Josef Müller

The comparison between the Frameworks for Action of Jomtien ten years ago, and Dakar 2000, will be of particular interest to those concerned with the written word. The Jomtien Framework was reprinted in issue 54/2000 of Adult Education and Development, on pp. 123–134, and Dakar is to be found here. This comparison faced Dr Josef Müller with a challenge in that he had a voice in the Jomtien Conference. In the last section of his article he now writes that “None of the targets of Jomtien has been fully achieved.” Let us hope that we shall not need to say that about Dakar in 2015. We have known the author for long enough to be certain that there is no hint of resignation in his statement.

From Jomtien to Dakar
Meeting Basic Learning Needs – of Whom?

“Education for All is still a distant dream.
Jomtien has lost nothing of its wisdom”.

(Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General UNESCO)

“We have come a long way on EFA,
but we still have a long way to go”.

(James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank)

Ten years after the World Conference on “Education for All” in Jomtien the World Education Forum in Dakar provided an opportunity to assess the achievements and failures of the “Jomtien Decade”, and to draw the lessons for future attempts to carry the expanded vision of education forward into the beginning 21st century.

The importance of education is obvious. Education is a fundamental right. No country has succeeded without educating its people. Education is the key to sustaining growth and reducing poverty (Wolfensohn). Education helps to improve security, health, prosperity and ecological balance in the world. It encourages social, economic and cultural progress, tolerance and international cooperation (Matsuura). Education is probably the single most effective means of curbing population growth, reducing child mortality, eradicating poverty and ensuring democracy, peace and sustainable development.1 Basic education is the foundation of lifelong learning and skills acquisition. It is the basis, the fundament, but not the ceiling of education.

1. The Jomtien Decade

1.1 Jomtien – a New Start

The World Conference on Education for All, held from 5 to 9 March 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand, was not a single event but the start of a powerful movement. This movement was kept alive by the International Consultative Forum on Education for All (the “EFA Forum”) and its Secretariat hosted by UNESCO. Its mandate was to serve national follow-up activities, to support these effectively, to seek to maintain the spirit of cooperation amongst countries, multilateral and bilateral agencies, and to involve NGOs. The EFA Forum was conceived as a series of worldwide meetings at which the EFA partners could discuss progress and matters of mutual concern. Some major meetings took place: in 1991 in Paris, and in 1993 in Delhi, where the nine most populous countries and some others established a working alliance (the E9 initiative) with donor countries and agencies. At Amman, Jordan, the world education community met again in 1996 to review the progress made and to keep the EFA movement going.

The purpose of the latest meeting of the World Education Forum from 26 to 28 April 2000 in Dakar was to review the assessment of the progress made during the Jomtien Decade and to renew the commitment to achieve the Education For all (EFA) goals and targets. In the conviction that people everywhere have basic human aspirations and needs, Jomtien had set the following targets (WCEFA Framework 8):

  1. expansion of early childhood care and development activities
  2. Universal Primary Education by the year 2000
  3. improvement in learning achievement
  4. reduction of the adult illiteracy rate to one-half its 1990 level by the year 2000, with sufficient emphasis on female literacy
  5. expansion of provisions of basic education and training in other essential skills required by youth and adults
  6. increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills and values required for better living and sound and sustainable development

Interestingly enough, the focus of Jomtien was not on basic education as such but on basic learning needs. According to Jomtien

“these needs comprise both essential learning tools such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving and the basic learning content such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions and to continue learning” (WCEFA Declaration 1.1).

As basic education is not a clearcut generally accepted concept, the Conference left it to countries themselves to specify what they understood by basic education in their specific context. In consequence, most, but not all, countries took basic education to mean primary schooling, though the movement of Education for All means the right of all people everywhere to basic education, an education geared to all people’s needs and responsibilities as learners. The overriding purpose of the global movement of Education for All is no less than the achievement of a better life for all people, grounded in civilized values and human rights and responsibilities (Malcolm Skilbeck p.11)2. The focus of the Jomtien idea of Education for All was not on education systems but on learning, learning in its broadest sense, learning that takes place everywhere and at any stage of life or simply “throughout life”.

1.2 Expanded Vision but Narrow Focus

In the opinion of Jomtien “an expanded vision” 3 of basic education was needed which would surpass existing resource levels, institutional structures, curricula, and conventional delivery systems while building on the best current practices (WCEFA Declaration 2.1). However, the fact that organized schooling provides, for most people, essential foundations for learning over the lifecycle led to the identification of basic learning needs and primary schooling. The school curriculum was presumed to meet these needs. This identification began in Jomtien itself and had serious consequences for the whole Jomtien period. The "Vision of Jomtien” has, as the Mid-Decade Meeting of the EFA Forum in Amman noted, “often been reduced to a simple emphasis upon putting more children into school” (Amman Report p.9).

Administrations deal with institutions more than with ideas. While basic learning needs obviously change over a person’s lifetime and evolve in each society over time, the primary school is the one established and formalised institution for basic education which administrations can handle easily. In consequence “non-formal” approaches have remained the “poor relatives” of primary schooling. And for donors literacy and non-formal education are, in the words of Kenneth King, a rather “murky area”4 while primary education is regarded as the "cutting edge” of literacy.

The EFA Mid-Decade Meeting, 1996 in Amman, Jordan, was aware of the fact that the concept of Education for All had “shrunk” (Rosa María Torres p. 24). The Forum noted in Amman, that “despite the progress in expanding primary education during the 1990s the ‘All’ dimension of the Jomtien vision of Education for All still needs more attention” and that “there has been little progress in providing literacy and life skills education for adolescents and adults” (Final Report p.36). The Forum therefore recommended that non-formal education should be recognized as an integral part of an education system rather than a parallel but separate alternative. It is indeed questionable whether formal schooling is the way ahead to achieving universal education in the foreseeable future. Primary schools are unable to meet enrolment targets, dropout and non-completion rates are still high, and performance and learning quality is often poor. In some entire countries girls continue to have low participation rates, which shows that schools by themselves cannot solve the gender issue. There is a need for more creative and innovative ways of providing educational opportunities for the underprivileged, the poor and the excluded. A number of countries, therefore, are developing non-formal models that complement primary schools in order to provide basic education for those children, and particularly women, who do not find primary schools suitable for their needs.

1.3 The World Education Forum in Dakar

In 1990 the 155 countries and 150 organizations assembled in Jomtien pledged to provide education for all by the year 2000 and “to evaluate achievements and undertake a comprehensive policy review at regional and global levels by 2000–2001” (Framework 49.6). A series of conferences in the 1990s reaffirmed international commitment to the Education for All goals. Countries have introduced a wide array of educational reforms. In preparation for the World Education Forum in Dakar, the progress that countries have made and the difficulties and setbacks they have encountered, have been analysed in a series of national reports, regional synthesis reports, thematic studies, and other documents. This material has been brought together in two main summary reports, a “Global Synthesis” and a major “Statistical Document”.

The EFA 2000 Assessment is, without doubt, the most in-depth evaluation of basic education ever undertaken. Conducted in more than 180 countries, the assessment takes stock of the current status of basic education and evaluates the progress achieved during the Jomtien Decade. The world-wide review also includes a dozen thematic studies on educational issues of global concern and some 20 country case studies on literacy and educational attainment of young people and adults. The reasons for the major deficits in basic education are manifold: lack of democracy, lack of professionalism in educational policy and educational provision, lack of continuity and coherence, especially of non-formal education programmes, authoritarian teaching and inappropriate learning methods, irrelevant content in sometimes not understandable “foreign” national languages and last but not least active refusal of the right to education for girls and women. The analyses of non-governmental organisations and some distinguished politicians have made the intertwining between lack of resources and mismanagement and corruption a subject of discussion.

Before the Dakar Conference, the Secretariat of the EFA Forum drafted a “Framework for Action” which was widely circulated and discussed. The draft versions were heavily criticized: again too much focus on primary education, adult learning was regarded as a “separate” system of educational activities, the general tendency was “more of the same” with too many targets that were too detailed, too narrow and on too precise a time-line: activism instead of reflection and analysis!

The critical feedback was taken into consideration by the organizers. The Framework for Action adopted by the delegates from 181 countries assembled in Dakar concentrates on the most important issues facing education in the forthcoming decade. The 1,500 participants emphasized that, while there had been significant achievements in many countries, it is not acceptable that more than 113 million children (mostly girls) have no access to primary education. 875 million adults are still illiterate, gender discrimination continues to permeate education systems, and the quality of learning falls short of the needs of societies. The Dakar Framework5 addresses the challenges of the 21st century by focusing on the importance of girls’ education, quality learning and reaching those who continue to be excluded from education.

The participating governments committed themselves to the attainment of the following goals:

  1. expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;
  2. ensuring that by 2015 all children, with special emphasis on girls, children in difficult circumstances and from ethnic minorities have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality;
  3. ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes;
  4. achieving 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults;
  5. eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality;
  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” (Framework, 7).

Participating countries were requested to develop or strengthen existing national plans for action by 2002. The plans

“should be integrated into a wider poverty reduction and development framework, and should be developed through more transparent and democratic processes, involving all stakeholders, especially people’s representatives, community leaders, parents, learners, NGOs and civil society” (9).

Participants underlined that political will and stronger national leadership are needed for the effective and successful implementation of national plans. However, as political will must be underpinned by resources, participants affirmed that

“no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources(10).

It was estimated that

“achieving Education for All will require additional financial support by countries and increased development assistance and debt relief for education by bilateral and multilateral donors, estimated to cost in the order of $8 billion a year” (14).

UNESCO will continue its mandated role in co-ordinating EFA partners and maintaining their collaborative momentum.

The Dakar Framework underlines that simple access to education is not enough; quality is as important as quantity. Dakar envisages an education which is needs-oriented, learner-centred, combines formal and non-formal approaches and makes best use of all available resources – in the words of the Dakar Framework for Action an

“education geared to tapping each person’s talents and potential, and developing learners’ personalities’, so that they can improve their lives and transform their societies” (3).

This implies complex and sustained change in various interrelated fields: educational, cultural, political, economic and social. However, it seems that the “Framework” is still based on the conviction that education can bring about change and development more or less by itself. But education is not an independent variable in the development process. Education is more of a catalyst. Improvements in education, especially achievement of the Dakar goals and targets, depend on major economic, social and cultural changes in society and the environment. School enrolment for girls, or empowerment of women, for example, depends more on changes in cultural and religious patterns than on education and availability of resources. The focus on education, despite some rhetoric about intersectoral and interdisciplinary approaches, can easily result in another mono-sectoral approach to development. It is an advantage of the text of the Dakar Framework for Action which was finally adopted that the narrow, specific and detailed “targets” of the earlier versions have been deleted. Or was it really our intention to find out by 2015, or even earlier, in “quantitative terms” how badly we had failed in “Education For All”? Rosa María Torres is correct when she writes that: “If it was not possible to anticipate the events of the 1990s in the 1980s, there is no reason to believe that at the end of the 1990s – an era of spectacular changes and uncertainty – we will be able to clearly predict the next decade, let alone the next century” (Torres p. 54).

2. Basic Learning Needs of Young People and Adults Rediscovered

2.1 Basic Learning Needs – Basic Competencies

The commitment of Jomtien was to basic education but the focus was on basic learning needs and basic competencies. Basic education in whatever form has to meet these basic learning needs. Basic competencies are those required for full literacy, and for learning throughout life by whatever means. Basic here means the “very early stages of a process that needs to continue and grow” (Skilbeck p.16). In more specific terms, basic competencies mean mastery of the 3Rs, practical knowledge, problem-solving and life skills. Basic competencies mean not only school-based knowledge, attitudes and skills but also the ability to manage functional tasks and day-to-day demands, regardless of whether such competencies were developed through formal or non-formal education, or through personal experience in diverse informal learning situations (Wagner p. 16).

The objectives of youth and adult education are, according to the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA V):

"to develop the autonomy and the sense of responsibility of people and communities, to reinforce the capacity to deal with the transformations taking place in the economy, in culture and in society as a whole, and to promote coexistence, tolerance and the informed and creative participation of citizens in their communities, in short to enable people and communities to take control of their destiny and society in order to face the challenges ahead” (CONFINTEA Declaration 5).

Education for young people and adults is much more than basic education. However, basic education and basic learning needs and competencies provide a starting point for the CONFINTEA Declaration’s world-wide perspective and framework for action.

Literacy was regarded as an essential learning tool, and therefore part and parcel of these needs. Jomtien included literacy in the six major world-wide goals emphasising the

“reduction of the adult illiteracy, say, one-half its 1990 level by the year 2000, with sufficient emphasis on female literacy to significantly reduce the current disparity between male and female literacy rates” (WCEFA Framework 8.4).

It is obvious that the literacy targets have not been met, but there is greater interest in meeting them today. Though literacy by itself cannot bring about development, it is strongly associated with some of the most positive aspects of social and economic development. On the other hand, the label of “illiteracy” has been used and is today often used to characterize the poverty and lack of education that exist in many parts of the world, including industrialized countries. Literacy itself is at the heart of all major changes that take place in our world (Wagner p.12). Illiteracy has no future.

2.2 Literacy for All – a Renewed Vision

Adult literacy has become a proxy for a wide array of adult learning outcomes (Skilbeck p.45). It means active participation in a literate culture, in a literate environment and in economic activities. From the point of view of an industrialized country (Canada) it means “using printed and written information to function in society to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”.6 Literacy is always “literacy in context”. Meeting even “basic” literacy needs is an increasingly complex endeavour. Adult Education programmes that contribute also to income generation and other development objectives prove much more effective than those that have a narrow focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.

According to the EFA Global Assessment (Skilbeck p.46). “there have been real gains during the 90s, even though the number of illiterate people remains very high and in some parts of the world is increasing” There were an estimated 895 million illiterates in the world in 1990, 887 million in 1995, and 875 million in 2000. The large majority are women in developing countries. In consequence, the Dakar Framework for Action requests again, as Jomtien did 10 years ago (in that case by the year 2000):

Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for adults.”

As literacy is a product of educational, social and economic factors that cannot quickly be changed radically, Dakar had to postpone the deadline from 2000 to 2015. Although deadlines are always questionable as literacy depends on so many variables, target setting is necessary at least to stimulate planning and to mobilize action.

Despite tremendous and steady progress, universal literacy remains a major quantitative and qualitative challenge. As the map of illiteracy overlaps with the map of social, gender and ethnic inequalities, the struggle for literacy is also a struggle for social justice and for human dignity and empowerment. Functional illiteracy rooted in poor quality education affects industrialized and developing countries. “A-literacy” has emerged as a new concern because an increasing number of children, young people and adults who know to read do not make active or meaningful use of their literacy skills.

During a Strategy Session at the Dakar Conference, a team of experts therefore developed a renewed vision of a ten-year global action plan for “Literacy for All” (Report on the Session p.1). The “Literacy for All” framework proposed:

  • “a comprehensive and renewed understanding of literacy, including children, youth and adults, in and out of school;
  • a renewed vision and a renewed commitment from all: national governments, national and local societies, and international agencies; in the family, the community, the workplace, the school system, and the media;
  • renewed strategies and mechanisms at all levels, consistent with such renewed vision and with the magnitude and complexity of the challenge”.

The background to the Strategy Session was a resolution of the UN General Assembly at its 54th session to submit to the General Assembly in 2001 a proposal for a UN Literacy Decade, with a draft plan of action and possible time-frame for such a decade.7

2.4 Literacy for All – Innovations and Areas for Action

The central issue in all education programmes is quality. Literacy (and all adult education programmes) need to focus on what kinds and levels of literacy are required for a society or for specific target groups in society (Wagner pp 22–31). The time of mass campaigns seems to be over. Campaigns can be useful for information purposes, creation of public awareness and motivation for literacy but the characteristics of centralization and the top-down mass-approach jeopardise needs orientation, participation and self-determination. Large scale national programmes suffer from similar difficulties and without major donor assistance, they demand too much from poorer countries. Focus is at present more on small-scale tailor-made programmes for specific target groups. However, these programmes cannot solve the problem of mass illiteracy. Here is the dilemma of present literacy work.

One area of innovation is without doubt the motivation of learners to participate in long-term voluntary programmes. The need for literacy is not always felt: illiteracy is not painful! But programmes can be tailored to the diverse needs of a target group. Programmes must have direct discernible outcomes and must provide incentives for the learners: satisfaction, usefulness, and even fun. Adult learning means acquiring knowledge and competence. But the learning process is as important as the learning outcomes. Adult learning is autonomous. Adults define their learning needs. They learn what is of interest to them though one can “fashion” learning needs and people can be made aware of their needs. Adult learning is problem-centred not subject-centred. Adults want practical solutions to real-life problems, and they want them soon. If they do not need certificates for their occupational careers, they avoid taking tests. Literacy is an important phase in the lifelong learning process but it is not necessarily the first phase. Literacy is added potential and can come later when people are prepared for literacy. Self-help and income generation can assume greater importance in the learners’ minds than literacy.8

The way in which adults learn is important not only for motivation but also for judgements regarding the quality of a programme. A programme may be excellent and tailored to the learners’ needs and interests, but adult learners may still come to the conclusion that they have learned what they wanted to learn so that they leave the programme but do not regard themselves as “drop-outs”. This is important for any evaluation of literacy programmes. A programme may have been successful, and may have made many learners literate even though only a few have undergone the final test. Adults will definitely not write tests for statistical purposes, i.e. to increase the number of “learners made literate” or to reduce the number of drop-outs in a literacy programme.

The language of instruction is a serious problem in many cases. It is generally accepted that from an educational point of view, the mother tongue is best suited as the language of instruction at the literacy level (not necessarily at post-literacy level). However, in many cases, the mother tongue is not “functional” as it will confine the learners to a very limited environment. Moreover, instruction in the mother tongue is not feasible or extremely difficult if the language is not written. Learners are often interested in learning the national or even an international language in order to secure mobility and paid employment.9

Literacy programmes need to be based on participation and imply a process of conscientization. People cannot be developed, they develop themselves (Nyerere). Learners, together with field workers and all agencies involved, must have a say in decision-making at their respective levels. Literacy programmes should combine conscientization and empowerment with the delivery of practical knowledge and skills training. This holds true especially for programmes for girls and women. For them, literacy programmes are often the only systematically organised form of education which makes them aware of their strengths and potential. Many literacy programmes have turned out to be de facto women’s programmes. In consequence they have to take more account than in the past of women’s needs and their influential position in society and economy (Müller pp 54f).

Learners do not think about their own development in sectors and sub-sectors. Literacy programmes, leading to concrete benefits for the learners will, therefore, have to cut across sectors such as rural development, community development, health and nutrition. On the other hand, there is a strong need to integrate literacy and other forms of learning and basic skills acquisition into all appropriate development projects, particularly those related to health and environment (Cf. CONFINTEA V, Agenda for the Future, Theme 3: Ensuring the Universal Right to Literacy and Basic Education). Literacy and written materials can considerably help learners to remember and recall what they have learned in practical life-skills programmes, and knowledge and skills acquired in these programmes can make literacy a practical tool in income-generating activities. Curricula and materials will have to reflect real-life situations. Authoritarian methodologies and skills-based curricula will be replaced by learner-centred approaches. Traditional ways of knowing will be incorporated. Selective and intensive programmes such as the REFLECT Literacy Circles10 will have to use bottom-up approaches even to curriculum development and material design with active learner involvement from the very beginning.

Last but not least, there is a need for developing appropriate systems of monitoring and evaluation including feedback systems to facilitate revision and improvement of programmes, and to promote local input and participation by all actors in the programme, including the community. The benefits of adult education and literacy are widely discussed, but there is an increasing need to analyse the effectiveness of literacy and adult education programmes. With the expansion of interest in literacy worldwide, and with the impetus of the recommendations of the 1990 World Conference on Education for All and the Dakar Framework for Action

“far greater attention will need to be paid to rigorous and in-depth evaluation of literacy and adult education programmes. Indeed, it may be that one of the key impediments to expanding public and government support for adult literacy programmes has been the failure of those who support adult literacy programmes to provide the type of reliable databases and impact evaluations” (Wagner p. 22).

This does not mean that there was no interest in evaluation of literacy programmes. The difficulty is that classical protocols, quantitative evaluation models and factor analyses are often unsuitable for evaluating the “outcomes” of non-formal literacy programmes. As H.S. Bhola has elaborated in detail, naturalistic methods of evaluation seem to be more suitable. In the dialectical world of adult learning there may not be “networks of causalities” but “networks of plausabilities”. Naturalistic evaluation seeks to “study reality naturally – as a whole, in all its complexity; in its own particular context; in its perpetual flux, without trying to simplify and reduce it to a manageable evaluation design. The goal of design in a naturalistic evaluation study is to ensure trustworthiness, which in turn depends upon credibility, fittingness, auditability and confirmability of the study (Bhola, Evaluating Literacy for Development p. 156). Naturalistic evaluation based widely on observations and descriptions can be scientific and systematic; and in its own terms can be objective, reliable and valid, even if the terms used, such as “consistency, coherence and credibility”, are more relevant to human actions (Bhola, Evaluating Literacy for Development p. 3).

3. New Partnerships

3.1 Importance and Meaning of Partnership in the Education for All Movement

The World Declaration on Education for All stresses that

“New and revitalized partnerships at all levels will be necessary: partnerships among all sub-sectors and forms of education...partnerships between education and other government departments, including planning, finance, labour, communications...partnerships between government and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups, and families” (WCEFA Declaration 7).

The EFA movement is based on partnership between countries, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, donors and recipients. Partnerships are one of the keys to achieving basic education of sufficient quality and quantity. The EFA movement is grounded in learning and development, in education rather than in schooling. Responsibility for action is shared by quite different parties. International agencies have sponsored, financed or undertaken projects. NGOs have contributed by supporting and undertaking projects. Ministries of education, health, agriculture etc., have mounted special projects and monitored progress and change. Individual experts, research agencies and others have carried out surveys and evaluations and produced reports. The Amman Forum already noted that greater and more active partnerships have been one of the most successful outcomes since Jomtien (Final Report p.26). The EFA movement, this is the conclusion by Malcolm Skilbeck at the end of his Global Synthesis of the EFA Assessment (p.72), “is a major international collaborative effort of international interchange, policy discussion, negotiation and purposive action”. The EFA Forum Secretariat has over a long period of time successfully taken on responsibility for a comprehensively documented programme of major significance on a very large scale.

The essence of partnership is that each actor has an independent voice and a chance to shape the outcomes of negotiations. Whatever the balance between the partners is, genuine partnership means:

  • “the willingness to respect the viewpoints of other partners
  • identification of common tasks, and
  • collaboration in pursuit of ways to accomplish the task” (Marc Bray p.4)

The most important rationales for engaging in partnerships are: shared experiences, mutual support, division of labour, increased resources, increased sense of ownership, extended reach, and increased effectiveness (Bray p.13). At the end of his study on government-community partnerships Marc Bray develops the following principles for partnerships:

  1. Partnerships need trust on both sides.
  2. Partnerships need long-term commitment.
  3. Partnerships need clear and mutually accepted roles.
  4. Partners must focus on each other’s big and small pictures.
  5. Partnerships need nurturing.
  6. Genuine partnerships involve much more than mere contribution of finance (Bray pp.50f).

However, it should be not forgotten that the basis of all good partnership is self-interest.

3.2 NGOs and the Unfinished Agenda of EFA

The Jomtien Decade brought significant shifts in general perception of the role of the state. Governments are still dominant agencies responsible for education. However, the non-governmental sector has grown significantly. Some NGOs operate independently on a profit or non-profit basis. Others work in partnerships with governments. Part of the “expanded vision” of Jomtien was that new and revitalized partnerships would be formed. This was indeed the feature of the years that followed (Bray p. 57).

In the opinion of the World Education Forum (Dakar) partnership building has become a major strategy of NGOs. Together with Civil Society Associations (CSAs), they have developed large networks of partnerships at all levels in order to secure resources efficiently and to use them to achieve their objectives (WEF, Press Release on the NGO Study p.1).11

Moreover, the NGOs, in many cases, represent a key source of information and dynamism essential for promoting literacy through decentralization and participation. NGOs have developed advocacy clout, they have sustained their commitment to reaching the excluded and to shifting the paradigm from schooling to learning. In the opinion of the organizers of the Dakar Meeting, NGOs have

“distinguished themselves by their efforts in non-formal education and in broadening learning experiences beyond the classroom and curriculum... Whether formal or non-formal, NGOs and associations are concerned with adapting education to the needs of the learners and their historic, socio-cultural and economic context. The fact that they are close to the grassroots and flexible in their approaches has allowed NGOs to propose ‘tailor made’ education, thus giving proof that alternative approaches to the formal education system are not only a reality, but a serious and valid option” (Press Release on the NGO Study p.3).

NGOs have succeeded in bringing into the education movement significant groups of learners around the world who are excluded from education or stay away from the formal system because it does not correspond to their learning needs and expectations. NGOs and CSAs have succeeded in mobilizing communities to become involved not only as beneficiaries, but as active agents in promoting education for all. In the opinion of the organizers of the Dakar Meeting “the fact that NGO activity increasingly gains the attention and consideration of decision-makers and experts at national and international levels, particularly with regard to questions of equity, relevance and quality, can be considered a significant impact of NGO involvement in EFA... NGOs have shown that they are competent partners and need to be involved at all stages of education policy and programme formulation, implementation and evaluation, at national and international level” (Press Release on the NGO Study p. 7).

The NGOs themselves commented rather critically on the Jomtien Decade. In the opinion of the 300 NGO representatives in Dakar the most disappointing lesson was that the goals from Jomtien have not been met, even though Education for All could be achieved if governments and international agencies renewed their commitment to education as a right. The NGOs stressed that EFA depends on the existence of a sound democratic system, with effective structures and mechanisms which guarantee all stakeholders a voiýe and ensure that benefits are equitably shared. The NGOs requested a commitment to the provision of free basic education of good quality for all children, young people and adults, including the marginalized and excluded. Education must be a core responsibility of the state. Education systems must respect and be based on local culture, and must respond to local needs. There must be a clear commitment to gender equity in education at all levels. Adult literacy must be integrated with a wider process of community development and empowerment. The national action plans of action for education by 2002 must be developed within the broader framework of a “Global Action Plan” ensuring that no government with a credible strategy for achieving Education for All will be allowed to fail for lack of resources. Donor governments should finance their contribution to the plan through increased aid and debt relief. Clear mechanisms for financing, implementing and monitoring the plan must be established by 2002. Governments must develop innovative responses to ensure that learners in families affected by HIV/AIDS will not lose their access to education. Plans need to be made to cope with the loss of teachers and with the new pressure on children. A code of conduct for donors should be agreed by 2002, within an UN framework and in partnership with civil society, to bind donors to following good practice in the relationships with partners and in disbursement of aid to education. NGOs further recommended a comprehensive progress review of the EFA targets in 2006 and an official UN Conference on EFA in 2010 if a substantial number of countries continue to be off-track (NGO Declaration).

3.3 Donors and Resources

Governments still play the most important role in financing education. Some 75% of educational funding comes from governments, while only 10% comes from donor agencies. The remaining 15% comes from the private sector. Out of the 10% provided by the donors, only 2-3% is used for basic education. In preparation of the Dakar Meeting a study by the British Overseas Development Institute examined funding agencies’ contributions to education for all (Funding Agencies’ Contribution pp.X-XII). The authors’ conclusion is that, although the overall volume of bilateral aid commitment has dropped in absolute terms during the 1990s, aid to education as a proportion of overall aid has remained steady at around 15%. Bilateral aid commitments to basic education (as a percentage of commitments to all education) have increased from a very low level at the beginning of the decade to an average of 25% in the latter part of the decade. The amount of official German Financial and Technical Aid to basic education including early childhood care and non-formal education increased considerably after Jomtien from 180.0 Million DM or 2.9% of aid in 1990, to 383.2 Million DM or 7% in 1995. After 1995, due to economic difficulties and changed policies, it decreased dramatically to 103.8 Million DM or only 2.1% of aid.12

The total value of bilateral aid earmarked for basic education increased to around $500 million at the end of the decade. Among multilaterals, aid commitments to basic education increased from $550 million to an average of $1.5 billion in the second half of the decade. The World Bank doubled its lending for education from $918.7 million to an average of $1.9 billion a year. It also increased the percentage of its lending devoted to basic education from 27% to 44% and increased the lending for girls’ education to an average of $860 million per year (Wolfensohn).

There is a clear commitment of donors to human rights and poverty reduction. Within that overall framework, there does appear to be a focus on basic education, and especially primary education. This goes hand in hand with a focus on Africa and, within Africa, on the most highly indebted countries. Where formal education is firmly established the emphasis tends to be on quality and relevance in order to stop parents becoming disillusioned and keeping their children away from school. Most of the agencies claim to be involved in adult education. The actual level of activity, however, is quite low. Moreover, the impression given is that their involvement is reactive rather than based on a longer term strategy. The emphasis has shifted from projects and programmes to policy dialogue and partnership in order to ensure that aid is used in accordance with host governments’ policy priorities. Together with the need to take a long-term view of financial sustainability, this has led to the progressive adoption and promotion of “sector wide approaches” by some agencies. There appears to have been a conclusive move away from the provision of scholarships for study in the North and, to a lesser but still substantial extent, away from counterpart training through long-term technical assistance or technical cooperation. The majority of agencies now emphasise institutional capacity building. In the judgement of the authors of the ODI study “the picture is mixed: a greater emphasis on Basic Education but within declining commitments overall; clarification of aims and policies but also some divergence; and continuing difficulty in accountability” (Funding Agencies Contribution p. XII).

Many agencies provide support for literacy and adult education, but only UNESCO has put literacy in its list of top educational priorities. However, with the emphasis on poverty reduction and the importance of literacy in achieving this goal, it is likely that external agency support for literacy and adult education will grow over the next decade. The new initiatives of the World Bank are encouraging in this respect. After positive experiences e.g. in Ghana13 World Bank projects in Senegal and Gambia are under way or being planned. The Bank has also commissioned two major studies on educational programmes designed for younger and older adults, especially women, who have not had the benefit of primary schooling and who are unable to use the skills of reading, writing and calculation to access and use information that could enable them to improve the quality of their lives.14 Since these studies report favourably on the effects, benefits, efficiency and costs of such programmes, it is to be hoped that the World Bank will develop more “positive attitudes” towards adult education and literacy.

It is promising that participants in the WEF, Dakar, agreed that:

“no countries committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources” (Dakar Framework, 10).

This assurance was repeated by the President of the World Bank and other influential donors.15 In consequence, the international community decided to start a “global initiative aimed at developing the strategies and mobilizing the resources needed to provide effective support to national efforts. Options to be considered under this initiative were:

  • increasing external finance for education, in particular basic education
  • ensuring greater predictability in the flow of external assistance;
  • facilitating more effective donor coordination
  • strengthening sector-wide approaches
  • providing earlier, deeper and broader debt relief and/or debt cancellation for poverty reduction, with a strong commitment to basic education
  • undertaking more effective and regular monitoring of progress towards EFA goals and targets, including periodic assessments” (Framework for Action, 11)

The Dakar Framework for Action is rather optimistic regarding “Our Collective Commitments”. The coming years will show what will be feasible within the usual budgetary constraints and how many countries will be thwarted in their achievement of Education for All by lack of resources.

The Challenge Ahead

No country has succeeded without educating its people; education is key to sustaining growth and reducing poverty. We must, therefore, place education squarely at the core of the global and national development agenda (Wolfensohn). But what is needed in education is a change of paradigm and not just “more of the same”. Basic education is the foundation of lifelong learning. And lifelong learning is the key to education in the 21st century; it breaks with conventional categories related to age or educational levels; it transcends the conventional distinctions between formal, non-formal and informal, in-school and out-of-school education; and it goes beyond the difference between education and work.

“Education for all can only be attained by adopting a genuinely expanded and renewed vision of education, which trusts and invests in people, in their capacities and potential, in the development and synchronisation of resources and efforts of society at large to work together to make education a need and a task for all” (Rosa María Torres pp.73f).

As education is not an independent variable, it cannot by itself break the vicious circle of poverty and cultural constraints. It will require great efforts to combat social inequality and cultural taboos. None of the targets of Jomtien has been fully achieved, but setting ambitious targets is a means of stirring up inertia and mobilising efforts and resources. Did the Jomtien Decade make a difference? The answer given by Malcolm Skilbeck (p. 81) in his Global Synthesis is “that the effort has been worthwhile, indeed necessary, and that the mission of EFA must again be taken up, with strengthened resolve and renewed strategy. Too much is at stake for anything less”.



1 Federico Mayor, former Director-General, UNESCO, in his keynote address of the Mid-Decade Meeting of the International Consultative Forum on Education for All, Amman, Jordan, 16-19 June 1996.

2 The page numbers given in brackets refer to the original texts given in the bibliography.

3 The ‘expanded vision’ was the result of an ‘expanded’ negotiation process between the four sponsors/organizers of WCEFA: While the World Bank’s focus was on primary education, UNESCO favoured a rather broad concept of (basic) education including adult education with literacy and non-formal alternatives to schooling. UNICEF stressed the necessity to include early childhood education. UNDP had no particular point of view.

4 Kenneth King, Adult Literacy and Non-formal Education: Still Donor Priorities? in: Aid and Education in the Developing World, Longman, Harlow, 1991. p.148. More details in Josef Müller, Literacy and Non-formal (Basic) Education – Still a Donor Priority?

5 Cf. the full text of the Dakar Framework for Action in this issue of Adult Education and Development, pp. 19–27

6 OECD/Statistics Canada. Literacy, economy and society. OECD Paris 1995. At the core of all these definitions is the individual’s ability to understand printed texts and to communicate through the written word. Modern technology forces more and more people to become technologically literate of being capable to make effective use of communication and information instruments. The growing gap between those who are technologically literate and those who are not – the “digital divide” – has emerged only in the 90s.

7 UN General Assembly, 54th session, Agenda item 106. 20 January 2000.

8 Cf. the “Literacy Comes Second Approach” described by Alan Rogers in: Women Literacy Development. Education for Development, Reading 1993, esp. pp. 73–77.

9 Cf. the detailed discussion regarding mother tongue and/or second language instruction in literacy programmes as well as in primary and secondary schools, in: Wagner pp. 23ff.

10 The Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques (= REFLECT) builds on Freire’s conscientization techniques combined with practical knowledge. Learners are – under the guidance of tutors – themselves responsible for their programmes. They develop their own materials which represent local realities. Cf. Archer/Cottingham, The Reflect Mother Manual.

11 Under the auspices of the UNESCO-NGO Collective Consultation on Literacy and Education for All, NGOs and CSAs engaged in the assessments of Jomtien+10, undertook in-depth case studies of their own EFA programmes in over 50 countries world-wide, and organized national consultations in 25 countries of the South. The assessment culminated in regional NGO Consultations. The meetings enabled NGOs to elaborate collective NGO statements, which informed the respective Regional EFA Assessment meetings.

12 Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. Entwicklungs-Zusammenarbeit im Bereich Grundbildung. BMZ spezial N. 11, Appendix 2. Bonn 2000

13 Bhola, H.S. A Discourse on Impact Evaluation. A Model and its Application to a Literacy Intervention in Ghana in EVALUATION Vol. 6(2) 2000, p. 161–178.

14 A Study by John Oxenham and Aya Aoki (December 1999) and a Study by John Lauglo, Engaging with Adults. Basic Education for Adult Learners.

15 e. g. by Eveline Herfkens, Minister of Development Cooperation, the Netherlands, and Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom. Jean-Claude Faure affirmed the support of the OECD to all countries that will initiate a feasible program with valuable objectives. WEF, Press Release, 27/04/2000, p.2



1. Conference Documents and Papers

World Education Forum (= WEF). Dakar, Senegal, 26-28 April 2000. The Dakar Framework for Action. Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments.

World Education Forum. Address by Koichiro Matsuura, Director General, UNESCO.

World Education Forum. James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank. Presentation at the WEF.

World Education Forum. Renewed Hope: NGOs and Civil Society in Education for All. Executive Summary (Press Release) of the NGO Study by the Press and Information Office of the Dakar Meeting (= NGO Study).

World Education Forum: NGO Declaration on Education for All, Dakar 25 April 2000. 4 pages

World Education Forum. Strategy Session “Literacy for All: A Renewed Vision for a Ten-Year Global Action Plan”, Dakar, 27 April 2000 and: Draft of a Resolution for a UN Literacy Decade

World Education Forum. Statistical Document. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Paris 2000

Education for All – Global Synthesis by Malcolm Skilbeck. EFA International Consultative Forum Documents. EFA Forum UNESCO, Paris 2000

EFA Thematic Study on Community Partnership in Education: Dimensions, Variations, and Implications, by Marc Bray. January 2000. Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China

EFA Thematic Study on Funding Agencies’ Contributions to Education for All, by Clare Bentall, Edwina Peart, Roy Carr-Hill, and Aidan Cox. February 2000. Overseas Development Institute, London, Portland House, Stag Place, London SW1E 5DP.

EFA Thematic Study on Literacy and Adult Education. Prepared by the International Literacy Institute, Principal Author Daniel Wagner. March 2000. University of Pennsylvania – UNESCO. 3910 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3111.

Mid-Decade Meeting of the International Consultative Forum on Education for All, 16-19 June 1996, Amman, Jordan. Final Report. EFA Forum Secretariat UNESCO, Paris 1996

World Conference on Education for All (= WCEFA), 5-9 March 1990, Jomtien, Thailand. World Declaration on Education for All and Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. Published by the Inter-Agency Commission. UNICEF House, New York, N.Y. April 1990

Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (= CONFINTEA V), 14-18 July 1997, Hamburg, Germany. Declaration on Adult Learning. UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg 1997

2. Other Related Publications

Archer, David and Cottingham, Sara, The REFLECT Mother Manual. ActionAid, London 1996

Bhola, H.S. A Discourse on Impact Evaluation: A Model and its Applications to a Literacy Intervention in Ghana. Evaluation: The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Vol. 6, No.2 pp. 161-178. Sage, London 2000

Bhola, H.S., Evaluating Literacy for Development. Projects, Programs and Campaigns. UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg; German Foundation for International Development, Bonn 1990

Müller, Josef, Literacy and Non-formal Basic Education – Still a Donor Priority, in: Adult Education and Development, No. 48, 1997, pp. 37-60. IIZ/DVV, Bonn

Torres, Rosa María, One Decade of Education for All: The Challenge ahead. International Institute for Educational Planning (UNESCO/ IIEP), Buenos Aires 2000

Publications on Dakar by/on the World Education Forum in the Internet under

Hard copies can be ordered from UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07SP

Adult Education and Development


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