UNICEF and UNESCO-backed Forum pledges equal opportunities, access to universal education
ASTANA, 28 June 2007 - The 6th Central Asian Forum on Education was held in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on 26-28 June 2007. The Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science hosted the Forum with the support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Forum has been held on a rotation basis for six years, and it was Kazakhstan’s turn to take care of it this year.
The Forum heard reports by member-states on the mid-term evaluation of the 10 years of the implementation of the Education for All (EFA) global programme and discussed further cooperation between the Central Asian countries on education.
“Education for All means that it is indeed for all, including children with special needs and children from poorest families and ethnic minorities. Those countries which have already solved the main issues of providing children and youth with access to all types of education, improving the education infrastructure and training cadres could work deeper now to enhance the quality of education and ensure its universality,” Zouev told the participants of the Forum.
Talking about the further steps to improve education for children, Zouev said that UNICEF in Kazakhstan was currently holding talks with World Bank partners on financing UNICEF’s technical assistance and expertise for national partners to tackle the issues of early child development and improvement of pre-school education.
Delegates assessed the progress achieved in carrying out the tasks and objectives announced at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, in April 2000. At the Dakar World Forum participants had pledged to achieve tasks and objectives by 2015 within the framework of the EFA programme. The programme includes the expansion and improvement of measures on looking after infants and their upbringing, especially those who are socially vulnerable and growing in poor families; the improvement of the quality of education, in particular, of the children with special needs; providing compulsory education for all children; providing equal opportunities for young people to access education programmes and acquiring life skills; and achieving universal literacy.
The Forum noted that the countries in the region made tangible progress in improving the education systems in terms of quality, accessibility and funding. Kazakh Education and Science Minister, Zhanseit Tuymebayev, said that Kazakhstan had increased sixfold since 1998 the financing of the education sector to 3.5m dollars. Progress is also being made on the computerization of schools and encouraging children to strive for better results in their studies.
However, not all the countries are making equal progress to achieve the EFA objectives due to a number of reasons, including the lack of financing and unequal development of economies in the region.
“It seems likely that the region’s increase in inequality is reinforced by public expenditure on education, which disproportionately benefits richer families, who also benefit from their greater capacity to make private contributions to the education system. For example, in Tajikistan, the distribution of public spending on general education remained equitable between 1999 and 2003. This reflects the growing contrast in attendance rates at upper secondary and higher levels between richer and poorer students,” said UNICEF Regional Advisor on Education and Early Child Development, Philippe Testot-Ferry.
According to the reports by member-states, during the mid-term evaluation they encountered such problems as dealing with new statistics and evaluation forms, tough deadlines for making the evaluation reports, lack of financial resources for producing the reports, lack of analytical potential and experience in monitoring and evaluation, absence of statistics on non-formal education, absence of statistical data on the use of child labour, lack of up-to-date statistics on certain areas and on the dynamics of education development in the Central Asian countries.
The Forum participants discussed how to enhance the efficiency of the work on implementing the EFA programme and adopted recommendations to overcome problems and speed up the progress to achieve the EFA tasks.
Deputy Ministers and representatives of education and science ministries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, representatives of UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, non-governmental organizations specializing in education and other international and donor organizations and experts attended the Forum. The Education Ministry of Turkmenistan, which hosted and worked on the 2006 forum, officially passed on the Forum flag to the Kazakh Education and Science Ministry to represent the continuity of the mission.
Closing the Forum, UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Alexandre Zouev said: “Along with the Mother and Child Health Forum and the new Child Protection Forum, the Education Forum remains the main political rostrum for cooperation between the countries, analysis of the current experience in education and distribution of innovative approaches as well as coordination of international and donor organizations in the education sector.”
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments
For additional information, please contact:
Sultan Khudaibergenov, Communication Officer, UNICEF Kazakhstan