The Dakar Framework for ActionComments on the Framework by the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association

General Critical Remarks

  1. The outline and the division of the Framework into chapters is not stringent enough. There is overlap and there are unnecessary repetitions in content. In the present layout there is no division of chapters into sub-chapters.
  2. The focus of the paper is on developing countries. However, the “expanded vision” of basic education has its implications for industrialized countries as well.
  3. The targets are too many and unnecessarily precise. Do we really want to find out in 2015 “in quantitative terms” how much we failed? The targets seem to be unacceptable for many, especially the poorer countries.
  4. The paper reflects more the practice after Jomtien than its original “vision”. The focus is, therefore, on primary education. Adult basic education is mentioned but mostly when Jomtien texts are quoted. Adult learning can no longer be regarded as a separate “system” of educational activities. Effective and sustainable development programmes all require a component of adult learning. Adult learning “cuts across” traditional sectors such as education, health or agriculture. Adult learning, therefore, must become a matter of global and universal concern.
  5. The rights-based approach (p.14) can be questioned in view of the diverging interpretations of human rights. For mobilizing resource and stimulating interest in basic education, a development oriented approach (quality of life, participation, empowerment) may be more relevant.
  6. The general tendency is “more of the same” with precise targets for monitoring and evaluation while the Jomtien focus was on needs based quality basic education for all. The paper lacks a big idea: a needs oriented, learner centred education which combines formal and nonformal approaches and makes best use of all available resources. This was the original idea of Jomtien. It is necessary to go back to Jomtien and to put the “expanded vision” of Jomtien together with the lessons learned from the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (Hamburg 1997) into practice in a comprehensive manner. This could be a major innovation necessary in the forthcoming decade.
  7. The focus on poverty and anti-poverty strategies can easily end up reducing basic education to education of the poorest or of specific groups.

Critical Remarks Regarding the Text of the Framework

1. The Preamble

Under specific goals, it is only free primary education by 2015 that is mentioned. The focus on primary education was a regrettable consequence of the policy of the convenors of Jomtien, especially the World Bank. Most resources have gone into primary school enrolments. Far less attention has been given to meeting basic learn ing needs of adults and out-of-school youth. Primary education has been regarded as “the cutting edge”. Bilateral and multilateral organisations, especially the World Bank, have for a long time openly discouraged investing in adult education, claim ing scarce resources and past failure.1

However, overlooking adult education implies disregarding educational de mand and denying the importance of the family and the com munity as support for children‘s well-being and learning, and as a key factor in school learning achievement.2

The focus on primary education neglects the influence that the “older generation” still has on development in traditional societies.

2. Background

It can be questioned whether the central idea in Jomtien was the “universal right to education for all”. The central idea was “meeting basic learning needs” under stood not as minimal learning needs or instrumental knowledge for survival but as knowledge, attitudes and skills to improve the quality of life.

The Declaration of the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA V) rightly states (§ 9)

“Basic education for all means that people, whatever their age, have an opportunity, individually and collectively, to realize their potential. It is not only a right, it is also a duty and a responsibility both to others and to society as a whole. It is essential that the recognition of the right to education throughout life should be accompanied by measures to create the conditions required to exercise this right.”

The paper seems to overestimate the “promises of technology”. Modern commu nication technology is still no more than a promise for education, and especially for basic education even in industrialized countries. In the foreseeable future poor countries cannot afford the costs of these new technologies. The problem is that the uneven development of infrastructures and of the availability of equipment will even widen the information gap between industrialized and developing countries and that the poorer countries will most likely be cut off from the modern informa tion society.

3. The EFA Assessment

The EFA assessment of the paper overlooks completely that the “expanded vision” of Education for All after Jomtien has “shrunk”, as Rosa María Torres rightly states:

  1. From education for all to the education of children (the poorest among the poor)
  2. From basic education to schooling (and primary education
  3. From universalising basic education to universalising access to primary education
  4. From basic learning needs to minimum learning needs.
  5. From focusing on learning to improving and assessing the school achievement
  6. From expanding the vision of basic education to increasing the duration (number of years) of compulsory schooling
  7. From basic education as the foundation for lifelong learning to basic education as an end in itself
  8. From enhancing the learning environment to enhancing the school environment
  9. From all countries to developing countries
  10. From the responsibility of countries and the international community to the responsibility of countries. (Torres, table of contents and p.16s)

Youth and adult education was mostly centred on literacy (the 3Rs), not on meeting basic education needs. Adults with basic learning needs are not just the illiterate. Literacy is a goal but not an end in itself.

Adult education was regarded as a support strategy for child schooling. Ac cording to the argument whereby children have to compete financially with the education of their parents, adult education lost out. (Torres p.19)

4. Purpose, Rationale and Objectives of the Dakar Framework

The paper rightly quotes from Jomtien that an action agenda for concerted future effort is based on principles including “an uncompromising commitment to includ ing the excluded (girls and women especially) and the provision of good quality, holistic basic education to all children and adults...”. In consequence the paper claims that the Framework‘s overall objective is “to guarantee opportunities for all people to meet their basic learning needs” (p.6). The paper/Framework then immediately concentrates in detail on children while young people and adults are mentioned by the way in quotations from CONFINTEA V (p.7).

The paper “reasserts that the basic educational needs are especially crucial of the socially excluded, children or adults marginalized by poverty, conflict, disability or other force beyond their control” (p.8). This statement is obviously right. However, the focus on poverty and anti-poverty strategies (as frequently mentioned in the “Framework”) can easily end up reducing education to education of the poorest.

5. Action Plan

5.1 Overview

The Framework reads: “Incorporation of in-country vision and strategies for basic education and literacy programmes”. However, literacy is an integral part of basic education itself as a

“uniquely effective tool for learning, for accessing and processing information, for creating new knowledge, and for participation in one‘s own culture and the emerging world culture”.3

5.2 Goals and Targets


According to the Framework, “the root of reasons for previous targets not having been met lies in the fact that either insufficient resources have been committed, or that existing resources have not been used well” (p.12). This is not correct. The issue is not necessarily “more of the same” but the implementation of an educa tion which is needs oriented, learner centred, combines formal and nonformal approaches and makes best use of all available resources. This implies complex and sustained change in various interrelated fields – educational, cultural, political, economic and social. Such transformation requires more than financial resources. It requires long-term vision and action, a policy of alliances, adequate strategies, and timetables that far exceed a single decade (Torres p. 38).

Outcome Goal 3: Meeting basic learning needs of youth and adults.

The development oriented approach is clearly formulated here:

“Basic skills must be acquired by all that promote sustainable livelihoods, and permit learners (both young people and adults) to develop their full capacities, to work, to participate fully in development, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning”. (p.17)

This approach seems to be much more suitable to mobilize resources and initiate new strategies than the rights-based approach.

Targets: Nos. 1 and 2 are valid for both “people aged 15–24” and “persons aged 15+”. Does this latter group not need “life skills”??

Outcome goal 4: Quality

The so-called “literate environment” is at least as important than the learning en vironment. More consideration should be given to strategies to create a “literate environment”. The term is not used in the Framework. Why?

Process goal 9: Enabling teachers

This is valid for all educational personnel. Only school teachers are mentioned. Why?

Process goal 10: National investments and support

Targets focus nearly exclusively on primary education.

6. Global Action

There is need of a summary which draws up a positive view on strategies to be conceived and implemented (more than anti-poverty) by the world alliance of countries and international agencies. The EFA (Jomtien) programme is still relevant and valid. If the aim of basic education is to meet the learning needs of children, young people and adults, diversity must become the norm. There is no single pat tern that defines ideal standards and expected results/targets. What is necessary is diversified educational models that meet the needs and expectations of all learners.

Putting the original expanded vision, the goals and targets, and the principles of action of Jomtien and the lessons learned from the Fifth International Conference on Adult education (Hamburg 1997) into practice in a comprehensive manner would be a major innovation.

”This is a time for reflection and analysis, rather than activism. A time to raise doubts and questions, rather than to reassure certainties, rapid diagnoses, ready-made answers and recipes on what has to be done. If it was not pos sible 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.40)

Source: Adult Education and Development, Number 54, 2000, pp. 157 –164


1 Priorities and Strategies for Education. A World Bank Review. Washington, D.C. 1995.
2 Rosa María Torres, IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aries 1999, One Decade of Education for All: The Challenge ahead. (English version)  

Adult Education and Development


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