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Sunday, 21 April, 2002, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
World Bank pushes 'education for all'
World Bank president James Wolfensohn
The World Bank seeks to get every child in school

The World Bank has joined Oxfam and the Global Campaign for Education to push plans to ensure a primary school education for all children.

Some 125 million of the world's children are not in school and the lack of education is a chronic cause of poverty in many developing countries.


The question now is will the rest of the world rally around and make this action plan a reality

Phil Twyford, Oxfam
UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, announcing the plan at a major meeting of finance leaders in Washington, said: "Education is the best anti-poverty strategy."

He added: "Too often the world has set goals and failed to achieve them. This time it must be different."

National plans

The plan calls for pilot programmes in 10 countries starting in June, with the aim to sort out which schemes are most effective at boosting school enrolment, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said.

It is the first concrete proposal to address one of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which seeks to ensure a primary school education for all the world's children by 2015.

The World Bank, which provides financial assistance to developing nations, estimates 88 countries will not achieve universal completion of primary education by the deadline date.

Girls studying globe
Girls are far less likely to be in school
The education proposal, announced during the second day of the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), also calls for developing nations to cultivate "national plans" to set minimum standards for achieving education goals.

Education crisis

World leaders have grappled with universal education plans before without much success.

Following last month's UN meeting in Mexico, however, a new consensus was forged among world finance officials to make a strong push for promoting development in poor countries.

It is on the foundation of the Monterrey Consensus that the World Bank's plan may have the best chance in a generation to achieve education for all.

"The question now is will the rest of the world rally around and make this action plan a reality," said Phil Twyford of Oxfam, the anti-poverty organisation.

Mr Twyford said that to secure the commitment made on education, World Bank donor countries must find ways to plug financing gaps to ensure money reaches countries in need.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown backed the education plan
He also called on finance ministers to back the education initiative with an immediate $1bn (700m) down payment to jumpstart new programmes and keep existing ones running.

In Tanzania, for example, more than one million children have started school thanks to decreased fees offset by donor contributions.

"Classrooms are bursting at the seams," Mr Twyford said, while noting Tanzania's efforts could be frustrated if more money was not found.

Education for all

The world's education crisis has resulted in more than one billion illiterate adults worldwide. Many students in poor countries drop out of school before learning to read, write or do simple math.

More startling is the fact that two-thirds of them are girls.

The World Bank says the target of getting an equal number of girls in school by 2005 will be universally missed.

Support of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations is crucial for the education initiative's survival, Oxfam said. It called on the G8 to endorse and finance the plan when it next meets in Canada in June.

The World Bank noted the Dutch Government has already promised around $80m towards a new fund intended to help nations with credible education policies.

Still, far more countries have yet to make a commitment to the education plan.

Two years ago an international conference in Senegal promised that no country would fail to achieve the education target for lack of resources.

But the World Bank says strong international political commitment has yet to translate into sustained gains.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Walker
"There are currently a billion illiterate adults"
See also:

21 Apr 02 | Business
20 Apr 02 | Americas
01 Apr 02 | Education
03 Apr 00 | Education
26 Feb 01 | Education
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