April 2008

Education For All: Future Imperfect

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Recently, the '2008 Global Monitoring Report on Education For All by 2015' was released by UNESCO. While education constitutes a crucial and obvious element for over all development of any country, setting goals to levearage the weight of the United Nations behind a universal goal has been an effective approach. What remains to be seen is whether the targets stated in the EFA will be met within the stipulated time. Truthfully, as the report  clearly states, 58 out of the 86 countries have not yet reached universal primary enrolment and are unlikely to achieve it by 2015. Out of 101 countries, more than two-thirds will not have succeeded in significantly reducing adult literacy by 2015.

Education has beguan to acquire significant weight in any country's agenda, including India. Developing and under developed countries in Sub- Saharan Africa and South and West Asia are struggling to cope with these goals. Some countries lack sufficient political or financial capability to implement policies, many are witness to unceasing political conflicts that hinder social development. Other problems that plague social progress are lack of gender sensitivity and social support systems which have left a large number of women out of school. Teacher training and availability is a perennial problem. Moreover, difficulty in finding quantifiable data that would aid in mapping ongoing progress constitutes all together another challenge in itself.

The silver lining is the increasing power of technology to open avenues that would have earlier been unfeasible. A notable fact is that today, students from premier Indian institutions, such as IITs can earn while they learn by e-Teaching weakers students in other countries. Budgets are increasing, traditional education systems are debating reforms, and even the private sector involvement might just bridge the gap between the demand and supply of higher education. Niche television channels run by corporate which focus exclusively on educational content have also made an appearance.

While the prospect of technology are exciting in the current scenario, the achievement of overall goals such as those stipulated in the EFA agenda seem unlikely unless we have a few breakthroughs that allow scope for much more than what is currently possible. Large scale education dynamic still depend on factors, such as aid and access. The first can and has been addressed by the government(s) to an extent. We at Digital Learning hope that ICT will help in the latter. Education needs to turn around from teaching the past to facing the future.

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