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World Bank Announces New Education Initiative

The World Bank announced in Dakar yesterday a “fast track” plan to jumpstart governments into providing free basic education for all children by the year 2015. Bank President James D. Wolfensohn told an international conference on education that no country with a viable and sustainable plan for achieving Education for All (EFA) will be unable to implement it for lack of external resources.

“Donors must be ready to respond more quickly and help countries which are ready to move to meet these goals,” Wolfensohn said at the World Education Forum—a follow-up to the 1990 education conference held in Thailand.

“The World Bank has fulfilled its EFA commitments made in Jomtien in 1990, and subsequently in Beijing in 1995,” Wolfensohn said. The World Bank has doubled its lending for education from $918.7 million to an average of $1.9 billion a year. “But we still have a long way to go. Too many people are still excluded from education because of poverty, poor policies, and corruption. Some 125 million children are still out of school, and nearly 1 billion are illiterate—the majority girls and women.”

“We will have to be open in the interim to innovative ideas,” he said, adding that “country ownership and leadership is key to moving forward. We must place education at the center of development.” As of now, only 3 percent of the global education funding—which totals about $120-130 billion—comes from overseas development assistance, half of which comes from the World Bank. Close to three quarters comes from governments and around one quarter from the private sector and communities.

Wolfensohn paid tribute to the efforts of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in the Global Campaign for Education. “They have played an important role in pressing for action especially on their call for free basic education as a right for all children up to age 15 by the year 2015,” he said. “They’re contributing to strengthening partnerships between all players in this most important development initiative.”

Further, Wolfensohn added that education is a critical means of addressing the challenges and opportunities of the technological revolution.

The World Education Forum convened partners from government, UN agencies, the World Bank, NGOs, and academia to determine the direction education is to take in the new millennium, both in their own countries and around the world.

Helpful links: For more on the forum, visit http://www2.unesco.org/efa/. Click here to find out more about the Bank’s work on education.

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