UNGEI Technical Meeting Report: Summary Outcomes
26-27 November 2005
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The UNGEI Technical Meeting represented an important forum in which to collectively take stock of progress towards the target of gender parity in education, originally set for 2005, which represented the first real credibility test for achieving the MDGs and the goals of EFA. The meeting provided a vital opportunity to assess how the gains made towards the 2005 target could be incorporated into the drive for gender equality within the broader EFA framework. It also provided the opportunity to examine the evolving role of UNGEI and how it can continue to be relevant in generating renewed momentum towards the goal of gender equality in education.
The Technical Meeting was held prior to the EFA High Level Group Meeting in order that recommendations would feed into the latter, both formally through integration into the Communique, and informally through participants taking forward issues for discussion into the High Level Group agenda. The EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) and the Gender Achievements and Prospects (GAP) review provided the backdrop to the UNGEI Technical Meeting and informed the rich basis for discussion.
This report provides a summary of the meeting outcomes, including the key discussion points, and the recommendations that were drawn up by groups for the implementation of ‘Bold Initiatives’.
Link between girls’ education and adult female literacy:
- Recognition of the urgency of girls’ education; the legacy of our past failure to invest in girls’ education has contributed to the high rates of illiteracy that we see today.
- Acknowledgement that teaching of literacy in schools needs to be effective so that children leave school with adequate levels of literacy, and do not become the next generation of illiterate adults. Teaching of initial literacy in children’s mother tongue is especially important in this respect.
- The link between formal education and literacy initiatives needs to be much clearer. Literacy policy is often not adequately integrated into national education policy and strategies.
- Stronger connections need to be made between girls’ education and adult female literacy both in terms of programming, and in advocacy efforts. In turn, greater awareness and understanding is needed of the synergy between adult female literacy and girls’ education from the point of view of mothers having the tools and confidence to make demands on the education system on behalf of their daughters.
The need for relevant data:
- There is a need to take stock of progress, or lack of it, towards achieving gender parity in education in order to assess future prospects and lay the foundations for gender equality. In order to do so effectively, we need a range of indicators that can fully capture progress, eg. policy changes, investment trends.
- Acknowledgement that broad statistics can mask the reality of inequalities, eg. rural-urban divides, and that we need to disaggregate statistics to take account of existing inequalities. The GAP review provides an important benchmark in this respect.
Support for country leadership:
- More needs to be done to create an enabling environment for country leadership. This requires better harmonisation between agencies in ensuring sustained and predictable investment in education through well-coordinated external financing, and that information and best practices are not only shared between agencies but are appropriately integrated into strategies. The role of NGOs in supporting country leadership and their contribution to sector plans also needs to be more fully acknowledged.
- Strong legal frameworks are important to underpin the drive for education for all. The Universal Basic Education law passed in Nigeria provides an example.
- Acknowledgement of the importance of a multi-sectoral approach to girls’ education; that EFA is a priority beyond the education sector. UNGEI can provide an important platform for promoting an inter-sectoral approach by strengthening coalitions that bring together government, civil society and the private sector. LIFE provides an example of employing an inter-sectoral approach in the promotion of literacy.
- Acknowledgement of the importance of promoting decentralisation of education planning and management in order to better address region-specific issues, to accommodate diversities, and to promote partnerships between government and communities.
The importance of Bold Initiatives:
- ‘Bold Initiatives’ are essential if we are to respond to the urgency of the problem of girls’ educational exclusion, and make significant progress towards the MDGs and EFA goals. The climate is right for such Bold Initiatives in terms of the ability of developing countries to lead them, and the commitment by donor countries to provide the assistance needed to underpin them.
- There is a crucial need to ensure that ‘quick wins’/quick impact solutions are balanced by longer term interventions.
- In the context of Bold Initiatives, ‘alternative’ strategies must be contemplated in order to achieve rapid progress in the run up to 2015, recognising that ‘conventional’ strategies will not keep us on track to reach targets. The preparedness to adopt short-term measures, eg. alternatives in teaching support, is important (example given of university students supporting the teaching force in Egypt), while recognising the imperative of building in a long term focus.
The role of UNGEI:
- On the basis that substantial gains have been made towards achieving gender parity in education, that significant lessons have been learned, and that a strong focus on girls’ education has been achieved, UNGEI has a responsibility for ensuring that the discourse on girls’ education moves forward so that the issue of girls doesn’t once again get sidelined. This will involve building on the lessons learned to promote a more sophisticated approach to achieving gender equality within the context of EFA, one that takes account of the different layers of inequality and the specific issues that pertain to girls.
- The strong focus on girls’ education means we now have a much keener sense of the barriers to educational inclusion and therefore an opportunity to address gender parity as it affects both boys and girls, and to tackle other disparities, eg. rural-urban and class differences. Our focus on girls has strengthened our technical capacity to deal with gender and is a leveraging strategy to deal with other disparities.
- Acceptance that Bold Initiatives eg. abolition of school fees can lead to short-term ‘fall-out’ and that we must be ready to provide the technical support to help countries cope with this ‘shock’ to the system and get back on track. UNGEI has an important role to play in ensuring that the needs of girls are fully taken into account in planning for Bold Initiatives so that girls’ vulnerability is not exacerbated in the context of quick-impact solutions.
The following recommendations were drawn up during group work to examine a set of four Bold Initiatives to accelerate progress towards education for all (the recommendations are drawn directly from group transcripts).
It was acknowledged that a 3-way partnership needs to underpin Bold Initiatives and involve: political commitment from within countries; frontloading of funds by donors; and technical assistance from UN agencies and NGOs. UNGEI has an important role to play in terms of advocacy and communication, technical support and guidance, and brokerage and partnership to include leveraging resources directly to governments.
Group 1: Abolishing School Fees and other costs of Education
It is now widely acknowledged that the abolition of user fees has had a huge impact on girls’ participation in school. The burden of school-going costs on poor families is beyond their means and is the major cause of girls’ low enrolment when poverty forces parents to choose how many and which children to go to school. The abolition of fees is a necessary precursor to the achievement of EFA.
Two over-riding principles underpinned the group discussion:
- Support for the abolition of school fees is an integral part of country-led national EFA plans; and
- School fees include direct and indirect costs of education (e.g. school fees, text books, uniforms, transport)
- Prioritize the abolition of school fees on an urgent basis as a key EFA strategy
- Accompany the abolition of fees by support to governments including capacity building and the provision of resources, e.g. teachers, schools, etc.
- Abolish fees for ALL children but with specific incentives/measures to target girls and address the barriers to gender equality, e.g. early marriage, HIV/AIDS, girl child labour, etc.
- Support national efforts to reach beyond UPE and specifically to achieve 9 years of free and compulsory education. Financing should be predictable and long-term (implications for FTI).
- Ensure that adopted strategies to abolish school fees systematically address gender equality.
The role of UNGEI is to promote and mobilize efforts globally and in support of countries abolishing school fees (direct and indirect) with a specific gender equality focus.
Group 2: Equitable distribution of an “Essential Learning Package” to accelerate quality education for all
Rapid identification and procurement combined with the efficient and equitable distribution of an “Essential Learning Package” (ELP) of supplies and services, designed to boost access, consolidate retention and improve the quality of education. The initiative involves working with the existing education system to identify a package of supplies and services that are essential for getting children into school, making sure they attend regularly, that they stay to completion and that they acquire worthwhile learning and achievements from schooling. The resulting package needs to be negotiated and reviewed to ensure that it is affordable and sustainable.
- To governments to consider putting in place the ELP in their educational strategies and national programmes.
- To donors to support governments in implementing the ELP (including providing both financial and technical assistance)
- Contents of the ELP (with specific focus on girls’ education):
- ELP comprises immediate, medium term and longer-term interventions
- The contents of the ELP should be defined depending on the context and needs of each country, as well as on the regional/local context within the country and through a participatory process involving all beneficiaries (students, notably girls, teachers, school inspectors, communities);
- The following basic components of the ELP should be considered each time:
- School Infrastructure (buildings, classrooms, furniture)
- School Health, Hygiene and Nutrition (water and sanitation, school feeding, de-worming, micronutrients, etc.)
- Pedagogical material (exercise books, textbooks and other learning materials, school supplies, didactical materials)
- Educational contents to make them more gender-responsive (improvement of curriculum, textbooks, teacher training)
- Teacher training and support (class supervision included)
- Reinforcing the community participation throughout the process.
Group 3: Schools as Centres for Learning and Delivery of other services for children
Intensifying the systematic use of Schools as Centres of learning and for the delivery of essential services for children (including care and support), in circumstances where normal provision of these services by families and communities are under threat from major challenges. In particular the issue of care and support for girls and orphans and other vulnerable children is expected to be a central function of schools in these circumstances, and that countries will review and reform the function of schools including how they are financed, staffed and supported to play the critical role of institutions for learning as well as for the delivery of other essential services for children.
- Programming partnerships throughout the life cycle of the child (0-18 years):
- Inter-sectoral/Inter-ministerial linkages for the provision of school-based health education and life skills education
- Safety and security in and around school for girls and boys
- Transition from Primary to Post Primary Education
- Non Formal education for out-of-school children
- Adult literacy education
- Measures to address gender discrimination at school level (ensuring child participation)
- National and school leadership advocate for “Learning Plus”
- Early Childhood Education
- Strategy on emergency preparedness at school level (specific focus on girls’ empowerment)
- Capacity Development at all levels:
- School leadership
- School governing bodies and PTAs
- Parents and mothers clubs
- Community leaders
- Local authorities and Ministerial clusters
- Mainstreaming into PRSPs, Education Sector Wide programmes, FTI
- Social protection mechanisms:
- Abolition of school fees
- School feeding and food security
- Cash transfers
- Public work (food/cash for work)
- Recommendations on Next Steps:
- At regional level countries to work in partnerships to demonstrate programming of the initiative (baselines, documentation of practice)
- Leveraging of funds
- Technical and advocacy support
Group 4: Moving Beyond Numbers for gender equality in education and literacy
1. Mainstream gender equality into national policy development through stakeholder participation including children, and make national educational system gender sensitive at all levels.
2. UN and international organizations to provide support for developing a gender-sensitive data monitoring system for analyzing educational outcomes and improving data quality.
3. Establish “family-school-society” network, to strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration for empowerment of the most vulnerable women and children in poverty regions.