My predecessor at Oxfam, Kevin Watkins, went off into the labyrinth of the UN system where he has produced a series of monumental reports. At UNDP he led (i.e. wrote) a series of landmark Human Development Reports on International Cooperation, Water and Sanitation and Climate Change. From there it was off to UNESCO where his latest tome, the Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2009, has just been published. It offers a fantastic overview of the state of education provision in the developing world.
The Report’s main message is in its subtitle ‘Overcoming Inequality: why governance matters’. It acknowledges what it calls the ‘remarkable progress’ made since the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, for example in the accelerating improvement in net enrolment rates in primary school (from 1999 to 2006 these went up from 54% to 70% in Sub-Saharan Africa, and from 75% to 86% in South and West Asia). But unsurprisingly, it mainly focuses on the ‘glass half empty’ part. Its key findings include:
The need to think beyond primary to pre-school and secondary and tertiary education, where massive gaps persist between rich and poor countries and people (at age 20, 30% of OECD citizens are in education, compared to 2% in sub-Saharan Africa).
The importance of addressing inequality of provision (both quantity and quality) within countries. Poor children, girls, ethnic minorities and disabled kids often receive no or inferior schooling which holds them back for a lifetime.
In a manner similar to the ‘Social Determinants of Health’ report, it highlights the need to address other areas of deprivation – nutrition, public health, social protection etc – if children are to make the most of access to education.
There is a strong two-way interaction between good quality education and other development goals, such as growth with equity, and increased support for multiparty democracy and active citizenship
Quality: in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than 25% of grade 6 pupils could read properly, and only 10% in six others
Quantity: sub-Saharan Africa needs to recruit 3.8 million new teachers between now and 2015 if it is to achieve universal primary education; low income countries are still spending significantly less on education as a proportion of their GDP;
Aid: levels of aid to education are stagnating; the Fast Track Initiative has failed to galvanize new money and could be facing a $2.2bn shortfall by 2010.
Governance: decentralization and/or transferring responsibility to communities or the private sector is not a panacea, especially in terms of equity – ‘central government should retain a strong role in equalizing the distribution of education finance …. There is no substitute for fixing public basic education systems.’ Moreover, ‘private schools with state subsidies do not register any advantage over municipal schools once adjustments are made for socio-economic status.’
All this dotted with Kevin’s signature combination of killer facts and punchy graphics (a couple included here). Well worth a look.