"Education For All" is a global movement led by UNESCO, aiming to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. UNESCO has been mandated to lead the movement and coordinate the international efforts to reach Education for All. Governments, development agencies, civil society, non-government organizations are some of the partners working toward reaching these goals.
The debates have shifted from access to education, but rather to quality of education or how much are the children learning in schools, which is the core of education. The international challenges include the shortage of trained teachers, learning materials, adequate school facilities which pose a fear of inhibiting children to master the basics in education. There has however been a concerted effort, especially in developing countries, in trying to address these issues.
In dealing with these issues, there are undertakings which have been taken in terms of the international progress towards the Education for All Campaign. The conclusion is hoping to meet the six goals by 2015. The goals to be addressed are Early Childhood, Universal Primary Education, Youth and Adults, Literacy, Gender Parity, and Education Quality. Although there have been integrated successes in relation to these goals which are being measured by a set of indicators, they are complex and are indicators of a progress.
According to Prof Howie, in comparison to the international experience, South Africa is not unique with regard to its challenges in meeting its EFA goals and has made progress with 5 out of 6 goals. She however said South Africa should improve its position to address quality issues in education (goal 6).
"South Africa needs to improve all aspects of our quality education and ensuring excellence so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in numeracy, literacy and essential life skills", said Prof Howie.
Prof Howie mentioned that the Quest for Quality and challenges of possible quality lies within a relatively large system and it takes a while to shift progressions which we have witnessed 17 years down the line. There are also challenges in changing the system where there is excellence and a significant number of average achieving schools, as well as the system which is dominated by under performance and even disfunctionality. "In undertaking and sustaining this mightiest task, we need to protect the existing quality we have in some of our existing schools", said Prof Howie.
Having outlined some of the challenges with the education, Prof Howie' s CEA has tried to make contributions towards the quest for quality in education by writing publications and also undertaken research on a variety of topics. The centre has provided technical support to the national and provincial government on systemic evaluation over a number of years. It has designed and developed instruments to measure quality, participated in research regarding quality assurance and education, and also trained researchers and professional in formal post-graduate programmes.
Prof Howie also mentioned that the CEA focuses on enhancing the expertise on system level in monitoring and assessment, influenced by the World Bank’s moving away from the "education for all" campaign. The World Bank has launched its Education Strategy for the next ten years which focuses on "learning for all", meaning that they are concentrating on what is happening inside the classroom.
The centre also wants to introduce quality instruments to measure quality in schools and link them to the 21 century skills initiatives that are occurring internationally. "Instead of reducing our focus to only catching up internationally, the 21 century skills initiatives provide us with opportunities to move forward. We also want to establish new national and international partnerships with university researchers and also enhance relations with government and non-government agencies", concluded Prof Howie.
For more information on the public lecture, please contact:
Prof Sarah Howie
Centre for Evaluation and Assessment
Faculty of Education
University of Pretoria
Tel: 012 420 4131
Fax: 012 420 5723
Cell: 082 454 7202
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