Rights, Equality and Education for All. The Leap to Equality

Rights, Equality and Education for All. The Leap to Equality

Educational inequality is a major infringement of the rights of women and girls.
All countries have pledged to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005. According to the new edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, 54 countries are at risk of not achieving this goal on present trends.More than 56 percent of the 104 million out of school children are girls and over two-thirds of the world’s 860 million illiterates are women. But reaching equality is not just a question of numbers. It implies the same chances of learning, of benefiting from equitable treatment within the school and the same opportunities in terms of employment, wages and civic participation.This new edition of the Report highlights innovative and best practice, suggests priorities for national strategies and examines how the international community is meeting its commitments towards EFA.
“Education for All” means what it says. The international community has committed itself, in the Dakar Framework for Action, to having all eligible children attending fee-free primary schooling by 2015. In addition, adult illiteracy is to be halved, early childhood education and programmes for out-of-school youth are to be increased, and the quality of education is to be much improved. ‘All children’ includes, of course, boys and girls. However, both the Framework and the Millennium Declaration emphasize that gender disparities in primary and secondary schooling are to be eliminated by 2005, and that equality throughout education is to be achieved within a further ten years. Gender equality, then, is given major prominence in the Dakar and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Why is this?

In no society do women yet enjoy the same opportunities as men. They work longer hours and they are paid less, both in total and pro rata. Their choices as to how they spend their time, in both work and leisure, are constrained than they are for men. These disparities generate substantial gaps between how much women and men can contribute to society, and how much they respectively share in its benefits. In most countries, a fundamental aspect of these disparities, which is both one of their causes and one of their continuing consequences, is inequality in access to and performance in education. These inequalities are deep-seated, and will require special attention and commitment if they are to be removed within the time-frame envisaged by the Education for All (EFA) goals. Accordingly, this report focuses on the main dimensions and causes of these educational inequalities and identifies strategies whereby they can be overcome.

The continuing prevalence of educational inequality is a major infringement of the rights of women and girls, and it is also an important impediment to social and economic development. This first chapter is concerned not with philosophical questions about the appropriate nature or extent of these ‘rights’. Rather it documents the extent to which such rights are already accepted as legally binding on states by virtue of international treaty, or are promised by international declarations which governments have approved. The important developmental case for securing educational equality is also briefly discussed.

Chapter 2 provides an assessment of the world’s recent progress towards achieving the six EFA goals, giving particular attention to gender and to the ways in which it affects the implementation of all of Dakar’s educational aims. Chapters 3 and 4 focus upon the causes of gender inequality in education and upon potential solutions, respectively. The following two chapters adopt a broader agenda – assessing progress with national EFA strategies in Chapter 5 and examining the extent to which international commitments in support of EFA are being met in Chapter 6. The final chapter pulls together these strands, outlining the major elements of national and international strategy towards achieving a genuinely equitable education for all.

UNESCO

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