Education for all by 2015? Not happening, says Unesco

Jee Y. Geronimo
Education for all by 2015? Not happening, says Unesco
According to the UN agency, countries still lagging behind their goals must spend more on education
MANILA, Philippines – Zero out of 6.

With less than a year before the global deadline, Unesco said not a single goal of the Education for All (EFA) initiative will be met by 2015.

The Department of Education (DepEd) released on Tuesday, April 8, the 11th EFA global monitoring report which “makes it clear” that while there have been advances in education since the commitment in 2000, people in the most marginalized groups are still denied education opportunities.

“57 million are still failing to learn simply because they are not in school,” Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova said in the report.

She also mentioned how, aside from access, poor quality of education is still a crisis. “One third of primary school children are not learning the basics, whether they have been to school or not.”

EFA is one of the many efforts being made to achieve 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

Behind schedule

The report gave updates on how countries are faring when it comes to all 6 EFA goals.

Goal 1: Expand early childhood care and education

The report showed many children still lack early childhood care and education, and only 48% of 141 countries are projected to reach the 2015 target.

In 2012:

  • 6.6 million children still died before their 5th birthday
  • 162 million children under 5 were still malnourished, with 3/4 of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia
  • 25% of children under 5 suffered from stunting
  • The number of children enrolled in pre-primary schools grew by almost 60 million since 1999
  • There is a wide gap in enrollment between the richest and poorest in many parts of the world

(Read more stories about early childhood care on Rappler’s #HungerProject)

Goal 2: Provide free and compulsory primary education for all

Universal primary education is likely to be missed by a wide margin, with 57 million children still out of school as of 2011.

Half of the number, according to the report, live in conflict-affected countries, while more than half or 54% are girls. By 2015, only 56% of 122 countries are expected to meet the 2nd goal. 

Goal 3: Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults

According to the report, 69 million adolescents are out of school even if lower secondary schooling is deemed the most effective way to acquire foundation skills.

It is expected that only 46% of 82 countries will achieve universal lower secondary education by 2015.

In the Philippines, DepEd is set to bring 1 million out-of-school youth back to school this year. (READ: DepEd 2014 target: Get 1M dropouts back to school)


Goal 4: Increase adult literacy by 50%

The 4th goal hardly improved, the report showed, with 774 million illiterate adults all over the world as of 2011. Almost 2/3 of the number are women.

By 2015, the number of illiterate adults is projected to decline to 743 million, with only 29% of 87 countries expected to achieve universal adult literacy. 5 countries of West Africa have the world’s lowest literacy rates (below 35%).

Goal 5: Achieve gender parity by 2005, gender equality by 2015

Gender parity, or the equal enrollment of girls and boys in school, was supposed to be achieved by 2005, but it is expected that by 2015, 21% of countries will still experience gender disparity both in the primary and secondary levels.

Goal 6: Improve the quality of education

The report showed around 250 million children are unable to read, write, or do basic mathematics despite 130 million of them spending at least 4 years in school. This costs around US$129 billion annually, Unesco said.

As of 2011, 26 of 162 countries have a student-teacher ratio in primary education exceeding 1:40, while the ratio at the secondary level is beyond 1:30 in 14 countries out of 130.

Recent trends showed a rapid increase in the number of teachers in schools, but countries have been hiring even those without proper training. Less than 75% of primary teachers in one-third of countries with data are trained according to national standards, while 11 of 60 countries had less than 50% of their secondary teachers trained.

Teacher, education support

But evidence points to teacher support as the key to improving education quality.

“Governments must step up efforts to recruit an additional 1.6 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015,” Bokova said. 

To do this, the report identified 4 strategies. According to Bokova:

  1. The right teachers must be selected to reflect the diversity of the children they will be teaching.
  2. Teachers must be trained to support the weakest learners, starting from the early grades.
  3. Inequalities in learning must be overcome by allocating the best teachers to the most challenging parts of a country.
  4. Governments must provide teachers with the right mix of incentives to encourage them to remain in the profession and to make sure all children are learning, regardless of their circumstances.

“These policy changes have a cost. This is why we need to see a dramatic shift in funding. Basic education is currently underfunded by $26 billion a year, while aid is continuing to decline,” Bokova noted.

For Unesco, countries still lagging behind their goals must spend more on education.

Since the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action failed to specify how much countries should commit to education, the post-2015 target must be for all countries to allocate at least 6% of their Gross National Product (GNP) to education. 

As of 2011, only 41% of 150 countries spent this much or more on education, while 25 countries dedicated less than 3%. 

In the Philippines, education is among the top 3 areas of focus when it comes to budget allocation. But as of 2012, the Freedom from Debt Coalition said the country spends only 2.2% of GNP on public education – a “far cry from the international benchmark.” –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.