NEW YORK, 5 June 2007 - UNICEF's Executive Board today reviewed its programming priorities in education, looking at strategies to help achieve the goal of providing quality education for all children.
Chief of Education Cream Wright presented to the board the three priority themes that will guide UNICEF's ongoing work in this area:
- Equal access and universal primary education
- Empowerment through girls' education and gender equality in primary and secondary schools
- Education during emergencies and post-crisis situations.
Reaching marginalized children
Dr. Wright pointed out that as the world makes progress towards universal primary education, challenges still remain in many countries. "Let's not just celebrate that there are some 90 per cent of children who are in school, but rather focus on the 10 per cent who are not in school, and why they are not in school," he said.
"Who are the most excluded and marginalized?" Dr. Wright asked. "These are really the vulnerable groups. They are the children in the poorest regions, [children] with disabilities, child labourers and so on."
In addition, UNICEF will emphasize empowering women and girls through education - working to get more girls to school as well as exploring ways to help them achieve their full potential, "not only in school but in society," said Dr. Wright.
"We're looking at how to get education to bring real meaning into the lives of girls and women, and that's a major challenge," he added.
The priority on education during emergencies and post-crisis situations involves countries afflicted by conflicts and natural disasters. Dr. Wright stressed the importance of supporting countries in crisis, rapidly restoring a learning environment for children and rebuilding damaged education systems over the longer term.
Focus on the early years
While focusing on these major priority themes, UNICEF will also pay close attention to two other areas: early education and quality of education.
"We will work on the earlier years, which will help us prepare children everywhere for better learning in school," explained Dr. Wright. "If we address these earliest years, then we will be able to have greater efficiency [and] eliminate more disparities and disadvantages in children's later years."
Dr. Wright also highlighted quality as one of the key elements of the UNICEF education strategy.
"Quality of education not only refers to children's exam results but their overall learning experience," he said. "There is no point to building thousands of schools if they are all of poor quality. And there is no point to delivering education if the quality doesn't meet the requirements."