Education and training in the context of poverty reduction
This communication stresses the vital importance of education and training in reducing poverty and in development and presents an overall framework for the objectives, priorities and methods of the European Community in this field.
Communication from the Commission of 6 March 2002 to the Council and the European Parliament on education and training in the context of poverty reduction in developing countries [COM(2002) 116 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Education and training play an essential role in reducing poverty and in development.
The Commission sets out three priorities for the Community, namely:
- basic education, in particular primary education, and teacher training;
- work-related training;
- higher education, in particular at regional level.
In spite of the vital role of basic education, it is also important to ensure balanced development of education, in other words improved education systems at all levels.
Priority 1: basic education
As regards the development of basic education, nine main actions are set out:
- increasing substantially the total resources channelled into education, in particular primary education;
- improving the efficiency of education systems by drawing up strategies that take account of the specific situation of each country;
- improving school access opportunities and moving towards free and compulsory access to primary education;
- gearing budgets towards the most urgent needs for poor and vulnerable population groups which have only limited access to schools.
These groups include women, people living in rural areas, indigenous peoples, children and disabled adults, etc;
- reducing existing gender-based inequalities in relation to access to education by promoting the participation of women;
- placing emphasis as much on the quality as the quantity of education.
In this context, teacher training and the availability of teaching materials are priorities;
- paying greater attention to the impact of AIDS on education systems and improving the prevention of the disease through education;
- protecting and restoring education in conflict and post-conflict periods;
- increasing knowledge of education programmes relevant to development.
First of all better statistics on education are needed so that a relevant strategy can be drawn up.
Priority 2: work-related training
Priority should be given to work-related training, in other words consideration should be given to education demand. To this end, four priority actions are identified:
- establishing an education system which provides an opportunity to learn more technical skills through vocational training. Specialist centres and apprenticeships are some examples of services that could be created for this purpose;
- supporting educational strategies, systems and processes that promote the demand for education and the acquisition of qualifications needed to pave the way for the country's economic growth;
- introducing innovative approaches that go beyond the formal education sector, focusing on women in particular. These could include promoting self-employment and access to other forms of capital (land, loans, for example);
- introducing active policies to ensure a closer link between training and employment.
These policies could integrate job-seeking aid and direct assistance for job creation.
Priority 3: higher education
Support for higher education is particularly necessary in order to ensure successful teacher training and general institutional development. In this respect, four specific actions are identified:
- developing information and communication technologies (Internet, telephone, etc.);
- encouraging cooperation between European and third-country institutions, especially at regional level;
- ensuring greater vigilance in regard to the impact on these countries of a brain drain to developed countries;
- enhancing the institutional capacities of developing countries.
Implementation of the above actions requires substantial investment on the part of the developing countries and the European Union. European Community funding in the field of education and training will come via two main instruments: macroeconomic and budgetary support and the implementation of a sectoral approach. It is important to ensure effective cooperation and coordination among all donors. The Commission also considers that ownership of the activities and strategies in this field by the people of the developing country, and in particular the poorest and most vulnerable groups, is vital.
The Commission sets out strategic options for the implementation of the actions, in particular:
- political and strategic dialogue with the countries and integration of the policies in this field into the development strategies drawn up for each country and the poverty reduction strategies;
- a sectoral approach to provide a framework for the activities in this field;
- macroeconomic and budgetary support;
- consideration of the needs of the poor and their participation;
- participation by education actors and civil society in the broad sense, including the private sector;
- support for institutional development and capacity-building;
- monitoring of activities via indicators.
In the Annexe, the Commission sets out a common framework for cooperation on higher education, a code of conduct for funding agencies and some monitoring indicators.
This is borne out by a series of initiatives undertaken at international level. The Dakar Forum (' Education for All ') in April 2000 reaffirmed and broadened the international community's commitment in this field and the Millennium development objectives highlighted the importance of education, particularly education for girls and basic education.
As far as the European Union is concerned, the November 2000 statement on development policy identified the promotion of access to social services such as education as a priority field.