Thirteen African countries have, or should have attained Universal Primary Education (UPE) by the target date of 2015, according to a report entitled Education for All: Paving the Way for Action released today in Dakar (Senegal). However, the report finds that another 31 African countries will not have reached the goal unless they change their education policies. UPE is a priority among the six goals set by the Dakar World Education Forum in 2000, and one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, adopted in September the same year.
The report will serve as a basis for the “Dakar+5” Africa Forum organized by UNESCO’s Regional Office for Education in Africa. The Forum, which began today and will continue through June 15, will take stock of achievements made towards reaching the six goals set in 2000 when a new deal for global solidarity and responsibility was proposed. In exchange for “serious commitments” and a “credible plan” aimed at meeting the goals of EFA by 2015, donors agreed to provide necessary funding.
Among the noteworthy lessons of Education for All: Paving the Way for Action is the varying degree of improvement at all levels of education with the higher levels progressing more rapidly than the primary. Nonetheless, progress has been made in primary education with less than 10 percent of African children excluded from first year of primary school in 2002-2003 compared to approximately 25 percent in 1990-1991. But it is the higher educational levels that have shown the strongest improvement. For example: 46 percent of young people in the relevant age group are enrolled in the first year of lower secondary education compared to 28 percent in 1990-1991. Thirty nine percent are enrolled in the last year, up from 21 percent enrolled in 1990-1991. Enrolment in lower secondary school, whether measured by those both entering or leaving, increased by 18 percent, over the same period. This is almost double the percentage of those completing primary education. Other levels of education, overall, increased at a higher rate than did primary education.
According the report: “While achieving the goal of universal primary enrolment by the year 2015 demands in most cases acceleration and better targeting (improved survival) of the priority granted to primary education, efforts have been scattered over the educational pyramid resulting in lower overall efficiency.”
It further notes that those countries lagging behind in achieving universal education should base their policies on programmes that have proved effective in other African nations. Successful projects entail reform of key elements of education policy, including better distribution of educational funding, regulating the flux of pupils, improving the recruitment, training and remuneration of teaching staff.
The report is divided into analytical and statistical sections. The analytical part is comprised of a chapter exposing the problem, followed by three chapters on: the impact of education on economic and social development in the modern African context; an evaluation of and changes to the situation in the five years since the Dakar Forum; options and priorities available to decision-makers to accelerate progress towards the goals of 2015. This section also includes a chapter on the evolution of external aid. Finally the conclusion examines action of a more institutional and political type.
The statistical section has two parts: a first part by country on 53 double-page spreads, one for each State on the African continent, and a second part by indicators listed as summary tables.