Ensuring universal access to a sound education throughout the world—and identifying ways to measure progress toward that goal—will be a key priority of international aid organizations, funders, and experts working to continue efforts under the Millennium Development Goals after they expire in 2015, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. UNESCO, with the government of Senegal and other aid organizations, convened partners in the effort in Dakar this month as part of a series of global consultations to discuss how to further advance the “education for all” agenda adopted by world leaders in 2000.
While the international effort to ensure educational access in the developing world—one of eight goals to eradicate poverty and improve health worldwide—has opened the school doors to more than 50 million more pupils in that time, another 61 million primary-school-aged children still lack educational opportunities, according to UNESCO.
“Education is not only a human right, it’s an enabler for realizing other rights,” UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tan, said in a statement.
Education is understood by many experts to be essential to reversing inequalities and reducing poverty, but for some children, particularly girls and those living in conflict zones, there are significant barriers to getting a quality education.
When the Millennial Development Goals were first adopted in 2000, the emphasis was on providing universal access to primary education. But the success of the program was based solely on the numbers of children attending school, not the quality of the education they received or completion rates, according to coverage of the event by Integrated Regional Information Networks, the U.N. news service, based in Nairobi, that covers humanitarian and development issues.
As a result, more than a third of the 650 million children who received a primary education lacked basic numeracy and literacy skills, a 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report found.
Experts at the gathering suggested the agenda extend basic education beyond the primary level to include at least three years of secondary school, and perhaps even a year of early-childhood education.
“Quality needs to go beyond literacy and numeracy,” Caroline Pearce, the head of policy at the Global Campaign for Education, told the news service, including a focus on safer learning environments.
A version of this article appeared in the March 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Educational Quality Pushed for Developing World