UNESCO/Education for All
The Education for All movement is promoted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This movement seeks to make free primary education accessible to all adults and children worldwide. UNESCO believes that all people have an unalienable right to education and literacy, and this organization both promotes and is part of many different programs, initiatives, and projects which seek to accomplish this goal. By the year 2015, UNESCO hopes to accomplish such goals as increasing adult literacy by 50% in all countries and improving education quality worldwide. In order to do so, UNESCO understands that education is directly linked to environmental, cultural, economical, and social issues and therefore works to remove barriers to education such as poverty and gender discrimination. In order to reduce these problems, UNESCO has established eight Millennium Development goals for the United Nations. Achieving these goals is essential to paving the way for all people in the world to have access to a primary education.
Keywords Decade of Education; Education for All; Initiative; Literacy; Millennium Development Goals; Primary Education; Shared Values; Sustainable Development; UNESCO; United Nations
International Perspectives: UNESCO – Education for All
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded on November 16th 1945. Stirred to life by the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (created in 1942) UNESCO was conceived as a way to bring about world peace through education. As of January 2014, UNESCO boasted 195 member states (countries/republics) and 9 associate member states. This organization has grown to a vast network of people, ideas, nations, and initiatives and continues to grow in scope and focus to this day.
The purposes of the UNESCO are many: to generate new ideas and disseminate information to the world, to encourage intellectual growth and development, and to foster good communication between the member states. World unity and the spread of shared values in order to bring about peace and stability for all people are fundamental to what UNESCO is attempting to achieve. UNESCO itself states that "the world urgently requires global visions of sustainable development based upon observance of human rights, mutual respect, and the alleviation of poverty, all of which lie at the heart of UNESCO's mission and activities" ("About UNESCO" para. 3). UNESCO's focus is rightly on the world as a whole and furthering human rights, advancements, and opportunities within a peaceful, stable environment.
Education for All
However, education is one of the most important focuses of UNESCO and of particular importance is its push for Education For All (EFA). UNESCO strongly upholds the idea that all adults and children have the right to a primary education and that education should be accessible to all people without regard of gender, race, or social standing. A primary education is defined by UNESCO as at least six years of good-quality schooling, approximately a grade 6 level of education. UNESCO states that a primary education is important because it is sufficient enough to make people "permanently literate", equipped with enough resources and education to not only be able to read, write, and perform arithmetic but to also continue learning and developing throughout their lives ("Universal Primary Education")
Providing everyone in the world with access to quality primary education is an enormous goal with an almost endless list of factors. Because of the sheer amount of variables and obstacles which must be accounted for, EFA cannot be carried out through one program or process. Rather, UNESCO's Education for All movement is best expressed in the words of Jandhylah Tilak (2005), "EFA is not merely a programme and not just a development strategy, nor is it simply an approach to the problem of education in developing countries: It has taken the form of a movement, a philosophy, and a global commitment to education" (Tilak, 2005, p.73). This movement is global because to accomplish EFA, the world must be united under shared values, a shared commitment to education, and shared goals of eradicating obstacles that stand in the way of education.
In particular, UNESCO has identified six goals that need to be met worldwide in order for EFA to be a reality; these goals were established during the 2000 World Education Forum (sponsored by UNESCO) and are focused on the specific needs of younger children, older youth, and adults. For younger children, these goals include creating more educational opportunities and care for preschool age children and having mandatory primary education available for children free of charge. For older youth and adults, there are two goals of increasing "life skills" and learning opportunities for them and also improving the illiteracy rates of adults by 50%. Finally, there are two goals of overall improving education and breaking down gender discrimination which is so often a barrier to education ("Education for All").
It is important to note that UNESCO is not focused on education just for children and youth; it also works to improve adult literacy and education. While some of this education is geared towards vocational skills and abilities for adults, UNESCO's overall goal is to see all people, regardless of age, have access to a quality primary education. UNESCO's focus is trans-generational, and it commits its resources to both younger and older learners.
In order for EFA to be accomplished, UNESCO recognizes that education cannot be separated from culture and environment and thus is dedicated to understanding and helping reduce the barriers that prevent access to education. Poverty is a major barrier to education, and one of UNESCO's goals is to cut extreme poverty rates in half by 2015. Child labor represents another significant factor in low education levels: poverty forces many children into labor and away from schooling, and the poor tend to be located in rural places where education is harder to access. Additionally, child labor often affects girls more severely than boys: they are more likely to be employed, particularly in domestic employment, and they routinely face hardship, abuse, and gender discrimination in their labor situations ("Global Task Force"). Gender discrimination is another barrier to education; only one in three illiterate adults is a man, and women's illiteracy rates are consistently higher than males worldwide ("World Literacy"). Finally, the economy and ecological situations of a particular region plays a role in education; education is of minimal concern to people who are starving or under constant threat of war.
UNESCO seeks to overcome these obstacles to education through a number of different methods, initiatives and programs. It is important to note that UNESCO 's role is not primarily funding; rather its focus is on the support and development of ideas and groups, the connection of different cultures and nations, and the spread of information. As Bory (2006) stated, both UNESCO and its member states are responsible for promoting and improving education, helping rethink and restructure education so that it continues to improve, keeping the general public aware of what it can do to help, and training teachers, both education and vocational (p.3).
Millennium Development Goals
The year 2015 is extremely significant for UNESCO and the UN. By 2015, UNESCO wishes to meet the six goals established by the 2000 World Education Forum. Along with these six goals, UNESCO also is dedicated to fulfilling the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals. These goals are:
• Reducing extreme poverty
• Having primary education for all
• Achieving gender parity
• Reducing death rates in children
• Lowering rates of maternal deaths and illnesses
• Stopping major epidemics such as aids
• Stabilizing the environment
• Fostering global partnership and unity ("what are")
Major concerns such as famine, gender discrimination, and malaria directly affect education, and these issues must be addressed first if EFA is to be promoted.
Decade of Education
The year 2015 is significant for other UN initiatives which are directly linked to EFA. In December 2002, the UN declared the time period of 2005-2014 to be the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development is a widely-encompassing term which includes such issues as environmental and economical stability, human rights, and justice. The UN made UNESCO responsible for both establishing the goals of the decade and developing programs to meet the goals with an International Implementation Scheme (ISS). ("International Implementation Scheme"). The overall goal for this decade is for everyone in the world to have access to education by 2015. There are five goals UNESCO has for the UN Decade of Education ("International Implementation"):
• Emphasizing how important education is to sustainable development
• Linking people together to promote sustainable development
• Helping spread the vision of sustainable development
• Increasing teaching and learning quality to make educational experiences better
• Assisting countries in implementing education for sustainable development
In its goal of Education for All, UNESCO is playing a tremendous role in the progress of human rights, environmental stability, education and global unity. Its goals are both numerous and almost staggering in magnitude, yet EFA cannot be achieved as a separate focus. These serious concerns such as gender discrimination and poverty must be...
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