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Education For All (EFA)

What is Education for All (EFA)?
Education for All (EFA) is an international initiative first launched in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990 to bring the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society.” In order to realize this aim, a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank committed to achieving six specific education goals:

  • Expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
  • Ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality.
  • Ensure that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs.
  • Achieve a 50 % improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
  • Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
  • Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure the excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

After a decade of slow progress, the international community reaffirmed its commitment to EFA in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000 and again in September of that year. At the latter meeting, 189 countries and their partners adopted the two EFA goals that are also Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Although MDGs 2 and 3 refer only to issues of universal primary education and gender parity, respectively, the World Bank recognizes that achieving these goals requires supporting the full EFA commitment.

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Why is EFA important?

Achieving the Education for All goals is critical for attaining all 8 MDGs—in part due to the direct impact of education on child and reproductive health, as well as the fact that EFA has created a body of experience in multi-partner collaboration toward the 2015 targets. Simultaneously, achieving the other MDGs, such as improved health, access to clean drinking water, decreased poverty, and environmental sustainability, are critical to achieving the education MDGs.

Although there has been steady progress towards achieving many EFA goals, challenges remain. Today, there are about 77 million children of school age, including 44 million girls, who are still not in school due to financial, social, or physical challenges, including high fertility rates, HIV/AIDS, and conflict.

Access to schooling in developing countries has improved since 1990—some 47 out of 163 countries have achieved universal primary education (MDG 2) and an additional 20 countries are estimated to be “on track” to achieve this goal by 2015. However, huge challenges remain in 44 countries, 23 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. These countries are unlikely to achieve universal primary education by 2015 unless domestic and international efforts are accelerated substantially.

Although the gender gap in education (MDG 3) is narrowing, girls are still at a disadvantage when it comes to access and completion of both primary and secondary school. Despite recent gains in girls’ enrollment at both the primary and secondary levels—particularly in low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—24 countries are unlikely to achieve gender parity at either the primary or at secondary level by 2105. The majority of these countries (13) are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Poor learning outcomes and low-quality education also remain overriding concerns in the education sector. For example, in many developing countries, less than 60 percent of primary school pupils who enroll in first grade reach the last grade of schooling. Additionally, pupil/teacher ratios in many countries exceed 40:1 and many primary teachers lack adequate qualifications.

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What is the World Bank doing to achieve EFA?

The World Bank supports the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI) as the primary vehicle for accelerating progress toward quality, universal primary education, and other EFA goals. The Bank supports EFA through specific operations in almost 90 countries worldwide through multidimensional efforts to:

The Bank has also established a Children and Youth unit to strengthen support for nonformal education, which helps young people develop the necessary skills to improve their opportunities and transition to the labor market.

Policy work is a key component of the Bank’s work to realize EFA. This work involves analysis of individual countries’ education systems and enhancing the capacity of ministries of education to develop and implement policies and programs, as well as to generate reliable data with which to monitor and evaluate educational performance.

Work with individual countries on EFA goals requires a mutual accountability between developing countries and donors. On one hand, developing countries need to develop sound education sector programs through-broad based consultation, lead the development and implementation of a national education program, coordinate donor support, and demonstrate results on key performance indicators. On the other hand, donors need to help mobilize the additional resources needed to achieve EFA goals, work to make donor education funding more predictable, align donor work with country development priorities, and coordinate donor support around one education plan (including the harmonization of donor procedures as much as possible).

Finally, the World Bank also supports EFA efforts through analytic work and the sharing of global knowledge and good practice. The Bank’s analytic work has, for example, helped establish benchmarks for quality, efficiency, and resource mobilization in the education sector. test

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Last updated: 2009-03-01