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Globalization

Rose: We've 'gotten complacent' on education

In 2000, world leaders agreed to six goals intended to ensure the basic learning needs of all were met by 2015. Pauline Rose, director of the "Education for All" Global Monitoring Report, says much work is still needed.

Pauline Rose speaking to students. (Photo: UNESCO/Rick Bajornas)

Pauline Rose

DW: When we discussed the last edition of the Global Monitoring Report, you told us about troubling signs for the number of children out of school. Has there been any change on that front?

Pauline Rose: Unfortunately, the predictions that the out of school numbers would stagnate continue. There's still 57 million children who aren't able to go to school, who have never been to school at all, or who have dropped out early. Many of these children will not have learned the basics.

What are some of the most striking figures and trends - positive or negative - to emerge in the new report?

I think the goal on narrowing gender disparity is probably the one where there has been the most progress. There are 60 percent of countries that have achieved the goal at the primary level of making sure there are an equal number of girls and boys in school.

Other goals have made less progress. We still have 774 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women. In this year's report, we also estimate the proportion of countries that we're expecting to have made it by 2015. And for adult literacy, we expect only 29 percent of countries to have all adults who are literate, so that is the goal that is furthest behind. In lower secondary education, there has also been slow progress. There are still 69 million adolescents who are out of school with very little change since 2004.

Basically, across the six Education for All goals, we're anticipating that none of the goals will be met by 2015, and that we need to continue to address the unfinished business after 2015 with a new set of goals. And these new goals need to focus on the most disadvantaged, who are the ones who are sort of getting left behind.

Post-2015 goals are discussed at the Global Monitoring Report website, where you say that equity in education needs to be at the center of the post-2015 program. Why is that?

One of the mistakes that we have found in terms of the 2015 goals is that they did not measure progress according to the most disadvantaged. So although in the language of the Education for All goals, they generally state that we need to improve the situation for the most vulnerable or for girls and women or for those who are living in remote areas, when it came to actually monitoring the progress, it was not part of the process.

Over the last year, the media have focused heavily on crisis zones in northern Africa and Syria as well as the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Where do you see the most dramatic cause for concern in terms of political turmoil affecting educational access and outcomes?

Children living in conflict zones are those that are getting left most behind and actually contribute around half of those who are out of school. This has actually become an increasing problem over recent times with conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic, Mali and so on.

We find that only 1.4 percent of humanitarian aid is spent on education. So this is abysmal. And it's actually gone down in recent times. So education just isn't seen as a focus of children who are living in conflict-affected countries. And yet, these are the children who need education the most.

A teacher stands in front of a classroom in Kenya. (Photo: Andreas Gebert/ dpa - Report)

Teacher quality is in focus in the latest Global Monitoring Report

Each year, the Global Monitoring Report has a central topic. This year's report focuses heavily on the quality of teaching. Even in wealthy countries, well-trained teachers often move away from socially isolated areas and toward wealthier areas where the students start at an advantage. What systems have you seen that have been successful in addressing this problem?

Countries such as the Republic of Korea, which does very well on any standard of learning and also has very narrow inequalities in learning, has strong policies in place to make sure that qualified and experienced teachers also teach in areas that are disadvantaged for whatever reason. These teachers then get other preferences in terms of career development.

In other countries, for example in Bangladesh, there are policies that ensure teachers have housing - that's particularly important for female teachers who are living in remote areas. They need good, safe housing.

In Gambia, teachers have been provided with a bonus to their salary of around 40 percent to work in remote areas, and I think it's quite important to note that this is obviously quite a large proportion of their salary. And that's important because some countries that provide these sorts of incentives - it's just too low.

As 2015 approaches, are you ultimately disappointed looking back over the last 10 or 15 years, or do you feel hopeful in some respects?

I think there's a glass half-full and a glass half-empty way of looking at the progress that's been made. On the one hand, I think that without having the goals, we would not have had the international attention that we need on the importance of improving education for all children. It's certainly meant that there've been improvements in the gender balance of the number of girls and boys in school. Despite the fact that there are still 57 million children out of school, that's around half of the number of out of school in 2000.

But in the last few years, we've gotten complacent. Progress has slowed. Aid to education has slowed, and we're now in a situation where if we don't do something urgently, many children are not going to have the chance that they deserve to have an education.

Pauline Rose is UNESCO's Director of the "Education for All" Global Monitoring Report, a key study on educational access and quality around the world.

Interview: Greg Wiser

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