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Tackling inequities in education

Nov 28, 2008

Despite the efforts to improve access to education, inequalities are still entrenched around the globe, notes UNESCO’s latest Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2009. Amidst declining aid flows and weak domestic policies, the report calls for linking education planning with poverty reduction strategies.

EFA Global monitoring Report 2009: Overcoming Inequality: Why Governance Matters

Publisher: UNESCO, 2008

Eight years have passed since representatives of more than 160 governments gathered at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, to adopt an ambitious Framework for Action aimed at expanding learning opportunities for children, youth and adults.

Underpinning the Framework is a commitment to inclusive and equitable education provision and opportunity for all the world’s citizens.

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This edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report identifies deep and persistent disparities based on income, gender, location, ethnicity and other markers for disadvantage as a major barrier to progress in education.

Inequity in education is linked to wider disparities in the distribution of power, wealth and opportunity. The circumstances into which children are born, the wealth of their parents, their language and the colour of their skin should not define their educational opportunities.

Wealth is not the only marker for disadvantage. Girls are still neglected in education. Gender enrolment gaps remain large across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Moreover, malnutrition has impaired brain development and thus affected learning ability of 40% of children in South Asia. High economic growth in some countries has done little to reduce child malnutrition, calling into question current public policies.

The report also documents some impressive national and regional performances. Despite a protracted civil conflict, Nepal has registered strong gains. And in a region marked by deep gender inequalities, Bangladesh has as many girls as boys reaching secondary school.

Drawing on international experience, the report identifies a range of policies to remedy extreme inequality. These include the removal of school fees for basic education, increased public investment, incentives for girls and marginalised groups, and a strengthened commitment to education quality.

The report also questions policies aimed at expanding the role of the private sector to compensate for state failure. It observes, “While private provision may have a role to play in some areas, effective and affordable public provision of basic education is the real foundation for education for all.”

The report outlines the following set of recommendations:

  • Setting time-bound ‘equity targets’ aimed at reducing disparities and carefully monitoring progress
  • Education planning has to put far higher priority on pro-poor public spending and the development of incentives targeted at the poorest and most disadvantaged
  • Strengthen the links between education planning and poverty reduction strategies
  • Reinforce the commitment to quality education for all put in place the infrastructure, teacher support and monitoring programmes needed to deliver results
  • Act on the commitment to equity in financing
Source : UNESCO
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