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Education for All: A Test for the G8

Available in:  Russian

By Ruth Kagia, Director of the World Bank’s Education Department.
Commentary published in Russia's “Vedomosti” newspaper, 01.06.2006

Education has been proposed by Russia as one of three key initiatives for its 2006 G8 Presidency. This is fitting and a welcome development given that the countries wishing to become major players in today’s globalised, digitized world, are energetically re-invigorating their education systems. But this is a two-speed process because we live in two worlds, one rich, the other poor.  And the gap between these worlds is likely to grow unless the wealthy countries mobilize to include the poorest people worldwide into the mainstream of the knowledge economy. As Heads of State from the world’s richest nations reflect on their upcoming G8 Summit meeting in St. Petersburg in July this year, developing countries will be hoping that education, and its power to create a tide that lifts all their boats, will be uppermost in their agenda.

One  way G-8 leaders could do this would be by delivering on a promise, amplified time and time again since the 2000 UN Millennial Summit, to help all countries achieve Education for All (EFA).  Of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the EFA goal is not only the one that stands the best chance of being achieved but also the one with the greatest impact on the achievement of other MDGs. It calls for primary education enrollment by 2015 for all children including the 100 million boys and girls, who are currently not enrolled in primary school. 

EFA, FTI, MDG?
Frequently Asked Questions
about education programs at
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Though welcome progress has been made at least 44 countries will not achieve EFA by 2015 on their own. A particular case in point is Africa, where more than 20 countries have adult illiteracy levels of 50 percent or more. Though many G8 members have taken laudable action to address the EFA agenda, their total response falls far short of the promise. Thus, the St. Petersburg summit presents an opportunity to generate more support for EFA goals by G8 leaders and by the international development community.

Education is the most powerful way of transforming the lives of poor people across the world. Educated men and women earn far more throughout their lives, and participate more fully in their communities than those who are uneducated. Education that reaches women, the poor, and marginalized groups not only benefits them directly but it contributes to a more equitable and just society.  A five year old child growing up in Australia, Finland, or United Kingdom today can expect to receive more than 19 years of education, while a five year old from Mozambique, Mali, or Cambodia can expect barely five years of schooling in their lifetime.  

  Improving education in Eastern Europe
 and the Former Soviet Union

 A selection of active World Bank projects:
blue RUSSIAN FEDERATION: E-learning Support 
blue TURKEY: Basic Education 2Secondary Education
blue UKRAINE: Equal Access to Quality Education
blue ROMANIA: Knowledge Economy
blue CROATIA: Education Sector Development 

 Search the Projects Database for other education
projects in different countries.

Education is a well tested channel for transmitting culture and values and a means to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.  This channel should start working as over the next thirty years, the world’s population will vault from 6 to 8 billion people, with most of these new people living in the poorest countries. A key question then is whether they can become a national and international asset in the service of their global community or a liability for the rest of the world? 

Then there are the young people who make up half of all people living in the developing world.  If their energies and talents are properly harnessed through good quality education, they will become tomorrow’s leaders and innovators and their countries have better chances in global economic development.  If neglected, or poorly educated, they not only become a source of risk to themselves and others but also represent missed economic and social opportunities. 

Education is the best so-called “social vaccine” against HIV/AIDS and a means to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy.  Good quality education can secure a promising future for our young people worldwide, who we should remember are tomorrow’s priceless global family.

It is essential that all countries achieve the goal of Education for All (EFA) of primary school completion for all children by 2015. Addressing this challenge requires strong country commitment and leadership and generous, predictable, and long-term development aid . This was the mutual accountability compact on which the EFA Fast Track Initiative (FTI) was endorsed by the G8 in Kananaskis in 2002.

       If properly educated, young people
will become tomorrow's leaders and
innovators and their countries will grow

The FTI was created to fill financing, policy, data and capacity gaps in achieving EFA by coordinating the efforts of developing country governments, donors and civil society around the common goal of accessible and quality primary education. FTI assists the developing countries in elaboration of national education sector strategies, in setting priorities and to take budget accountability and a greater commitment for education sector development. Thus FTI provides the donors with a framework for coordinated and increased financial support in a more effective and predictable manner. While FTI is a multi-agency effort its coordination is placed with The World Bank that has a long-standing experience of assisting various countries to develop their education systems.

But FTI, and EFA more generally, remain grossly under funded.  Worldwide estimates indicate that an absolute minimum of US$3.7 billion per year of external financing would be required for basic education through 2015 for all low-income countries to achieve universal primary education. 

But EFA is not an end in itself but a necessary foundation for dynamic, learning societies.  The basic tools provided by primary education are no longer sufficient for people entering the labor market.  Secondary schooling is essential to spur development in the 21st century. About 80 percent of the fastest growing jobs of the future will require some post secondary education.  Countries wishing to become active players in today’s knowledge societies must cover all levels of education and training– from early childhood development and basic education, all the way to secondary and tertiary education and including lifelong learning opportunities.  Such education needs to be nested within the nation’s broader macroeconomic and social context and linked to a robust research and innovation framework

 Russia has demonstrated a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the area of education from the first days its G8 Presidency and the new role of Russia as emerging donor for education is very much welcomed. Russia active support would also be essential as the G-8’s finance and education ministers begin to meet in earnest, to prepare the agenda for a successful summit by their leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia, in mid-July. Poor people the world over will be hoping that an epic undertaking to expand the reach and quality of education—arguably the ‘best-buy’ in modern development—will be one of the key deliverables coming out of this all-important world forum.

* * *

Also read:
Public Financial Support for Commercial Innovation (March 2006)
The tradition of excellence in learning and basic research in the ECA region provides some basis for hope that commercial innovation can be adopted and built “on the shoulders” of the past. Translating this research foundation into economically productive commercial applications, however, remains a critical missing link in transition countries.

 Millennium Development Goals: Progress and Prospects in ECA (Sept. 2005)
Universal primary education appears achievable across most of the region, although in several countries, primarily the lower-income CIS countries, improvements in enrollments and completion rates need to accelerate.

 




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