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The promotion of compulsory primary education in the world is a goal that is steadily being reached despite several factors which are hampering its advancement. Countries around the world are increasingly promoting primary education with world enrolment in primary education increasing from 84 per cent in 1999 to 90 per cent in 2008.
The problem the international community faces is not of children unwilling to go to school, however it is the lack of opportunities for them to go to school. By ensuring equity in education with opportunities for all, compulsory primary education can then be achieved.
It is universally recognized that primary education is immensely important and crucial to the successful development of a child's life. The international community regards primary education as a right due to its multitude of positive impacts. Such benefits of education include providing people with the tools to better understand the world and lead more enriched lives and to lay the foundation for children to access greater learning opportunities and hone their strengths and talents. These advantages of education are vital for the economic, cultural and social development of any country as they give individuals skills and qualities to participate in society.
Under article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights it states that everyone has the right to education, with effect from 1948 and 1976 respectively.
Many more efforts by the international community, spearheaded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), do exist and actively serve to have and continue to marginally increase literacy rates since 1948.
Each year the enrolment ratio in primary education for almost every country in the world sees an increase. However despite such efforts this is a far cry from what is necessary to achieve the second goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which is to achieve universal primary education. Many poor countries fail to make marked improvements, immense steps to providing primary education to all.
Despite declarations and covenants in place, primary education still has not reached the 100 per cent mark. Challenges posed to ensuring the enrolment of each and every boy and girl in primary education are many. They include gender inequality and bias, children from poor and impoverished families or generally children who do not live in a stable environment to facilitate their learning.
In this conference, delegates will be looking at ways in which compulsory primary education for all boys and girls alike can be actualised hopefully by the year 2015 to achieve goal 2 of the MDGs either that or within a suitable time period which the delegates deem appropriate.
II. DEFINITION OF TERMS
Education for All, a global movement spearheaded by UNESCO to meet the educational needs of the world.
Also known as Primary Education (see below).
Millennium Development Goals, targets set by the international community to fulfil basic needs and requirements of people worldwide by 2015.
MEDCs and LEDCs
Abbreviations for More Economically Developed Countries and Less Economically Developed Countries respectively.
The Net Enrolment Ratio is the enrolment of the official age group for a specified level of education expressed as a percentage of the population.
The first stage of compulsory education which varies for each country dependent on the various education systems and also known as elementary education in North America and some parts of the world (e.g. Brazil).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation; a division of the United Nations which through international collaboration promotes peace and security.
III. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Education as a broad and general term is the transfer of information from one individual to another. By this definition, education, or at least the concept of it has existed since the beginning of human life.
Since then many factors have shaped it into the state it is today. Society has evolved, from the age of the Egyptians, to the medieval age, to the renaissance age and now into the science and technology age. With it, society has similarly evolved and now the tools to cope with life are vastly different from what they used to be. As such, the role of education in children's lives is one of utmost importance.
Primary school education does more that just impart academic knowledge in children, if provides them with a strong foundation from which they can expound on. It provides them with social interaction skills, independence, avenues to develop creativity and boundless benefits.
Therefore it is extremely clear as to the importance of primary school education, which brings forth the need to promote compulsory primary education. Many countries face the problem of poverty and a vicious poverty cycle, inclusive of farmers in rural areas. Without education, they are unable to better their agriculture methods and due to aggravating factors such as degradation of soil fertility their lives become increasingly worse. With education, they can break out of this cycle and if done on a massive scale can easily boost a country to first world status.
The first systems of compulsory education date back to the Aztecs (1325-1521) where all male children had to attend school up to the age of 16. Since then legislation advocating compulsory education for the masses have been put into place in various places around the globe, Strasbourg in 1598, Scotland in 1633, Austria in 1774, the United States of America in 1917 and Europe in 1880.
Notable efforts in implementing compulsory education, encompassing primary (aka. elementary) education start from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under article 26. This declaration was adopted on the 10th of December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly with 48 votes for, 0 votes against and 8 abstentions. In it, it states:
"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory."
In the thirteenth session of the UNESCO general conference in Paris 1964, a resolution was drawn up under education, to promote "international co-operation for the study and general advancement of education". While this was not a direct act of promoting compulsory primary education per se, it was a step in the right direction. Clauses include:
"Member States are invited to establish and develop centres of educational documentation and information and to strengthen institutions of educational research for promoting national educational development and for contributing internationally to the solution of current educational problems."
Many other clauses recommend in more in-depth and detail for countries to develop their educational sectors and allocates respective budgets for their implementation.
Another major effort in actualising compulsory education comes in the form of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under article 13. This covenant came into force from 3rd January 1976 and to date only 32 states have either signed but not ratified or not yet signed nor ratified the covenant. Most prominently the United States of America has signed but not yet ratified the covenant, taking the stance that economic, social and cultural rights were social goals and as such should not be included in binding treaties. In it, it states:
"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, with a view to achieving the full realization of this right: (a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all."
Reminders for action to be taken by the international community have been made and show commitment by the United Nations in the achieving of total literacy. In the forty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 15th December 1989 a resolution was adopted regarding International Literacy Year, 1990. Clause 7 of the resolution states:
"Also invites Governments that have not yet done so to establish a programme of measures for enhancing literacy and functional literacy for the period up to the year 2000 along the lines of the Plan of Action for the Eradication of Illiteracy by the Year 2000 of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
More international cooperation and discussion came in the form of the World Conference on Education for All which was held at Jomtien, Thailand from 5th to 9th March 1990. Amidst the multitude of global problems already pressing amongst the international community, the World Declaration of Education for All materialised to meet the basic learning needs of the general population. The declaration was not so much to come up with direct methods of children themselves to receive education but rather to combine the resources of each country to make the achievement of basic education for all an achievable goal. Article 3 states, amongst others, in the effort of "universalising access and promoting equity", clauses 1, 2, and 3 respectively:
"Basic education should be provided to all children, youth and adults. To this end, basic education services of quality should be expanded and consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities."
"For basic education to be equitable, all children, youth and adults must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning."
"The most urgent priority is to ensure access to, and improve the quality of, education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation. All gender stereotyping in education should be eliminated."
Under the framework for action of the World Declaration of Education for All, targets were set for completion by the year 2000. These include universal access to and completion of primary education and halving the 1990 adult illiteracy rate among others. However these targets were not met.
As a follow up to the previous conference, the international community met again, 10 years later, at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal. In this conference the EFA 2000 Assessment was conducted, which saw the review of educational status around the world. A summary of the report found that none of the EFA goals (more children in school; increased early childhood education; fewer out-of-school children; growing number of literate adults; reduction in disparities) had been completely fulfilled however there were great efforts by some to achieve them. Other countries however were affected by civil and political factors which retarded the advancement of education.
At the end of the World Education Forum, 6 goals were reiterated once again. In short they are to:
Expand childhood care and education
Ensure universal primary education
Ensure equitable access to education
Reduce by half adult illiteracy rates
Eliminate gender disparities
Improve the quality of education
Steps to achieve the goals as listed out in the Final Report of the forum include the international cooperation of delegates, bilateral and multilateral donors to effectively communicate and pool monetary and educational resources, focus efforts on helping LEDCs and for UNESCO to retain its role as the coordinating mechanism for National EFA plans of each country and the international EFA effort.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly on the 8th of September 2000. From this spawned the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight international goals Universal goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight international development goals to achieve by 2015 to make the world a better place. Specifically, MDG 2, "achieve universal primary education" and some portion of MDG 3, "Promote gender equality and empower women" are related to the promotion of compulsory primary education. Goal 2 and 3 respectively:
"Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling."
"Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and to all levels of education no later than 2015."
The MDGs were drawn up to provide a common ground on which different countries and states in the world could work together towards. The idea itself is laudable but general progress towards it is slow overall. With specific reference to MDG 2, currently the global enrolment of boys and girls in primary education institutes has continued to rise, reaching 90 per cent globally. However the overall pace of progress is immensely far from what is required to ensure that by 2015 all boys and girls will be able to complete a full course of primary education.
Several factors contribute to this which mainly are disparities in gender, disability, ethnicity, urban versus rural location, working children, the economic and social stability of a country and the wealth of a family. According to the Final Report of the World Education Forum, areas experiencing the worst of such conditions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have seen little to no progress in their educational aspect from 1990 to 2000.
Despite clearly stating in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that primary education should be made free for all; such an aim has not been reached yet. International conferences and reminders have been made, and amidst all that progress is still slow in achieving the 6 main goals. It can be said that global efforts in tackling the problem are not concentrated enough and the international community has yet to pool their ideas and resources efficiently.
For this issue, delegates must address the problems faced with the promotion of compulsory primary education, bearing in mind the economic and social state of each country which faces different problems.
Delegates can also take into account that every country has its own form of compulsory education, comprising of both primary and secondary education, or in some parts of the world, elementary and middle school. Different countries vary in their judgement of the minimum compulsory education level and their structuring of their education system; the separation of primary and secondary education. Therefore resulting documents should bear in mind the delicate and different situations faced by each country.
IV. PROMOTION OF COMPULSORY PRIMARY EDUCATION
Existing measures to help promote compulsory education have already been put in place, however fulfilment of these goals and agreements are conditional upon the different problems faced by each country. Such problems are not unique to each country and are in fact common issues. However some countries and regions face a much greater severity of these problems than others such as sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and other LEDCs.
The main goals of the world at large, with regards to education, currently is to achieve the 6 main goals set out at the World Education Forum as well as goals 2 and 3 of the MDGs by 2015.
In order to achieve this, the world needs to step up efforts in ensuring universal free education. Most importantly, efforts should be focused on the areas which are more lacking in economic and social stability as they require the greatest assistance to be able to reach the international education goals.
Figure 1: Extract from the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010 on the global NER
It is also worth studying the successful educational policies of different countries and regions in the rest of the world to emulate them in areas which are currently lacking.
As of 2012, according to the Millennium Development Goals: 2012 Progress Chart, only Northern Africa is set to achieve universal primary education by 2015. All other regions despite having either moderate or high enrolment are unable to achieve universal primary education if current trends persist. Eastern Asia as well as Caucasus & Central Asia both have had constant high enrolment rates since 2000 making them good models to study from. However they are still unable to cross the last hurdle to pull enrolment rates up to 100 per cent.
Figure 2: Extract from the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010 on distribution of out-of-school childrenSub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have had the lowest two NER's in the year 1999 and in 2008 both regions still rank amongst the bottom few (figure 1.). Also, they both have the highest percentages out-of-school children comprising the two largest percentages of the world's total (figure 2.). It is clear that both regions need great help and assistance in order to achieve universal primary education.
Sub-Saharan Africa consists of all countries located south of the Saharan with the exception of Sudan. It is one of the most affected regions by the AIDS epidemic, faces extremely high maternal mortality rates, has deep seated gender disparity issues and not least of which has the world's lowest literacy rates.
In order to meet the 6 education goals and MDGs 2 and 3, major groundwork needs to be done in sub-Saharan Africa. Global aid to the region has however decreased from US$1.72 billion in 2007 to $1.65 billion in 2008. Currently, one in four sub-Saharan African children does not go to school, and this number forms 45 per cent of the global out-of-school population. 54 per cent of children out of school are girls, and almost 12 million girls may never enrol in school. In total, 1.2 million additional teachers are required to facilitate education in the region to achieve a complete net enrolment ratio by 2015.
Due to the tough conditions in the region, coupled with the lack of excessive development it is certain that achievement of the 6 education goals and complete enrolment in primary school is impossible. It is also uncertain as to when such goals will ever be attained therefore more international cooperation and aid has to take place in order to strengthen sub-Saharan Africa, somewhat of the world's weak link, thus make it possible to achieve MDG 2, universal primary education.
South Asia, along with sub-Saharan Africa has one of the world's lowest education rates. The region covers a series of 7 countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These are the countries recognised as part of the South Asia group by the World Bank and receive aid from them.
Whilst not facing such drastic and dire conditions as sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia nonetheless needs help from the international community to boost its education sector.
LACK OF FUNDS
In many countries and regions in the world, a lack of funding is one of the key factors that results in a lack of educational opportunities for children. For sub-Saharan Africa, 1.2 million teachers alone are needed, to provide salaries for them alone will cost huge sums of money. And this is discounting the housing and facility fees that will be incurred when they join the workforce in new schools.
The Education Sector and Development Plan (ESDP) in Ethiopia is the main body pushing for improvement of education in the country. As of 2007, the government of Ethiopia recognised inadequate capacity as the main obstacle in the way of achieving universal primary education. The country lacks the quality and quantity of education institutions and human resources.
Much effort has already been put into Ethiopia's education sphere, with government spending per child doubling from 35 birr to 72 birr from 2002 to 2005. The number of schools has also increased by 4,733, with 80 per cent of new schools in rural areas which helps to promote the importance of girl education. However, dropout rates of girls are high at 13.6 per cent, and educational facilities are too small to cope with the influx of many more students. Also, the student to teacher ratio has increased from 61:1 to 77:1 from 1993 to 2005. More funds are needed to cope with such problems and to ensure a constant improvement of the educational sector of Ethiopia.
Sudan is also another country which faces the problem of a lack of funds. The General Education Plan Act of 2000 was modelled after the resolutions and goals of the World Declaration of Education for All. As of 2009, the NER of basic education has increased from 40 per cent in 1991 to 53.7 per cent in 2006. Such an increase though is a far cry from what is needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. The main obstacle in the way of progress is the lack of funds.
This root problem first impacts the school as the government cannot provide funds. The schools then have to resort to the localities, the poor parents to fund the school. These parents have very little money for themselves and lesser even to give away, and to supplement their own families they task their children to find work instead. With little money to fund the schools and little children to attend, it is no wonder the NER of basic education has lacked any major improvements.
With funds, education can be provided free to the masses, and as it should be under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is clear that free primary education enables a larger number of children to attain basic education. In the case of Burundi, sub-Saharan Africa, there was a threefold increase in primary school enrolment starting from 1999, attaining a 99 per cent enrolment rate in 2008. This happened after the abolishment of primary school fees.
When the problem of a lack of funds is solved amongst LEDCs, many adverse side effects can be averted and the achievement of universal and compulsory primary education can be enforced.
Gender inequality is a main factor preventing total enrolment of all children in primary schools. Societal stereotypes still prevail in certain areas of the world, sparsely in MEDCs and much more prevalent in LEDCs, especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Under the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) of Ghana, its main aim is to achieve a Gender Parity Index of 1. As of 2007, there have been many successes to the policy implementations of Ghana, with the female enrolment in basic education increasing. The government has appointed a minister for the sole purpose of overseeing girl education, material aids in the form of stationery, uniforms, school bags and food rations have also been provided to girls. District and national scholarships for girls have also been created with gender differentiated grants with higher levels of funds for girls to address gender disparities. Lastly more female teachers have been employed to act as positive role models and measures in schools have been put in place to ensure the safety of girls in schools.
Gender disparity is another major factor other than the lack of funds that impairs the advancement of education around the world. Once this problem has been solved as well, education can be given to all on an equitable basis.
COMPULSORY PRIMARY EDUCATION?
According to the EFA report 2008, compulsory education laws now exist in 95 per cent of all 203 countries and territories. Despite good increments in NER's across the world, disparities still exist between regions, urban and rural, as well as rich and poor populations. Lastly, on current trends, fifty-eight out of eighty-six countries have yet to achieve universal primary enrolment and will not achieve it by 2015.
Universal primary education or compulsory primary education is definitely something that can be achieved in the future. If not by 2015, certainly it will be achieved in time to come. The international community needs to work very closely together and fortify their existing efforts into seeing the world to unprecedented levels of education as have never been seen before.
V. KEY PARTIES
UNESCO is the main coordinator of international EFA efforts and the spearhead of international education conferences. As a division of the UN, UNESCO has the capabilities and power as a prominent international body to get work done. Also, it has taken charge of the promotion of education efforts since 1948 when it first advocated the establishment of universal free and compulsory primary education. Its involvement in the global education sphere is central to the achievement of the 6 main goals laid out in the World Education Forum in 2000.
Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as one of the worse countries in terms of education during the World Education Forum in 2000. It faces the worst education conditions globally with the greatest inequalities based on gender, language and location. Sub-Saharan Africa desperately needs help from the international community both in educational as well as monetary resources. The country needs to be brought out of its state of social seclusion by boosting its economy. Only then will the people be able to break out of societal stereotypes which are the cause of such deep inequalities. If education is not greatly improved in the next few years universal primary education definitely cannot be achieved.
The United States of America has the largest economy in the world and can be regarded as the world's largest economic powerhouse. It has the monetary capabilities to aid many countries around the world which are in desperate need of aid to break out of the poverty cycle and receive education. Currently, it is the main supplier of aid to Sub-Saharan Africa at US$569 million.
LEADING COUNTRIES IN EDUCATION
A non-exhaustive list of such countries would include most South-East Asian ones including Singapore, Japan and South Korea who have run very successful education policies up to date. Other countries with similar successful education policies that target specific problems such as gender inequality can also be emulated in LEDCs and countries with poor education systems. As long as the right help is provided to countries which require it, universal primary education can definitely be achieved.
VI. KEY CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS
SUPPLYING OF FUNDS TO LEDCs
Who will control and monitor the supply of funds?
Will there be a specific organisation or country tasked to macro manage the allocation of funds?
Does the supply of funds actually help? Are they being properly and efficiently used?
IS THERE A LACK OF INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION?
Is the progress of each country and their policies, successful or not made readily available to others?
Is the international community working together to ensure the best set of practices are in place?
Do the different countries know what is going on and which areas require aid?
If so, is such information collated regularly and comprehensively enough? Is there a need for a separate new organisation to be created for this purpose alone?
This list of concerns and questions is not exhaustive, and delegates are advised to research on further issues that require the attention of the General Assembly and formulate pragmatic solutions.
VII. TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Delegates should take note that the following timeline is neither exhaustive nor all-encompassing and are therefore encouraged to conduct their own relevant research into the issue at hand.
UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN General Assembly adopts the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights comes into force
UN General Assembly designates 1990 to be International Literacy Year
UNESCO is appointed as the lead organiser of International Literacy Year
World Conference on Education for All is held at Jomtien, Thailand
The World Declaration of Education for All is written and signed
April; World Education Forum is held in Dakar, Senegal
All governments present at the forum pledge to the Education for All movement
6 main education goals are identified with 2015 set as the target date
September; UN General Assembly adopts the Millennium Declaration
MDG 2, the achievement of universal primary education is set for 2015
The Millennium Development Goals Report is released
Current trends are insufficient to achieve universal primary education by 2015
The Millennium Development Goals: 2012 Progress Chart is released
Only Northern Africa is on track to achieve universal primary education by 2015
All other regions will not be able to achieve the goal if current trends persist
VIII. RELEVANT RESOLUTIONS & DOCUMENTS, PLAGIARISM CHECKLIST
International Literacy Year, adopted on 7th December 1987. A/RES/42/104. Accessible at:
International Literacy Year, adopted on 15th December 1989. A/RES/44/127. Accessible at:
The World Declaration of Education for All and the Framework for Action adopted on 9th March 1990 in Jomtien Thailand. Accessible at:
The Dakar Framework for Action adopted on 28th April 2000 in Dakar, Senegal. Accessible at:
The Final Report of the World Education Forum held from 26th to 28th April 2000 in Dakar, Senegal. Accessible at:
The Millennium Development Goals and indicators from the Millennium Declaration adopted on 8th September 2000 in New York, United States. Accessible at:
The Millennium Declaration, adopted on 8th September 2000 in New York, United States. A/RES/55/2. Accessible at:
The Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2008, Education for all by 2015, will we make it? Accessible at:
18. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. UIS Indicator Definitions: Education Indicators, Techical Guidelines. UNESCO. UNESCO.