countries have not been
able to maintain their 1975-80 enrolment growth rates into the 1980s, while the
higher-middle-income countries have benefited from a decline in population
growth rates that more than offset the slowing growth in enrolments.
According to UNESCO estimates, in 1985 approximately 105 million
school-age children (six-eleven years old) were not participating in formal
education. Of these, 70.2 percent were in the least developed nations and 60
percent were girls. If current trends continue, by the year 2000 the number of
out-of-school children will almost double to approximately 200 million.
In summary, despite significant progress in the aggregate
expansion of primary education, a growing number of children are not in school,
nor ready when they do enter, the number of illiterate adults is increasing, and
the unmet needs for basic knowledge and skills continue to accumulate. These
needs are expanding so fast that many formal primary education systems do not
have the capacity to meet them. Without significant changes, many nations will
have to forgo improvements in educational quality, and some will be forced to
accept deterioration. High rates of dropout and repetition of grades will
continue to characterize many basic education programmes - symptoms of the
overwhelming needs and the current inadequacy of resource provision.
The challenge for the future remains the assurance of access to
an acceptable quality of primary education, of literacy training, and of basic
knowledge and essential life skills for all children, youth, and adults.
However, universal access to primary education alone by the year 2000 would
require raising enrolment by more than 7.5 percent a year for the low-income
countries (excluding China and India), 3.2 percent for the lower-middle-income
countries, and 3.0 percent for the upper-middle-income countries. The current
growth rates for the three categories are 2.8, 2.4, and 1.7 percent
respectively. One fact is obvious, therefore: a linear expansion of current
growth patterns will not be sufficient to meet the basic learning needs of
all. Government, families, communities and nongovernment organizations will all
need to do more.
For the economically advantaged economies, increased efficiency
and the availability of new resources will better their chances of improving
educational quality for all and extending basic learning opportunities more
effectively to currently marginal populations. For a middle range of countries,
substantial increases in efficiency and effort (in the context of economic
growth) will allow them to concentrate more on reducing the inappropriate
repetition of grades and the number of dropouts. These countries can work toward
providing universal access to primary education, encouraging completion of the
primary cycle and the achievement of an acceptable level of learning, and
improving opportunities for youth and adults to attain literacy and the basic
knowledge and skills their society requires.
Under projected patterns of economic growth, however, a third
group of countries simply will not be able to meet basic learning needs for all
with their own resources. Greater government fiscal support, the mobilization of
family, community, and nongovernmental resources, and increased efficiency -
even if all are achieved - will not provide sufficient resources.
External assistance, substantial and sustained, will be required to allow
these countries to join those in the more advantaged categories in meeting the
basic learning needs for