Oficina Internacional de Educación
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One of the undeniable successes of the Education for All (EFA) agenda has been the opening of access to formal primary education. Just over the last decade (1999-2008) 52 million more children enrolled in formal primary education. Out-of-school children declined by 39 million; with South and West Asia as well as Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for over 80 percent of this decline. North America, Western Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America are likely to reach the 2015 numeric EFA and MDG targets. Central Asia and, Central and Eastern Europe should be within close range of the target; having reached 94 percent primary Net Enrolment Rate by 2008. Access to secondary education registered modest improvement. Though with wide regional and country-level disparities, some 525 million –nearly 60 percent– of children of eligible age were enrolled by 2008. This constituted an increase of nearly 91 million since 1999.

A significant number of countries are close to gender parity at both the primary and secondary levels. All the same, the 2015 numeric target remains a challenge, especially for low income countries. 67 million children of eligible age are still not enrolled in primary schools, 74 million adolescents are out of school and some 793 million adults and 127 million youth still lack basic literacy skills.

From compelling evidence an even more daunting challenge is that while many countries have successfully enrolled millions of learners in schools, a significant majority of them are actually not effectively learning, at least not to levels commensurate to their educational attainment. This is manifest in the system’s failure to sufficiently prepare learners for subsequent levels of education, for trainability and educability, for taking up life-long learning (LLL) opportunities on their own, for the labor market and for the world of work. Due mainly to current analytical approaches and instruments, hard evidence on the general education systems’ effectiveness in producing graduates with appropriate dispositions, attitudes, aesthetics, life views and core values –peace, multiculturalism, respect for diversity and living together– remains scant.

Evidence further shows that the challenge of poor quality education, low learning effectiveness and low learning outcomes is deeper in low income countries, globally for learners from poor households and for other marginalized groups. Poor quality and ineffectiveness challenges are also most pernicious at the basic levels of education, where the majority of learners have the highest levels of participation.

Poor quality of basic education bequeaths not only poor quality to the post-basic levels but also constitutes acute exclusion of the marginalized thus aborting the social equity imperative of basic education. A stark manifestation of this reality is in the gross under-representation of learners from marginalized groups in post-basic and higher education systems, in high income jobs and from lucrative work opportunities. Unlike access, inequity of education quality, of learning experiences and of learning outcomes remains a formidable challenge for both developed and developing countries.

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