12 November 2004
The 2005 Education for All Global Monitoring Report was launched. The Report, which monitors progress towards the six Education for All goals, finds that significant efforts are being made to increase resources, broaden access to school and improve gender parity. However, exhaustive analysis of research data shows that the quality of education systems is failing children in many parts of the world, and could prevent many countries from achieving Education for All by the target date of 2015.
The quest to achieve Education for All (EFA) is fundamentally about assuring that children, youth and adults gain the knowledge and skills they need better their lives and to play a role in building more peaceful and equitable societies. This is why focusing on quality is an imperative for achieving As many societies strive to universalise basic education, they face the momentous challenge of providing conditions where genuine learning can take place for each and every learner.
The six goals adopted at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000, implicitly or explicitly integrate a quality dimension. Goal 6, in particular, commits countries, with the support of their EFA partners, to improve all aspects of the quality of education. The benefits of early childhood, literacy and life-skills programmes largely depend on the quality of their contents and of their teachers. Reducing gender disparities in education relies strongly on strategies that address inequalities in the classroom in society. Primary and secondary education – the central planks of most education systems – are expected to ensure that all pupils acquire the knowledge, skills and necessary for the exercise of responsible citizenship.
Although much debate surrounds attempts to define education quality, solid common ground exists, as this third issue of the EFA Global Monitoring Report makes clear. Quality must be seen in light of how societies define the purpose of education. In most, two principal objectives are at stake: the first is to ensure the cognitive development learners. The second emphasises the role of education in nurturing the creative and emotional growth of learners and in helping them to acquire values and attitudes responsible citizenship. Finally, quality must pass the test of equity: an education system characterized by discrimination against any particular group is not fulfilling its mission. The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005 gives powerful evidence of why quality matters for reaching a wide set of individual and development goals, and identifies policy areas that directly impact on learning.
This Report tells both a quantitative and a qualitative story. First, that the number out-of-school children is declining too slowly to achieve universal primary education 2015. Second, that despite progress, no country outside the developed word has achieved the four measurable EFA goals. Improving the quality of learning through inclusive, holistic policies is an overriding priority in a majority of countries. The Report highlights a number of urgent needs - for more and better trained teachers, for improved textbooks available to all learners, for pedagogical renewal and for more welcoming learning environments. While no reform comes without cost, better learning outcomes have achieved in very diverse political contexts, and in societies with greatly varying degrees of wealth.
UNESCO gives very high priority to improving the quality of education. The prestigious International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century (1996), under the chairmanship of Jacques Delors, gave an important and influential lead. My structural reform of the Education Sector at UNESCO included the creation of a transversal Division for the Promotion of Quality Education. In 2003, during the 32nd Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, Ministers of Education from over 100 countries participated in a round table to reflect on strategies for steering their systems towards better quality. And, most recently, the 47th session of the International Conference on Education, held in Geneva on 8-11 September 2004 and organized by the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, was devoted to the theme of ‘Quality education for all young people: challenges, trends and priorities’.
Every investment in basic education must be measured against how well it serves both to expand access to education and to improve learning for all children, youth and adults. This endeavour begins at home, with a national consensus on quality and a robust long-term commitment to achieve excellence. However, the international community must also give strong and consistent support to countries that are boldly seeking to expand and improve learning for all of their citizens.
I am confident that this Report provides a comprehensive reference to assist national and international decision-makers in defining education priorities that will ultimately shape the well-being of our societies.
Koïchiro Matsuura Director-General of UNESCO
We are indebted to John Daniel and Aicha-Bah Diallo, former and acting Assistant Directors-General for Education and to Abhimanyu Singh, Director of UNESCO’s Division of International Coordination and Monitoring for Education for All, and their colleagues for their support in the preparation of this Report.
The Report benefited strongly from the advice of the international Editorial Board and its former and present chairpersons Anil Bordia and Ingemar Gustafson, as well as from in-depth guidance from a small advisory group composed of Beatrice Avalos, Martin Carnoy, Krishna Kumar, Marlaine Lockheed, Jaap Scheerens, and Mary Joy Pigozzi from UNESCO.
The EFA Report depends greatly on the work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). Denise Lievesley, Simon Ellis, Albert Motivans Alison Kennedy, Said Belkachla, Said Ould Voffal, Ioulia Sementchouk, Weixin Lu and their colleagues contributed significantly to this Report, particularly in the preparation of chapter 3 and the statistical tables.
Special thanks are due to all those who prepared background papers, notes and boxes for the Report. These were:
Kwame Albert Akyeampong, Terry Allsop, Massimo Amadio, Allison Andersen- Pillsbury, David Atchoarena, Peter Badcock-Walters, Aaron Benavot, Paul Bennell, Carol Benson, Roy Carr-Hill, Linda Chisholm, Mariana Cifuentes, Christián Cox, Charlotte Creed, Anton De Grauwe, Jean-Marie De Ketele, Martial Dembélé, Gusso Divonzir, Alicia Fentiman, Clermont Gauthier, Marelize Görgens, Gilbert Grandguillaume, Sky Gross, Jacques Hallak, Eric Hanushek, Wim Hoppers, Michael Kelly, Krishna Kumar, Sylvie Lambert, Scherezad Latif, Keith Lewin, Shay Linehan, Robert Litteral, Angela Little, Todd Lubart, Phyllis Magrab, Robert Myers, Boubacar Niane, Kicki Nordström, Miki Nozawa, John Oxenham, Christine Panchaud, Kamala Peiris, Joel Pii, Muriel Poisson, Mathilde Poncet, Neville Postlethwaite, Bill Ratteree, Patrick Ressler, Diane Richler, Padma Sarangapani, Jaap Scheerens, Ernesto Schiefelbein, Maria Teresa Siniscalco, Tuomas Takala, Peter Taylor, Nhung Truong, Duncan Wilson, Siri Wormnæs.
The Report also benefited considerably from the advice and support of individuals, Divisions and Units within UNESCO’s Education Sector, the International Institute of Educational Planning, IIEP, the International Bureau of Education, IBE and the UNESCO Institute of Education, UIE. UNESCO’s Regional Offices provided helpful advice on country-level activites and helped facilitate commissioned studies.
A number of individuals also contributed valuable advice and comments. These were:
Eric Allemano, Samer Al-Samarrai, David Atchoarena, Rosemary Bellew, Julia Benn, Nancy Birdsall, Cecilia Braslavsky, Mark Bray, Françoise Caillods, Luis Crouch, Bridget Crumpton, Michel Debeauvais, Kenneth Eklind, Dalia Elbatal, Robin Ellison, Paolo Fontani, Richard Halperin, Yoshie Kaga, Stefan Lock, Ute Meir, Peter Moock, Hena Mukerjee, Saul Murimba, Paud Murphy, Miki Nozawa, Petra Packalén, Chantal Pacteau, Ioana Parlea, Mary Joy Pigozzi, Robert Prouty, Abby Riddell, Beverly Roberts, Mark Richmond, Clinton Robinson, Kenn Ross, Paolo Santiago, Simon Scott, Francisco Seddoh, Sheldon Shaeffer, Madhu Singh, Soo Hyang Choi, Benoît Sossou, Adriaan Verspoor, Sue Williams, Cream Wright.
The production of the Report benefited greatly from the editorial expertise of Rebecca Brite. Wenda McNevin and Paul Snelgrove also provided valuable support. We would also like to thank Sonia Fernandez-Lauro and her colleagues in the Education Documentation Centre for their considerable support and assistance.
The analysis and policy recommendations of this Report do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO. The Report is an independent publication commissioned by UNESCO on behalf of the international community. It is the product of a collaborative effort involving members of the Report Team and many other people, agencies, institutions and governments. Overall responsibility for the views and opinions expressed in the Report is taken by its Director.
For more information about the Report, please contact:
The Director EFA Global Monitoring Report Team c/o UNESCO, 7 place de Fontenoy 75352 Paris 07, France e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Tel.: +33 1 45 68 21 28 www.efareport.unesco.org Fax: +33 1 45 68 56 27
Previous EFA Global Monitoring Reports 2003/4. Gender and Education for All – THE LEAP TO EQUALITY 2002. Education for All – IS THE WORLD ON TRACK?
In the many countries that are striving to guarantee all children the right to education, the focus on access often overshadows the issue of quality. Yet quality stands at the heart of Education for All. It determines how much and how well students learn, and the extent to which their education achieves a range of personal, social and development goals. This Report sets the quality debate in its historical context and offers a map for understanding, monitoring and improving quality (Chapter 1). It synthesizes current knowledge about the factors that influence quality (Chapter 2) and describes policy options for improving it, focusing on resource-constrained countries (Chapter 4). The extent to which the international community is supporting education in these countries is then analyzed (Chapter 5). As in the two previous editions, the Report monitors progress towards the six EFA goals adopted at Dakar in 2000, with more in-depth attention to quality indicators (Chapter 3). The Education for All Development Index, introduced in the previous Report, provides a summary overview of progress towards four of the Dakar goals in 127 countries.
Understanding education quality
The goal of achieving universal primary education (UPE) has been on the international agenda since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed, in 1948, that elementary education was to be made free and compulsory for all children. This objective has been restated many times in international treaties and United Nations conference declarations. Many of these instruments, however, remain focused upon the quantitative aspects of education policy. Most recently, the United Nations Millennium Declaration set out the commitment to achieve UPE by 2015, without specific reference to its quality.
Other important instruments do emphasize the importance of quality, however. Goal 2 of the Dakar Framework for Action (2000) commits nations to the provision of primary education ‘of good quality’, and goal 6 includes commitments to improve all aspects of education quality ‘so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.’
A new consensus and impetus is building up around the imperative to improve the quality of education. How well students are taught and how much they learn are likely to have a crucial impact upon the length and value of their schooling experience. Quality can influence parents’ choice to invest in their children’s education. The range of intrinsic and social benefits associated with education, from better protection against disease to higher personal income, is strongly dependent on the quality of the teaching-learning process.
Although there is no single definition of quality, two principles characterize most attempts to define the objectives of education. The first, which identifies learners’ cognitive development as the major explicit objective of all education systems, sees the success with which systems achieve this as one indicator of their quality. The second emphasizes the role of education in promoting commonly shared values along with creative and emotional development – objectives whose achievement is much more difficult to assess. Common ground is also found in the broadly shared objectives that tend to underpin debates about quality: respect for individual rights, improved equity of access and of learning outcomes, and increased relevance. These principles have been integrated into the aims of education set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), which underpins the current positions on quality held by UNESCO and UNICEF.
The various approaches regarding quality have their roots in different traditions of educational thought. Humanist approaches, behaviourist theory, sociological critiques of education and challenges to the legacies of colonialism have each enriched the quality debate and spawned distinct visions of how the objectives of education should be achieved.
To reconcile a range of approaches, the Report adopts a framework that takes into account five major factors affecting quality: learners, whose diversity must be recognized; the national economic and social context; material and human resources; the teaching and learning process and the outcomes and benefits of education. By focusing on these dimensions and how they interact, it is possible to draw up a comprehensive map for understanding, monitoring and improving quality.
The importance of good quality: what research tells us
Extensive research in a range of traditions has been conducted over the past forty years on how better education affects development outcomes and what factors are influential in improving quality.
The evidence is clear-cut on the links between good education and a wide range of economic and social development benefits. Better school outcomes – as represented by pupils’ achievement test scores – are closely related to higher income in later life. Empirical work has also demonstrated that highquality schooling improves national economic potential. Strong social benefits are equally significant. It is well known that the acquisition of literacy and numeracy, especially by women, has an impact upon fertility. More recently, it has become clear that the cognitive skills required to make informed choices about HIV/AIDS risk and behaviour are strongly related to levels of education and literacy.
Test scores provide one important measure of how well the curriculum is being learned, and help to indicate achievement at the main exit points of the school system. A number of international assessments facilitate comparisons of learning achievements among countries and over time. They reveal, for example, that education quality in Africa has been particularly challenged in recent years, with declines in literacy achievement scores between 1995/96 and 2000/01 in one sample of countries. Several lessons can be drawn from studying the results of international tests over time. First, socio-economic status is very influential in determining achievement in all contexts. Second, the class time spent on mathematics, science and language strongly affects performance. Third, the teacher’s gender has an impact in many lowerincome countries. Several studies also show that the impact of pupils’ socio-economic background can be partly offset by a better school climate, stronger support to teachers, greater school autonomy and additional resources, especially textbooks.
Identifying the best ways to improve learning outcomes has been tackled in many different ways. No general theory as to what determines the quality of education has been validated by empirical research. Many approaches in the economic tradition have assumed there is a workable analogy between schools and industrial production, in the sense that a set of inputs to schooling is transformed by teachers and pupils into a set of products, or outputs, in a fairly uniform way.
Common sense would suggest that the more resources spent per student, the better their performance. In eleven OECD countries, however, mathematics and science test scores generally fell over the quarter century ending in 1995, even though in many cases per pupil spending more than doubled. In developing countries, more positive links are apparent: a majority of studies suggest that cognitive achievement (as measured by standardized tests) increases as school expenditure, teacher education and school facilities are enhanced. Even here, however, there are few uncontested results. Other evidence from a growing body of experimental studies conducted in lowincome countries shows that achievement is significantly improved by textbook provision, reduction of class size and child-friendly remedial education.
And yet schools are not factories producing outputs according to recipe in a technically deterministic way. A strong research tradition has sought to unpack the ‘black box’ of education by focusing on the learning process itself – the creative interaction between pupils and teachers in the classroom – with a view to drawing lessons from success. This research shows that good primary schools are typically characterized by strong leadership, an orderly and secure classroom environment, emphasis on acquiring basic skills, high expectations regarding pupils’ attainment and frequent assessment of their progress. How well teachers master the curriculum, the level of their verbal skills and their expectations of students all contribute to school quality.
Finally, the social context of the school deserves attention. Studies in the sociology of education suggest that students whose family background and peer group have ideals close to those promoted by their school will tend to achieve higher levels of cognitive skills than others, who may try to escape the contradiction by rebelling. The need for education to be built around an explicit social goal presents challenges for the quality of schooling that cannot be addressed by technical means alone.
Case studies from eleven countries provide insights into how both rich and lower-income nations tackle quality. In countries with high rates of achievement, the quality of the teaching profession receives consistent attention. The experience of such countries also suggests that successful qualitative reforms require a strong leading role by government and a robust long-term vision for education.
Assessing progress towards the EFA goals
This chapter provides an account of progress towards the six EFA goals based on the most recent global education data, for the 2001/02 school year, with particular attention to quality indicators (see box, Accurate, timely and consistent data).
The expansion of schooling is leading to a slow reduction in the number of out-of-school children of primary-school age, which dropped from 106.9 million in 1998 to 103.5 million in 2001 – a rate that appears insufficient to achieve UPE by 2015. Girls account for 57% of this group (more than 60% in the Arab States and in South and West Asia), and their participation in primary education is still substantially lower than that of boys in seventy-one out of 175 countries. With only three exceptions, all the countries with a gender parity index below 0.90 are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South and West Asia. Completion of primary schooling remains a major cause for concern: delayed enrolment is widespread, survival rates to grade 5 are low (below 75% in thirty of the ninety-one countries with data) and grade repetition is frequent.
Quality is reflected by a range of indicators, including government spending on education, pupil/teacher ratios, teacher qualifications, test scores and the length of time pupils spend in school. Public expenditure on education represent a higher proportion of GDP in rich countries that have already achieved EFA goals (regional median: 5.52% in North America and Western Europe) than in poorer countries that need to sharply expand under-resourced school systems (regional medians: 3.3% in sub-Saharan Africa, 3.9% in East Asia and the Pacific).
The quality of teachers remains poor in many resource-constrained systems. The qualifications required to become a government primary-school teacher are variable, but they are often not met. Insufficient mastery of the curriculum is widespread. The HIV/AIDS crisis is aggravating teacher absenteeism. The large class sizes observed in primary schools of many low-income countries (e.g. one teacher for sixty pupils) are not conducive to adequate learning. In countries with the highest pupil-teacher ratios, barely one in three students who starts primary reaches grade 5. The absolute number of teachers also remains problematic in the countries that still need to significantly expand coverage.
Evidence from data on national and international assessments suggests that in too many countries, children are not mastering basic skills. Low achievement is widespread and most seriously affects countries where school systems are weak in terms of enrolment and available school resources.
Combining enrolments by age at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education shows that the world’s children gained a year of school life expectancy in the 1990s. The world average is 9.2 years of primary plus secondary education. A child in sub-Saharan Africa can expect to receive, on average, five to six fewer years of primary and secondary schooling than a child in Western Europe or the Americas.
Achieving higher levels of school participation is also tied to improving early childhood care and education programmes, yet progress towards wider access to them remains slow. Adult literacy, a desirable goal in its own right, also has a strong impact on children’s education. Yet the world counts about 800 million illiterate adults1; 70% of them living in just nine countries belonging mostly to sub-Saharan Africa and East, South and West Asia.
Introduced in the 2003 EFA Global Monitoring Report, the Education for All Development Index (EDI) provides a summary quantitative measure of the extent to which countries are meeting four of the six EFA goals (UPE, gender, literacy and quality). It shows that massive educational deprivation continues to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, some of the Arab States and South and West Asia. Progress between 1998 and 2001 was widespread but not universal. About three-quarters of the seventy-four countries having the data registered a modest increase in their index value but at a rate insufficient to reach the EFA goals.
1. UIS has re-estimated the number of illiterates, using the latest data revisions. The present estimate is considerably lower than the 862 million for 2000 given in EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/4. This is a consequence of several factors, notably the release of literacy data from recent censuses and surveys in many countries. For instance, China’s 2000 census resulted in the UIS estimate of the number of adult illiterates in the country decreasing by over 50 million.
Policies for better quality
Governments of low-income countries and others with severe resource constraints face difficult choices. This chapter sets out some priorities for policy that are not necessarily beyond such countries’ reach. It starts by positioning learners at the heart of the learning experience. This may seem obvious but it is not always the reality. HIV/AIDS, disability, conflict and child labour place millions of children in a state of extreme vulnerability. Accordingly, policies must be inclusive, responding to the diverse needs and circumstances of all learners.
Priority must be given first and foremost to the spaces where teaching and learning actually take place. This includes attention to defining appropriate goals and relevant content. As a crucial correlate of achievement, instruction time deserves attention. Although 850-1,000 hours per year is a broadly agreed benchmark for minimum instruction time, this goal is not reached in many countries.
Across the world, commonly used styles and methods of teaching are not serving children well. In the spectrum running from traditional ‘chalkand- talk’ teaching to ‘open-ended instruction’, many educators advocate structured teaching – a combination of direct instruction, guided practice and independent learning. Pedagogically sound language policy – allowing children to learn in their mother tongue for at least their first few school years – has a positive impact on learning. Regular assessments are also key to improving both teaching and learning.
Investment in teachers is critical. Balancing time and money spent on initial training and ongoing professional support is a key policy question. There is room to strengthen the emphasis on schoolbased training. Incentives to join the profession are closely tied to pay and conditions of service. In many resource-constrained countries, teachers’ earnings are too low to provide a reasonable standard of living. What is more, teachers’ pay has tended to decline over time relative to that of comparable groups. In some cases the problem can be lessened by improving central support to the management and supervision of schools and by assuring more timely payment of salaries. In other cases, multigrade and double-shift teaching can reduce unit costs if carefully implemented. Ensuring that all schools have teachers may also require incentives to work in rural environments.
Learning materials strongly affect what teachers can do. In this regard, national policies can encourage local publishing and increase the availability of textbooks. Equally important is the provision of basic sanitation, a sound infrastructure and other facilities to make schools safe and welcoming.
Schools need help to find their own solutions to improving quality, within well-defined accountability frameworks. Head teachers are critically important to this endeavour. Greater autonomy can make a difference provided that schools are well supported and have established capacity and strong leadership. Investment in services, networks and structures to develop and share educational knowledge can enable schools to make much better use of their resources, to learn from each other and to better inform policy.
Although all these policy reforms entail costs, a first step is to create a national consensus concerning quality. From this basis, priorities in a given society can be addressed. Any reform to improve quality should pay attention to establishing dialogue with teachers, strengthening accountability and combating corruption. Strategies must fit into a sound, coherent long-term vision of education and be backed by strong political commitment.
Meeting our international commitments The dual challenge of improving quality and expanding access in an equitable way requires a level of sustained investment that is currently beyond the reach of a large number of countries. This chapter takes stock of aid flows, analyses efforts to improve coordination among donors and with governments, and reviews evidence on the effectiveness of aid for education.
Recent estimates of the additional resources likely to be forthcoming in the follow-up to the 2002 International Conference on Finance for Development in Monterrey, together with those that could arise if the proposed International Finance Facility comes into existence, suggest that total aid to basic education could double, reaching about US$3–3.5 billion by 2006. This represents a substantial, if theoretical, level of increase. However, it remains well short of the US$7 billion per year in external aid to basic education that is likely to be required if universal participation in primary education of a reasonable quality is to be achieved by 2015, let alone the other EFA goals. The likely shortage of resources means a particular premium on ensuring that aid is used as effectively as possible and that it is directed towards the countries that most need it.
The objective of improving education quality is often not well served by current aid practice. First, many donors spread their aid across a large number of countries. This results in relatively high transaction costs within agencies. It can also place a heavy administrative burden on recipient governments dealing with multiple donors, each with its own procedures. Better coordinated aid provided by fewer agencies in individual countries is needed. Second, external models of good practice in education, advocated without any particular consistency by different groups of agencies, are often insufficiently attuned to local circumstances.
Sector-wide approaches are strengthening national ownership of policy and providing opportunities for donors to address the issue of quality holistically. On the other hand, this process involves intensive policy dialogue and the potential for undue donor influence, which can challenge local ownership of the process. Better harmonization and coordination among donors, support to governments where financial management is weak, and closer monitoring of the quality dimension are ways to make aid contribute more effectively to better learning outcomes.
Towards EFA: the quality imperative
Whether a particular education system is of high or low quality can be judged only in terms of the extent to which its objectives are being met. Quality must also be judged in the mirror of equity. An education system in which there is gender inequality or discrimination against particular groups on ethical or cultural grounds is not a high-quality system. A shift towards equity represents, in itself, an improvement in the quality of education.
From a policy perspective, one fundamental reason why simply focusing upon the quantitative dimension of UPE and the other goals will not deliver EFA is that, in many parts of the world, an enormous gap prevails between the numbers graduating from schools and those among them who can master a minimum set of cognitive skills.
Governments committed to improving learning outcomes face difficult choices, but policies exist that are not necessarily beyond the reach of the most resource-constrained countries. They start with a focus on the learner and place emphasis on the dynamics of teaching and learning, supported by a growing body of research on what makes schools and teachers effective.
Links among different parts of the education sector can help improve quality but they are often hidden or ignored by the compartmentalised machinery of government. ECCE helps with subsequent achievement in school and further lifelong learning. Literacy improves adults’ commitment to their children’s education and is desirable in its own right. Gender-sensitive and inclusive policies directly improve the quality and outcomes of education.
Successful qualitative reforms require government to play a strong leading role. Although external assistance can boost resource levels and help in managing school systems, it cannot make up for the absence of a societal project for educational improvement. Accordingly, the domestic political process is ultimately the guarantor of successful reform. If it favours educational change, the chances that external assistance will facilitate a move towards higher-quality universal education are profoundly better than is the case where such political circumstances are