Will we make it? :: Education for all | digitalLEARNING Magazine
April 2008

Will we make it? :: Education for all

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Have national governments followed up on their commitment to the EFA goals?
Has the international community provided adequate support to national governments?
Is the world, as a result, progressing towards EFA by 2015 and, if not, which are the goals that have been neglected and the countries or regions in greatest difficulty?

Education has always been a unique  ng a means of basic livelihood to a very effective way to deal with future needs of society. However, everyone knows that unless education for all is achieved, the next level to which education needs to be revamped in order to address the very same needs of society will not be feasible.

‘In April 2000 more than 1,100 participants from 164 countries gathered in Dakar, Senegal, for the World Education Forum (WEF). They affirmed their commitment to achieving Education for All (EFA) by the year 2015,”is how the legend goes on the UNESCO portal. Expanding from paradigm shifts in development programmes, the EFA represents a change over to a global ‘imperative’ that leverages universal sensibilities based on, amongst other things, factors that are propelling economies to boom. Examples of paradigm shifts in global initiatives are many, such as the change over from family planning programmes to the more holistic ‘mother and child care’ programme; or on realising that more than half the world’s work force relies on street food, the initiative to educate street hawkers and vendors on hygiene.

Meanwhile, back at WEF 2000, six key education goals were identified and were aim at meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. While a lot has happened interim, there still is a lot of ground to cover. Countries that have posted significant progress number 51 out of a total of 129, while 53 are still in the process of catching up with their targets, yet another 25 are closer to the starting point as evidenced by the EFA Development Index. The included small print here states that the Index cannot cover states in uncertain or fragile conditions or suffering from conflict or even, for that matter, recovering from conflict. Strengthening and supporting ‘fragile’ states has been an emerging priority on the EFA agenda since 2000. Such states are characterized by weak institutions, prolonged economic hardship and/or conflict, with a direct negative impact on education development. More than half a billion people are estimated to live in thirty-five fragile states.

Although the number of armed conflicts around the world is in decline, most wars continue to be fought in the developing world, with civilians suffering the most casualties. By investing in education in post-conflict situations, governments and the international community send out a forceful message about building a more peaceful future.

The four main areas that the index quantifies are universal primary education, adult literacy, gender parity and education quality. Let us take a look at where we stand viz, each of these six goals.

Early childhood care and education: Strangely indicative of the state of affairs is how early childhood care and education programmes generally do not reach the poorest and most disadvantaged children, who stand to gain the most from them in terms of health, nutrition and cognitive development. There is a paucity of policy measures aimed at providing care and education to children below the age of three. However the silver lining is that child mortality rates have dropped.

The six EFA Goals

  • Goal 1: Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children
  • Goal 2: Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
  • Goal 3: Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes
  • Goal 4: Achieving a 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
  • Goal 5: Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving 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.
  • Goal 6: Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

Immunisation campaigns and improved access to basic health facilities have led to a significant decline in child mortality. However, the comprehensive care and education of children below age 3 remains a neglected area and one difficult to monitor for want of adequate data. Meanwhile, the supply of pre-primary education to children aged 3 and above has improved, but remains very uneven. Many developing countries still have limited or non-existent pre-primary education systems; where they exist at all, too often they combine very low enrolment ratios with insufficient numbers of teachers (and even fewer trained teachers), resulting in high pupil/teacher ratios (PTRs).

Universal primary Education
Access to and participation in primary education have sharply increased since Dakar, and the number of out-of-school children dropped from 96 million to 72 million between 1999 & 2005. The Arab States, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia have shown substantial increases in enrolment ratios. However, progression through the primary grades and school completion remain important concerns nearly everywhere.

The number of countries that have made education compulsory by law has education has moved to 203, taking the overall percentage to 95% while  23 countries that lacked legal provisions for compulsory education in 2000 have made the neacessary changes. What is heartening is the speedy increase in participation levels in sub-Saharan Africa (23%) and South and West Asia (11%). However, the efficacy of the increase remains moot as in other areas such as pre-primary education, the region lags behind the others.

The number of out-of-school children went down to 72 million evidencing the inclusion of 24 million children between 1999 and 2005. In spite of the increase, substantial differences exist amidst regions depending on factors such as whether the area was rural or urban. Poorer populations and disadvantaged sections were as systematically disadvantaged as those children living in slums. Clearly, education is dependent on the political state of the country as 35 fragile states contained 37% of all out-of-school children. In further bad news, if things carry on the way they are, 58 out of 86 countries that have not yet reached universal primary enrolment will not achieve it by 2015.
Access to and participation in primary education have sharply increased since Dakar, and the number of out-of-school children correspondingly dropped from 96 million to 72 million between 1999 and 2005. Most regions are close to reaching universal primary education (UPE). In the three regions that are not – the Arab States, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia – substantial increases in enrolment ratios have taken place in many countries.

However, progression through the primary grades and school completion remain important concerns in those three regions, in Latin America and the Caribbean and in many countries in East Asia and the Pacific.

Attention is required to those fragile states, and to those countries in or emerging from conflict, for which no data are available but where the situation of primary education is bound to be worse.

Inequalities remain within countries: between regions, provinces or states; between urban and rural areas; between rich and poor households; and between ethnic groups. Recent evidence points to lower participation and completion
rates for children living in slums or belonging to poor families living in non-slum areas. Many countries with relatively high primary enrolment ratios need still to address equity issues.

Adult Literacy

With 774 million adults who lack basic literacy skills (measured by conventional methods), the growing consensus is for more direct measurement of literacy skills would significantly increase the global estimate of the number of adults denied the right to literacy. Most countries have made little progress during the past decade in reducing the absolute number of adult illiterates, with the notable exception of China. The adult literacy rate in developing countries increased from 68% to 77% between the periods  1985–1994 and 1995–2004. Of the 101 countries still far from achieving ‘universal literacy’, 72 will not succeed in halving their adult illiteracy rates by 2015.

Adult literacy remains a global issue 774 million adults (of whom 64% are women) still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. East Asia, South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are home to the vast majority of the one  in five adults worldwide who are denied the right to literacy. Except in China and a few other countries, there has been little progress during the past decade  in reducing the large number of  illiterate adults.
A noticeable fact here is that about 64% of the total number of adults lacking in literacy are women. What’s more, this figure has remained unchanged since the early 1990s. This brings us to the next important goal of the EFA, eliminating gender disparity.

Gender: Back in 2005, 59 countries had achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education. Percentage-wise, 75% of the total numbers of countries at parity or close to it at primary level, while 47% are close to reaching the goal in secondary education. However, only 18 out of 113 countries that missed the gender parity goal at primary and secondary level in 2005 stand a chance of achieving it by 2015.

The goal of eliminating gender disparities in both primary and secondary education by 2005 was missed in a great majority of countries. Only 59 countries, about one-third of the 181 countries for which data are available, had achieved the gender parity goal, very few of them since 1999. Gender disparities persist in many countries, particularly at the upper levels: while 63% of countries with data had managed to eliminate gender disparities in primary education, only 37% had done so at the secondary level.

Girls’ access to primary and secondary schools, while improving, remains a major issue in countries where overall participation levels are still low. In countries with higher participation levels (developed countries, Latin America and especially the Caribbean, the Pacific), boys’ underparticipation in secondary education is a growing problem.

Relatively low and unequal learning achievement in language and Mathematics characterised many countries worldwide. Lack of proper classroom facilities, textbooks and instruction time have prevalent in many developing countries and fragile states.

To varying degrees, all countries need to improve the quality of education. There is no single strategy, but key elements include health and safety at school, enough learning time and textbooks, skilled and motivated teachers, and effective teaching methods. To address teacher shortages and limit costs, many governments are hiring teachers on temporary contracts. In the long term, governments need a policy framework assuring the integration of contract teachers with regular teachers into one career stream. Classroom practices and curricula influence teaching and learning. Of particular importance are the use of children’s mother tongue, regular assessment, enough textbooks, and access to information and communication technology. Many countries are moving towards a system of continuous pupil assessment.
While there is a long way to go in promoting multilingualism and mother-tongue initial instruction in primary education, progress is being made.
Pupil/teacher ratios have increased in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia since 1999. Eighteen million new primary school teachers are needed worldwide to reach universal primary education by 2015.

International and regional assessments and a growing number of national assessments conducted since 1999 show that relatively poor learning outcomes in language and Mathematics, as well as other subjects, still characterise many countries worldwide. The need to improve these outcomes, especially their uneven distribution within countries, remains a salient challenge in all countries.

On average, more than 60% of countries allocate fewer than 800 yearly hours of instruction in grades 1–6, even though recent research confirms positive correlations between instructional time and learning outcomes.

Many developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, and in conflict-affected areas, have crowded classrooms, poor school infrastructure and inadequate learning environments. Acute shortages of teachers are common, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia, and even greater shortages of trained teachers in some countries hinder quality teaching and learning.

Generic changes
Changes in education spend outside of North America and Western Europe increased in about 50 countries but declined in 34 between 1999 and 2005. The sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asian regions increased their public expenditure on education by just 5% annually but even this marginal increase does not seem adequate in terms of achieving EFA goals.

On the aid front, low-income countries received on average US$3.1 billion a year in 2004 and 2005. Basis current trends, bilateral aid to basic education will likely reach US$5 billion a year in 2010. Even when multilateral aid is included, the total will still be well below the US$11 billion a year required to reach the EFA goals. Apparently aid to education is still not targeted to the neediest countries, and a minute share goes to early childhood and literacy programmes.

Key to the situation seems to be that countries with primary net enrolment ratios below 80% in 2005 but making significant progress towards UPE increased their education expenditure as a share of GNP from 3.4% in 1999 to 4.2% in 2005, on average. In countries where progress has been slower, the average share decreased.

The ultimate responsibility for achieving EFA lies with governments, but for many countries, especially the poorest, progress also relies on support from donors. Official development assistance from bilateral donors grew by 9% annually between 1999 and 2005, but preliminary data indicate a downturn in 2006. In 2005, the G8 countries made commitments to increase aid substantially through a variety of means, including traditional development assistance and debt relief. Yet donors need to accelerate plans to scale up aid to Africa if their promises are to retain credibility.

Donors and international agencies need to increase aid to basic education sharply to meet the annual external financing need of US$11 billion by 2010; to at least 10% the share of basic education in bilateral sectoral aid and improve governments’ capacity to use larger amounts of aid effectively.

Projections suggest that, without accelerated efforts:

  • 58 of the 86 countries that have not yet reached universal primary enrolment will not achieve it by 2015;
  • 72 out of 101 countries will not succeed in halving their adult illiteracy rates by 2015;
  • only 18 of the 113 countries that missed the gender parity goal at primary and secondary level in 2005 stand a chance of achieving it by 2015.

Countries making significant progress towards universal enrolment in primary education have tended to increase their education expenditure as a share of GNP. In countries where the progress has been slower, the share has decreased.

The analysis also signals that, although early childhood care and education is receiving increasing attention, participation rates remain relatively low in all developing regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia, the two regions with the lowest literacy rates and the highest number of out-of-school children, need to pay much stronger attention to the inclusion of youth and adults in basic education through literacy and other programmes.

Across the world, more than 18 million new teachers will need to be employed by 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa faces the greatest challenge. To reach  universal primary education the stock of teachers will have to increase from 2.4 million in 2004 to 4 million in 2015, in addition to the 2.1 million new teachers required to replace those leaving the teaching workforce.

Growth in per capita income across all low-income countries creates the potential for higher government expenditure on EFA, as does the increasing share of national income that governments across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa allocate to EFA. But governments face the need to spend more on secondary and tertiary education, as well as on basic education.

According to the EFA 2008 Report, ‘the gender parity goal set for 2005 has been missed. Only 59 out of 181 countries with data have no gender disparities in both primary and secondary
education. Most of these countries had already reached gender parity by 1999. Only three countries eliminated gender disparities between 1999 and 2005.

Very significant progress has been made in terms of enrolment in primary and lower secondary school, especially for girls and in some of the regions and countries that were facing the greatest challenges in 2000. A major equity challenge remains: to enrol and retain all children, especially the poor and disadvantaged, and those living in fragile states.

This year’s EFA Global Monitoring Report marks the midterm point in the international commitment to provide a quality education to all by 2015. It assesses progress towards expanding early childhood learning programmes, achieving free and universal primary education, realizing gender parity and gender equality in education, reducing adult illiteracy and improving education quality. It highlights innovative projects and strategies, and underscores the urgency of pushing forward with a common agenda for action.

The Report notes some real gains, especially in getting more children into primary school. Many governments have taken measures to reduce the cost of schooling and tackle obstacles to girls’ education. But great challenges remain. There are not enough schools, teachers and learning materials. Poverty and disadvantage remain a major barrier for millions of children and youth. Policies exist that address both access and quality, but they require much bolder action, from the earliest age, to reach the most vulnerable groups and dramatically expand literacy programmes for youth and adults.

Fields as important as early childhood care and education (ECCE) and learning opportunities for youth and adults, including in literacy, have suffered because of continued neglect from national governments and the international community. This is a further aspect of the equity challenge: giving all people an educational start (through ECCE) and compensating for past failures to do so (via youth and adult programmes, especially literacy). The quality of education is increasingly perceived as the pervasive issue, across the world. Systematic assessments of learning outcomes, which have become more frequent in recent years, show problematically low and/or unequal levels of learning in most countries. Although the proportion of an age cohort entering the first grade of primary education is high or has increased in most developing countries, many children do not complete the primary cycle and even fewer master basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Reforming classroom teaching and learning, and the management of schools, so as to reduce gender inequality and  improve the quality of education has proved difficult and not easily amenable to global policy prescriptions. The flow of external financial support for basic education grew consistently between 2000 and 2004, but declined in 2005 and remains totally inadequate overall, compared to needs, in terms of both level and allocation.

The vision of EFA has tended to be reduced to an emphasis on provision of formal schooling at primary level, which is necessary but insufficient to achieve education ‘for every citizen in every society’. This limited vision has particularly been reinforced at the international level, where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with their focus on primary education, are dominant and with the growth of the Fast Track Initiative (FTI), which also largely limits itself to primary education, albeit in a broader sectoral context.

The EFA agenda rests on a belief that public policy can radically transform education systems and their relationship to society within a few years, given adequate political will and resources. This belief extends not only to the provision of basic facilities for formal primary schooling, which several developing countries have indeed proven able to dramatically expand over short periods, but also to subtler aspects of the school system such as gender stereotypes and the relationship between teachers and pupils, on which the achievement of Goals 5 and 6, respectively, depends. While the Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework states that achieving EFA by 2015 ‘is a realistic and achievable goal’ (UNESCO, 2000a, para. 5), doubts have been expressed concerning the 2015 target; for many countries this would imply, for instance, a speedier transition from elitist to near-universal enrolment in primary education than has ever been Observed.

Global trends affecting education
The global prospect for achieving EFA is influenced by trends in such diverse and interrelated areas as demography, urbanization, migration, health, and economic and political systems. Changes in these areas, have important consequences for government resource allocation. These include population growth, urbanization and health, sustained economic growth, reduced poverty, increasing inequality, the rise of the knowledge economy, democracy and governance and finally in efforts to increase and harmonize aid.

Enormous strides have been made towards achieving universal enrolment and gender parity at the primary level, and aid has demonstrably supported effective national efforts, as the diverse examples of Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen and Zambia demonstrate. If this momentum is to be maintained and even accelerated, if it is to be complemented by progress towards the other EFA goals of quality, literacy, early childhood and the learning needs of youth and adults, and if it is to be extended to all countries, action is needed by all stakeholders at the global level and by national governments, civil society and donors at the country level.

Global priorities

All stakeholders need to ensure that:
1) EFA remains a priority on the global agenda in the face of emerging global issues such as climate change and public health. It is critical to keep up broad advocacy for EFA and to show that it can also contribute in important ways to these other dominant issues.

2) EFA as a whole is the focus and not just UPE. Since the MDGs include only UPE and gender parity, and since primary enrolment has so far been the area of greatest success, there is a danger of focusing exclusively on this one goal.

3) Policy and implementation emphasize five key factors – inclusion , literacy, quality, capacity development and finance.

a) Inclusion means encompassing: the marginalized and disadvantaged, whether they be poor, rural and urban slum  residents, ethnic and linguistic minorities, or the disabled; all age groups, from early childhood (ECCE) to adults (especially literacy); and girls and women, particularly as the 2005 gender parity goal has been missed. It is essential not to write this goal off but rather to achieve it on a new timetable.

b) Literacy is, of course, part of inclusion, but must be singled out separately as it is the most neglected goal and the world suffers the shame of having about one in five adults still not literate, despite the notable example of China.

c) Quality is now receiving increasing priority but remains a major challenge everywhere, especially in low-income countries.

d) Capacity development, increasingly the obstacle to achieving the full, challenging EFA agenda, is especially an issue as attention turns from broad system expansion alone to encompass inclusion, literacy and quality.

e) Finance is a key element when governments face the need to increase national expenditure on EFA as well as on secondary and higher education, and when aid for basic education in low-income countries must be raised to at least US$11 billion a year to
achieve EFA.

4) More focus is put on sub-Saharan Africa and on fragile states, the region and group of countries least likely to achieve the goals by 2015 or even 2025 on present trends, though other low-income countries must not be neglected.

5) The international architecture is made more effective, encompassing all of EFA and integrating the various partial initiatives, with a focus on the five priorities above. Also, with many countries extending the concept of basic education beyond primary level, the EFA agenda is moving beyond a strict interpretation of the six goals, as reflected by the increased coverage of secondary education in this Report.

While it may not be appropriate to redefine the EFA goals formally, the EFA movement can and should take account of the trend towards an extended vision of basic education in the formal sector.

Will we make it?
The evidence since Dakar is clear – determined national governments have made much progress in all regions, and increased aid aligned to national efforts has demonstrably worked to support this progress. We must maintain this momentum – and accelerate it if all the goals are to be met. Time is short.
Only if all stakeholders now embrace and maintain a relentless focus on EFA as a whole, rallying around the key elements of inclusion, literacy, quality, capacity development and finance, will the right to education at every age be fulfilled.

INDIA: Where do we stand?
It is around sixty years ago that India began its programme for providing free and compulsory education to all children by transforming the elite oriented system of school education inherited from the colonial rulers to a mass education programme. The task became a virtual race against increasing population which outstripped the pace at which children could be enrolled and educated in schools. Notwithstanding this demographic challenge, the system grew in size and with that the number of children participating in schooling also grew multifold. The struggle to reach the long cherished goal of universal elementary education continues even today.

On the policy front: Move to adopt a rights based approach
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) formulated in 1989 and the World Declaration on Education for All adopted in 1990, marked the beginning of a new era of advocacy and action in favour of children at the global level. Within India, recognition to this perspective has come with the amendment to the Constitution in 2002 making education a fundamental right of every child in the age group 6-14. The legislation ‘Right to Education’ which is under the consideration of the Government makes some concrete progress in this direction. But even more difficult is the task of determining the extent of violation of the fundamental right in case of those millions of children who remain outside the formal school either because they never get enrolled or drop out from school during the constitutionally mandated age of 6 to 14 years. Further, if one takes into cognizance the results of several achievement surveys conducted recently, what about the right of those who suffer silent exclusion even while sitting in the classrooms as the schools fail to impart any learning?

Across the world, more than 18 million new teachers will need to be employed by 2015

Mapping literacy status across Indian States
Independent India began its educational journey with a serious handicap as only around 18 per cent adults possessed basic literacy skills. The situation has vastly changed as successive generation got the opportunity to pursue school education. Thus, examining literacy status across the country indirectly reflects on the efficiency and effectiveness of the school system that has grown multi-fold during the last six decades. Over the last five decades, there has been an impressive growth in literacy in India. In 1901, a little over 5% of Indian population was literate, which increased to around 16% in 1950, a mere increase of 11 percentage points in the literacy rate during the first half of the century. In the post-independence period, the decadal growth in literacy has shown a substantial progress. In 2001, almost two-thirds of India’s population (65.38%), and around three-fourths of males (75.85%) and more than half of females (54.16%) were literate. What has been the progress since 2001?

Seven states carry the burden of two thirds of the illiterate population in the country. In fact 60 percent of the illiterate population is accounted for by the States of UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh which had been among the nine states identified as educationally backward nearly three decades ago.

Regional variations in literacy rate become more pronounced when analysis is done at the district level. According to 2001 census, around one-fifth of 591 districts6 (i.e. 81 districts) have literacy rate equal to or less than 50%; most of the low literacy districts (26 districts having literacy rate less than 40%) are located in the states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. In terms of absolute number of illiterates in 2001, the top 100 districts are found in 11 states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal (see Chart 7). These districts are home to 120.03 million illiterates (around 40% of illiterates of the country). In fact, sixty-seven districts in the country spread over 9 states are having million plus illiterates, together accounting for 88.51 million illiterates (see Map 2). These districts are spread over nine states some of which are otherwise educationally advanced. Female illiteracy rate is more than 50% (maximum of 81.51%) in 253 districts mostly located in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, J and K, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh (see Chart 3). These districts have 104.62 million female illiterates, which accounts for 54.51% of female illiterates in the country. In 17 districts, more than 3/4th of the females are illiterates.

The variation in the literacy rate across social groups and household types is also very high. In terms of social status, the population can be grouped into four categories – i.e. Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), and others. The SC and ST population are generally disadvantaged in most of the states in India. According to the 2001 Census, India has 16.2% and 8.2% of SC and ST population respectively.

Can India Achieve EFA Goals by 2015?
After sixty years the country is again at a critical juncture. The goal of universal elementary education appears to be certainly achievable. At least three factors seem to support such optimism. First, the demographic change that is unfolding across several states is quite reassuring. With falling birth rates, the reduction in demand for school places is clearly visible. This is amply evident form the estimates presented in Table 22 on the projected trajectory for achieving universal elementary education by 2015. With this comes the hope that mobilising necessary infrastructure and human resources is not beyond the realm of possibility in the near future. The second major factor supporting such a positive view is the current state of Indian economy. The fast growing economy has offered enough leeway in planning development programmes using domestic resources. This again is clearly evident from the expanding size of the fund accrued in the Prarambik Shiksha Kosh created for supporting elementary education efforts by imposing 2% education cess on all taxes collected. This indeed is a far cry from what prevailed 15 years ago with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and increased need for seeking external assistance. The third factor is the groundswell created through mass mobilization during the last 10-15 years which has begun to pay. People’s participation – those who seek education as well as those who seek to support educational activities has literally grown to enormous proportions. What about other Dakar Goals? As increase in literacy rates are closely linked to elementary school participation, and if the rate of increase in literacy rate in recent years is any indication, the Dakar goal for literacy would also be achieved with minor exceptions of some States. Move towards gender parity in participation at various levels has been quite impressive in recent years and one would foresee the country meeting the target; but the same cannot be said with regard to indicators of gender equality. Disparities in this regard are likely to persist as they are dependent on factors outside the domain of educational action linked to social and cultural practices. Nevertheless, unprecedented level of mobilization of women witnessed at the grassroots level achieved through programmes of SHG and other economic and social empowerment strategies have begun to demonstrate that even these socio-cultural hurdles can be overcome. Provision of life skill programmes for out-of-school youth and young adults is gradually picking up and is likely to take concrete shape in the nest few years under the 11th five year plan. The answer for this area seems to lie in enhanced programmes of public-private partnership on the one hand and increased involvement of NGOs on the other. The real challenge before the planners will continue to be of incorporating the most marginalized among the traditionally disadvantaged social groups and minority communities. Making available good quality education for all will of course be a long term agenda that will have to be pursued even beyond 2015. If current assessments are any indication, this is going to be the toughest challenge ahead.

Aid to basic education  in low income countries doubled between 2000 and 2004 but decreased significantly in 2005

In conclusion, it appears that National and State Governments have been till now heavily preoccupied with reporting the progress in terms of expansion of schooling facilities and coverage of children in the relevant age group. This supply-oriented approach to development of elementary education, to a large extent, has resulted in multifold expansion of the system adequate enough to accommodate all children. But, there has been probably inadequate attention towards critical issues of regional imbalances and social inequity. Attention has been missing on the marginalized areas and social groups acting in whose favour is not only desirable but would also make a significant on difference in quantitative progress. In particular, improving public institutions catering to the marginalised and the poor has remained a neglected area. What is needed at this juncture is to focus on efforts that improve the delivery system; strengthen the management of schools and teaching-learning processes in the classroom, and their impact on learning levels. Attention has to be paid to better utilisation of resources at district and sub-district levels on quality improvement progra-mmes. Education development efforts during the coming years need to focus more on these aspects with a clearly defined transformative vision. Even from cursory observations, it is clear that States which have addressed such issues in the last decade have registered greater progress than those which have invested their attention only on reporting quantitative progress by utilizing resources provided by the Centre. The two have to go hand in hand; quantitative progress without attending to processes and outcomes would only lead to unviable and unproductive structures in the long run, eventually burdening the poor and increasing inequalities. While the country would continue to face several challenges and hurdles in  these efforts, one could safely state that lack of finances is not likely to be a serious obstacle in marching towards EFA goals.

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