One in four young people in poor countries cannot read single sentence: UN report


UNITED NATIONS: One in four young people in poor countries are unable to read a single sentence, a UN report said on Wednesday, focusing on poor quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn.

“This learning crisis has cost not only for the future ambitions of children, but also for the current finances of governments,” said the 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report, commissioned by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

This year’s report, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all, warned that poor quality education is leaving a legacy of illiteracy more widespread than previously believed. Around 175 million young people in poor countries, equivalent to around one quarter of the youth population, cannot read all or part of a sentence, affecting one third of young women in South and West Asia.

“Around 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The annual cost of this failure: around 129 billion,” it said, noting that in around a third of countries, less than 75 percent of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards. Some 57 million children are not in school at all.

“This report’s evidence clearly shows that education provides sustainability to progress against all development goals,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a foreword, noting that the world will already miss the goal of full primary schooling for children, both boys and girls, everywhere by 2015, the second of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000.

“Educate mothers, and you empower women and save children’s lives. Educate communities, and you transform societies and grow economies,” she said.

On current trends, the report projected that it will take until 2072 for all the poorest young women in developing countries to be literate; and possibly until the next century for all girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa to finish lower secondary school.

Even in high-income countries, the report said, education systems are failing significant minorities. In New Zealand, while almost all students from rich households achieved minimum standards in grades 4 and 8, only two-thirds of poor students did. Immigrants in rich countries are also left behind: in France, for example, fewer than 60 percent of immigrants have reached the minimum benchmark in reading.

The report has given the recommendation that to achieve good quality education for all, governments must provide enough trained teachers, and focus their teacher policies on meeting the needs of the disadvantaged.

“As we advance towards 2015 and set a new agenda to follow, all governments must invest in education as an accelerator of inclusive development,” said Bokova, who stressed the imperative to make education central to a sustainable development agenda for the decades after 2015. PNA


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