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close this bookWorld Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs - Final Report (UNICEF - UNDP - UNESCO - WB - WCEFA, 1990, 129 p.)
close this folder3. Education for All: The Consensus-Building - Summary of Interventions in the Plenary Commission
close this folderConcerns
View the documentMaking a Difference
View the documentEducation for All: Realities
View the documentEducation in Context
View the documentBasic Education - A Foundation
View the documentFocus on Effective Learning
View the documentBalancing Priorities: Basic and Higher Education
View the documentNew Models of Cooperation and Partnership
View the documentOutreach and Equity
View the documentEducational Channels
View the documentResources

Education for All: Realities

The Conference was considered timely by delegates, but several emphasized that without radically new approaches, recent positive changes in the international political environment would not be sufficient to prevent the critical problems facing many countries from deteriorating even further.

On the one hand, unprecedented changes in the world make it possible to foresee new forms of cooperation and new partnerships. Revived concerns about the centrality of human development in the overall development process make a new thrust in basic education a realistic goal. The creation of new knowledge and information, and the exponential growth in the capacity and reach of communications technology, provide a basis for making universal access to quality learning a possibility.

But the step from possibility to reality depends on will, innovation, and above all, resources. But at present, in the words of one delegate:

For societies grappling with economic stagnation, intractable unemployment, environmental degradation, fiscal imbalances and massive external debt, the outlook is very bleak indeed.

Rapid population growth has dire effects on coverage of the same basic education that can help to contain such growth:

In spite of the directive given in 1950 by the framers of our Constitution to provide free and compulsory education for all children by 1960, we are nowhere near providing primary education of satisfactory quality to all of our children.

While the continuing growth of our population has been a factor in this, it must be recognized that it is education, and principally of girls, and measures that lead to the economic independence of women, that are the primary elements in controlling population growth.


Additional problems include reliance on outdated agricultural technology, narrow industrial bases, and the deteriorating terms of trade which many countries, in Africa in particular, have to face.

In the field of basic education in many countries, the impact of financial and economic constraints and of the demographic explosion can be seen in declining expenditures on education, in falling enrolment rates, increasing numbers of illiterates, and a decline in the quality of teaching and training. Rapid expansion seems a distant dream in such circumstances. As one delegate put it:

We are thus faced with a formidable task of even maintaining the level of education reached both in terms of access and quality.

In such a mixed world situation, stated other delegates, a World Conference on Education for All will only succeed if the World Declaration will be useful to people around the world for several decades, and if commitment is translated into action backed by the necessary partnerships and resources to ensure that results can be produced.

Basic education should be pursued not merely as a sectoral target, but as an integral part of a human development plan.

W.H. Draper III
Administrator, UNDP