Pauline Rose | Many Indian children not learning basics in school3 min read . Updated: 12 Jun 2013, 01:05 PM IST
Pauline Rose, director of Unesco’s ‘Education for All Global Monitoring Report’ talks on education in India
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has praised India’s progress in sharply reducing the number of out-of-school children, but Pauline Rose, director of the organization’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, said in an email interview that while the increase in access to schooling is impressive, many children are not even learning the basics. Edited excerpts:
What, according to you, are the key reasons for India making such strides in reducing the number of out-of-school students in the last decade or so?
India has taken a major step forward in proposing the Right to Education Act. While this is not fully implemented yet, it has signalled political commitment to addressing the issue of out-of-school children in the country. The government’s strong support of the SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) programme is a concrete measure, which has also made large inroads in helping children enter school for the first time. However, although access to education has improved over time, and at an impressive rate, many children are not learning the basics when in school. The last Global Monitoring Report showed that almost one-fifth of both young men and women in the country were illiterate even though they had spent six years in school.
Pakistan still has a huge number of out-of-school children. What explains this trend in Pakistan? Do you see internal conflict, terrorism and political instability as having contributed to this problem?
One of the reasons why Pakistan’s progress is not equivalent to that of other countries in the region is that the government’s spending on education is small and is decreasing with time. Our calculations show that it spends around seven times more on the military than on primary education, for example. A further barrier to improvement in access to education for Pakistan’s children is the ongoing ripples of conflict in the country, and the continued difficulties for the country’s girls and poorest children to go to school.
India has managed to secure sizable education aid from overseas. Who are the top five donors to India?
The top five donors are: World Bank, followed by the UK, Germany, Italy and UNICEF.
Unesco has said that if the current trend of students remaining out of school continues, the world may not achieve 100% schooling by 2015. Which are the countries likely to falter? Where does India stand here?
Today’s findings show that the proportion of the world’s out-of-school children living in sub-Saharan Africa (is more than 50%). Nigeria houses almost one-fifth of the world’s out-of-school children, for example, and needs urgent attention. The other countries in the top five for the number of children out of school are Pakistan, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines.
While countries such as India are making major progress in reducing these numbers, there is still much work to be done to help all children, no matter their background, (to) get a chance at going to school and learning.
One of the key points in the report is that schooling for millions of children may face problems due to reductions in aid from donor countries and agencies. Though one can understand the fall in 2008 due to the tough economic environment, why has there been a decline in the last three years?
The economic downturn in 2008 is still being felt by many major donors, which is being reflected in the reductions in aid to key social sectors, such as education. The US reduced its aid to basic education by over 10% from 2010 to 2011, for example, and France by 25%.
Why have the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cut down their aid for basic education?
The World Bank has not cut its aid to basic education, but has cut the aid that is being contributed to low-income countries. This indicates that it is not an issue of the amount of aid it is able to allocate to the sector, but an issue of prioritization. We are calling very strongly for all donors not only to increase their aid to fill the finance gap for education, but also to be sure that they are directing it towards the countries, and children, most in need.
Your report shows that secondary education across the world gets the least grants whereas higher education is getting as much as basic education? Why is that so?
Higher education receives more funding from donors than secondary education. Part of the reason for this unbalance is explained by a calculation by the Global Monitoring Report last year. The report showed that, in 2010, $2.4 billion was spent by donors on scholarships for students in developing countries to go to donor countries’ universities.