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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 23:49 GMT
Target for primary schooling for all
Millions of children do not learn to read and write

The International Development Secretary, Clare Short, has called for a new approach to education in developing countries - with the aim of achieving universal primary education by the year 2015.

In a speech at Nottingham University, she said that access to basic education was the "absolute precondition" for progress in development and reduction of poverty.

"In this, the penultimate month of the 20th century, 130 million children around the world do not or cannot go to school. Two thirds of these are girls," she said.

Clare Short: "All future adults should have basic literacy and numeracy skills"
"If a country is to develop, it needs all its children, all its future adults to have least the basic skills of literacy and numeracy."

Primary education helped people become more productive and earn higher incomes.

It also led to improvements in health, nutrition and child mortality, she said.

Ms Short outlined four steps which she said needed to be taken to guarantee developing countries would have universal primary education, and that girls would enjoy the same access as boys.

  • Governments in developing countries would need to give strong and sustained commitment to universal primary education.

  • Education would need to be properly resourced. Developing countries would need to reallocate resources away from less productive areas, like military spending and would need to use education budgets more effectively.

  • Work on primary and basic education would need to shift away from an approach based purely on "projects" and move towards a "sector wide" approach, designed and led by developing country governments.

  • The approach to education would need to be linked to the wider development effort - to policies on health, sanitation, livelihoods and rural transport.

Ms Short said that while the primary sector had to be the main education priority, other sectors would also need support.

It would be the secondary and tertiary levels of education which would provide the teachers, scientists and professionals of the future, and new ways must be found of improving these sectors.

"We need to look at different ways of providing education at this level, which are more efficient and less costly than before," she said.

"I am very interested, for example, in the possibility of distance learning, where possible using new technologies to expand access to secondary education and skills training."

Ms Short said this expansion of the skills base would be be boosted by Department for International Development's new "Skills for Development" initiative.

The initiative, which would benefit from 25m of British Government funding for the next three years, would aim to address the shortage of skills faced by developing countries.

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See also:
01 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Short announces aid packages
19 Oct 99 |  Guide to the UK Government
Department for International Development

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