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International Development Agencies and Education

Regional Institutions

Official regional development agencies are those whose mandate confines them to serve regional objectives. Some are part of regional governments, such as the European Union (EU), while others are managed by groups of individual national governments with common interests, like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This entry will review the history, legacy, importance, and role of some of the more important regional institutions with regard to education.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Purpose. Originally founded as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), OECD was formed to administer American and Canadian aid for the reconstruction of Europe under the Marshall Plan after World War II. In 1961 the organization was renamed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to promote economic growth and global trade. Since then, its mandate has been to build strong economies in member countries, improve efficiency, hone market systems, expand free trade, and contribute to development in industrialized and developing countries. It also groups the thirty member countries in an organization that provides a setting in which governments develop economic and social policy. Increasingly nongovernmental organizations and civil society are included in policy and thematic discussions. OECD is well known for its publications and statistics, which cover economic and social issues including education, the environment, social policy, and science and technology.

Structure. OECD's internal governance consists of each member country having a permanent representative, usually of ambassadorial rank, who sits on the council, the governance body. The council, meeting in sessions of ministers or permanent representatives, makes all major decisions on budgetary issues and the work programs of each committee.

Projects and activities. OECD does not generate operational development projects, but rather focuses on information-generating projects, such as collecting statistical indicators across OECD countries and writing publications. For example, OECD's Directorate of Education, Employment, Labor, and Social Affairs (DEELSA) undertakes work in the following five areas: (1) education and skills; (2) employment;(3) health; (4) international migration; and (5) social issues.

DEELSA undertakes research and policy work in education as well as other areas. The emphasis within education is on lifelong learning, from early childhood to adulthood, which is considered important for social integration and a tool in the battle against social exclusion, from both society and the labor market. However, the work of DEELSA spans the range from early childhood development to higher education, including adult learning and literacy, education indicators, education policies, finance of lifelong learning, higher education management, human and social capital, information and communication technology (ICT) and the quality of learning, inclusion and equity, knowledge and learning, a program for international student assessment, schooling for tomorrow, and the transition from initial education to working life. The directorate produces host meetings and conferences to discuss these issues and provides online documents, newsletters, and publications pertaining to each area. In addition, the directorate works in close cooperation with the thirty member countries and draws on the expertise of the secretariat and external consultants, who provide advice and guidance through their national delegations and ministerial meetings. The resulting work is intended to meet the needs of member countries and their citizens.

Within DEESLA is the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), which carries out studies and promotes an international dialogue about education across OECD countries. It is a source of information and publications on the topic of education. It strives to establish links between research, policy innovation, and practice, to enhance knowledge about educational trends internationally, and to actively engage educational researchers, practitioners, and government officials in cross-national discussions.

Statistical improvements. One of the first efforts to improve education statistics was the creation, in 1990, of the Indicators of National Education Systems (INES) with support in part from the U.S. Department of Education. OECD embraces the importance of statistics as a means of achieving informed policymaking. The INES program responds to the need to standardize the collection of statistics on a given aspect of education. For example, in the area of students with disabilities or learning or behavior problems, each member country uses a different definition for a particular term. The INES program works to establish uniformity in the definition and collection of indicators.

More recently, the World Education Indicator (WEI) project, a joint endeavor of OECD and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has become an important initiative to expand the indicators system beyond OECD countries. Begun in 1997 as a pilot project for a small group of countries invited by OECD and UNESCO, the primary aim of the project is to develop a small but critical mass of policy-oriented education indicators, which measure the current state of education in an internationally valid, timely, and efficient manner. The project received funding from the World Bank for organization and administration, but participating countries provided their own resources for assembling and reporting data.

During the first year, the eleven countries that initially agreed to participate identified common education issues of concern, agreed upon an indicator set and the definitions and classifications to be used in the data collection, and assembled and provided the data. OECD processed the data and results, which were subsequently presented in the annual publication Education at a Glance. During the second year of the project, OECD and UNESCO agreed to add a number of countries that had expressed an interest in joining the pilot group, bringing the number of participating countries to sixteen. Indicators prepared from the data submissions over the two-year period served as the basis for a separate WEI report released in 2000. In 2001 the project produced Teachers for Tomorrow's Schools: Analysis of the World Education Indicators, a second volume that analyzes education indicators developed through the WEI project.

In addition to the basic data collection to derive the indicators, a number of special-interest groups assembled to research areas requiring data development and make recommendations based on their research of additions to the indicator set. World Bank funding permits pilot projects in six selected countries to develop national education indicators systems that both respond to national policy information needs and are compatible with education indicators used at the international level. The result of these pilot projects is a number of national education indicator publications that are disseminated to policymakers within national ministries and development agencies.

European Union (EU)

Purpose. The European Union, formed by the Maastricht Treaty of 1993, expanded European integration through the establishment of a common foreign and security policy and standards of justice, and improved police protection. A twenty-member European Commission represents the policymaking arm and executive body for the fifteen countries that comprise the EU. The Council of the European Union (not to be confused with the Council of Europe, which is a separate regional institution) is comprised of one representative of ministerial level from each member country, and it represents the legislative body of the EU. Along with the European Parliament, the council makes legislative and budgetary decisions for the EU.

In the formation of the EU, education was suggested to remain a national enterprise. Article 149 of The Treaty Establishing the European Community notes, "The Community shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organization of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity." However, although education itself is thus not an official function of the EU mandate, EU literature still claims education and vocational training were "two cornerstones of the Commission's commitment to securing investment in people" ("Education–Training–Youth"). In fact, education programs were inaugurated to improve the prospects of European integration in culture, science, technology, and labor markets.

The EU's education policy has six basic components: (1) education; (2) vocational training; (3) recognition of diplomas and comparability of vocational qualifications; (4) training and mobility;(5) youth; and (6) international cooperation. The education component contains programs dealing with quality, access, and the teaching of languages. There have been four main programs–Tempus, Socrates, Erasmus, and Lingua–and European integration was the rationale for each.

Erasmus program. Erasmus (1987), Lingua (1989), and Tempus (1990) were each established before the official creation of the EU in 1993, as projects of the European Community, a precursor to the EU. The Erasmus program was adopted in June 1987 and amended in December 1989, and its focus was the mobility of university students within the European Community. The steps included establishing a European university network among the member states, the creation of grants to assist with travel and the cost-of-living differential, recognition and mobility of diplomas and periods of study, and the financing of promotional activities to create awareness of work throughout the European Community. In 1994, its final year as an independent program, Erasmus received European Currency Unit (ECU) 96.7 million.

Lingua program. Lingua went into effect in January 1990 and lasted independently for five years. It was an attempt to bolster foreign-language competence within the EU. Specifically, it focused upon Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Luxembourgish, Portuguese, and Spanish. The program operated at various levels: citizens, teachers, university students, and organizations. The focus was on promotion, increasing learning opportunities, and innovative training. Lingua's budget was set at about 200 million euros. In its five years, Lingua provided services for 120,000 youth through educational projects, 30,000 students through interuniversity cooperation, and 30,000 teachers through training grants. In addition, projects promoting languages in economics and business were established. In 1995 Lingua activities were integrated into other EU programs.

Tempus program. Tempus was first established in May 1990, with a second phase adopted in April 1993, and a third phase adopted in April 1999. The third phase was scheduled to last from 2000 through 2006. Tempus was designed to help develop higher education systems for the "eligible countries" operating as partners with EU member states, and funding was established at ECU 95 to 100 million per year. Eligible countries include a number of republics in central and eastern Europe and central Asia. Its stated objectives were to develop new teaching programs, purchase equipment, encourage mobility of university professors, create periods of study in member states, and promote the learning of European Community languages. The overall goal of each of these objectives was to assist in the transfer to a market economy. The second and third phases added more countries to the list of eligible nations and further refined its features. The third phase aimed to adapt higher education to the socioeconomic and cultural needs of the new democracies. By phase three, the focus had become the reform of higher education structures, linking training to industry, and strengthening citizenship and democracy.

Socrates program. While Tempus was continually updated as its own program, both Lingua and Erasmus were melded into the Socrates program, the only one of the four to be established first as an EU program. Socrates was inaugurated in March 1995 and moved into a second six-year phase in January 2000. Socrates had a much more general aim to actually create an open European educational area through access, mobility, and language knowledge. It incorporated higher education (Erasmus), school education (Comenius), and adult education initiatives (Grundtvig), as well as language learning (Lingua), distance learning and technology education (Minerva), and information exchanges (Arion and Eurydice). Socrates also extended beyond the member states into some central and eastern European countries and former Soviet republics. Phase two had a budget of 1.85 million euros.

Program evaluation. Criticism and difficulties of the four programs included the divergence among the legacies of the various nations, especially the newly independent states; coordination and communication between nations; and monitoring and evaluation of projects. However, there have also been some indirect side effects, including the improvement of quality, coverage, and content of local and national systems.

The remaining components. Vocational training involves access to training, analyzing qualification requirements, quality of training, and promotion of apprenticeship. The EU has run a variety of programs and organizations to handle vocational training. These have included Comett and Eurotecnet to promote technology and human resource training, IRIS (Inter-Regional Information Society) to promote equality of opportunity, Petra to boost the status of vocational education and encourage transnational cooperation, Force to encourage investment in vocational education, and Leonard da Vinci to promote lifelong learning and EU cooperation.

Recognition of diplomas and qualifications and training and mobility both attempt to facilitate unity with the EU. This has involved creating mechanisms for the recognition of diplomas and the establishment of comparable training. It has also meant the removal of barriers to mobility, such as recognition of training abroad and the continuation of health insurance.

Youth programs have included volunteer service, social inclusion, and youth exchange programs, such as "Youth for Europe." Finally, international cooperation programs have involved the United States and Canada.

The EU has its origins in the European Federalists Union, designed in 1946. The following year, the Marshall Plan was signed, and a variety of unionist movements began, culminating in the International Coordination of Movements for the Unification of Europe Committee in December 1947. Some of those involved in the movement wanted a federation, and others wanted simply cooperation. In 1950 French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a union of countries to pool coal and steel resources. Six nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) ultimately subscribed to the Schuman Plan, forming the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. These six nations ratified the Treaty of Rome in 1953, thus officially starting the path toward a European union forty years later. This community developed from a tax, customs, and quantity regulator into a full-fledged political institution, dealing with trade, human rights, labor, economics, agriculture, and energy. In 1967 the ECSC merged with the European Economic Community and Euratom to form the European Communities (EC). In November 1976 a council was held in The Hague, and a statement was published regarding the possible construction of a "European Union." In 1983 the Ministers of Education held their first joint meeting with the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs. A ruling on non-discriminatory enrollment fees was handed down in 1985. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent opening of eastern Europe, a council held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, drafted a Treaty on the European Union in 1991, which was ratified in 1993 with twelve member nations. Just before ratification, the commission published a green paper on creating a "European dimension of education." In 1995 Austria, Sweden, and Finland joined the EU, bringing the number to fifteen, with a number of eastern European newly independent states awaiting ratification. A council in Brussels in 2001 outlined a ten-year strategic education and training plan with three main objectives: (1) increase quality and effectiveness of education in the EU; (2) facilitate access; and (3) open up education and training systems "to a wider world" through research, mobility, and exchanges.

The Council of Europe (COE)

The Council of Europe is distinct from–and larger than–the European Union. As of 2001 the COE comprised forty-three member states, including all fifteen of the European Union states. Established in 1949 and headquartered in Strasbourg, France, the COE is a regional organization that essentially makes recommendations (through conventions, studies, and activities) to member states. The COE holds no legislative authority over its members, and this allows it to consider a large breadth of issues. The COE has developed programs involving human rights, economics, health, culture, sport, the environment, education, and many others, not including defense. It also tries to ensure that citizens of one nation, who are residents of another, will receive the same social benefits as the nationals. The requirements for membership in the COE are less stringent than the EU, as nations basically must accept "the principle of the rule of law" and guarantee "human rights and fundamental freedoms to everyone under its jurisdiction" (Council of Europe website 2001).

The COE was born from the 1948 Congress of Europe. While some nations favored a European union or federation, others felt more comfortable with basic intergovernmental cooperation. These nations (along with five of the six eventual charter members of the ECSC) formed the COE in 1949. One of the earliest COE conventions included education. In 1950 the ten original member states signed the European Cultural Convention, which established a framework for education, as well as youth, culture, and sport.

With so many nations involved in discussions, the breadth of issues considered by the COE has also stretched the specific area of education. The COE has considered educational projects in primary, secondary, higher, and adult education; research and promoting links and exchanges; recognition of educational qualifications throughout Europe; publishing handbooks for policymakers and educators; and cooperating with European institutions and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, with the opening of central and eastern Europe, educational programs to assist the new democracies took hold in the 1990s. The COE has been active in promoting democratic citizenship and, toward the end of the 1990s, social cohesion.

Regarding higher education, the COE established the Higher Education and Research Committee for the exchanges of views and experience among member-state universities. Other higher education activities have included mobility, recognition of qualifications, lifelong learning, citizenship, cultural heritage, access, research, and social sciences. In 1971 the COE established the European Documentation and Information System for Education (EUDISED), which pools education research from throughout Europe and is available via the Internet. EUDISED is a joint project with the EU's European Commission. In addition, the Legislative Reform Program (LRP) helps new member states reform their higher education laws.

The variety of cultures and languages represented by the COE presents challenges for any cooperative effort, thus language learning and social science have been the focus of many programs, such as the Council for Cultural Cooperation's Modern Language Project and the European Center for Modern Languages. The COE's cultural work has also involved democracy, human rights, minorities, history teaching, and "Europe at School," an annual Europewide competition for school children.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is the largest regional security organization in the world with fifty-five participating states from Europe, Central Asia, and North America. It is active in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and postconflict rehabilitation.

The OSCE approach to security is comprehensive and cooperative. It deals with a wide range of security-related issues, including arms control, preventive diplomacy, confidence and security-building measures, human rights, democratization, election monitoring, and economic and environmental security. It is cooperative in the sense that all OSCE participating states have equal status, and decisions are based on consensus.

The OSCE headquarters are located in Vienna, Austria. The organization also has offices and institutions located in Geneva, Switzerland; The Hague, Netherlands; Prague, Czech Republic; and Warsaw, Poland. The organization employs about 4,000 staff in more than twenty missions and field activities located in southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, eastern Europe, and Central Asia. They work "on the ground" to facilitate political processes, prevent or settle conflicts, and promote civil society and the rule of law.

The organization's attention to education is twofold; it comprises (1) internal and external training efforts, and (2) an emphasis on voter and civic education.

Given the considerable increase in the number and size of OSCE field activities in the 1990s, the OSCE's training efforts must be able to adapt to the changing environment. The OSCE participating states regard training as a tool for enhancing the ability of the organization's institutions and missions to carry out their mandate. This is the underlying principle behind the OSCE Strategy on Capacity Building and Training adopted by the OSCE Permanent Council in March 1999. Participating states have acknowledged the need for training in two main spheres: first, training as a component of human resources management within the organization; second, training as an instrument to achieve the goals of the OSCE in conflict prevention, crisis management, and postconflict rehabilitation.

Within the areas of voter and civic education, training is emphasized. The OSCE deems it necessary for election observers to be able to assess the extent and effectiveness of voter and civic education. Sufficient voter and civic education is necessary to ensure that participants in the electoral process are fully informed of their rights and responsibilities as voters. These efforts can also generate knowledge and interest about the election process and build a climate for open debate. Voter education is focused on the particular election and should inform voters of when, how, and where to vote. It is therefore essential that this information be provided in a timely manner, allowing voters sufficient time to make use of the information. Civic education is a long-term process of educating citizens in the fundamentals of democratic society and civic responsibility. It may focus on the choices available to the voter and the significance of these choices within the respective political system.

Although political parties and civic organizations may contribute to voter and civic education efforts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the government and the election authorities to ensure that voters receive objective and impartial information, which should be provided to all eligible voters, including traditionally disenfranchised segments of the population, such as minorities.

Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO)

The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization promotes cooperation in education, science, and culture in Southeast Asia. The SEAMEO was established in 1965 in Bangkok, Thailand, and it has a mission to establish networks and partnerships, to provide a forum for policymakers and experts, and to develop regional "Centers of Excellence" for human resource development. Some specific education project areas include education technology, language, higher education, science and mathematics, vocational and technical education, distance learning, history, and education management.

The SEAMEO has ten member countries from Southeast Asia, six associate member countries from Australia, North America, and Europe, and one donor country, Japan. Each member and associate member assigns a representative to the SEAMEO Council. There are eleven centers that focus upon various sectors.

Each of the centers involves education to some degree. The Center for the Impact on Tropical Biology builds capabilities and provides grants and training. It also is developing a postgraduate degree program in information technology in natural resource management. The Center for the Impact on Educational Innovation and Technology provides training in educational leadership, curriculum and policy development, technology, literacy, nonformal education, and community development. The Center for the Impact on Education in Science and Mathematics provides research and teacher training in science and mathematics instruction. The Center for the Impact on Language Education provides teacher training in language instruction through pedagogy, testing, and textbooks. The Center for the Impact on Higher Education Development promotes recognition of qualification in Southeast Asia and conducts networking and policy development in higher education. The Center for the Impact in Indochina runs a regional training center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, which provides English training and planning for vocational and technical school directors. The Center for the Impact on Open Learning/Distance Education provides computer resources and training to promote distance learning. The Center for the Impact on Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture provides graduate study, training, and research, and it adopted an elementary school through the Community Outreach Program. The Center for the Impact on Archaeology and Fine Arts develops theories of standard practices and scholarship on regional culture, arts, archaeology, and heritage. The Center for the Impact of Tropical Medicine and Public Health was established for training and research, and it grew into a forum on policies and sector needs. Finally, the Center for the Impact on Vocational and Technical Education conducts training programs and provides an education database.

SEAMEO emerged from a 1965 meeting between education ministers from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and the Republic of South Vietnam (now Vietnam). Advisers from UNESCO and the United States were also involved. Indonesia and the Philippines joined in 1968, followed by Cambodia in 1971, Brunei Darussalam in 1984, and Myanmar in 1998. Its first thirty-five years saw numerous challenges within the region in the form of various social and political transitions, some of them violent, and an extreme economic downturn in the 1990s. Also, SEAMEO has faced cultural diversity that has created both tension and programs.

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

The Inter-American Development Bank, the oldest and largest regional multilateral development institution, was established in December 1959 to help accelerate economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank's operations cover the entire spectrum of economic and social development. In the past, IDB lending emphasized the productive sectors of agriculture and industry, the physical infrastructure sectors of energy and transportation, and the social sectors of environmental and public health, education, and urban development. Current lending priorities include poverty reduction and social equity, modernization and integration, and the environment.

IDB provides financing for projects in the education sector for the purpose of promoting greater integration of educational activities within the national development strategy of the member countries. The loans and technical cooperation from the bank for education have the following objectives:

  • Training of human resources for development to contribute to the formation of technical and scientific skills that enable people to efficiently carry out the occupational tasks of promotion and management needed for the economic and social development of the country.
  • Equality of educational opportunities to facilitate national efforts for introducing conditions of fairness in access to education opportunities for the entire population.
  • Efficiency of investments in education to stimulate and support national efforts for rational planning of education systems and the essential reforms in content, teaching methods, organization and administration of programs, and institutions and systems, to achieve more positive results within the financial possibilities of the country.

IDB gives preference for financing development projects in the following educational areas:

  1. Higher education programs at the professional, postgraduate, and scientific and technological research level and the training of specialized technicians in short-duration courses. The bank will support the role of higher education in the training of management teams needed in the development process and will stimulate the strengthening, at the national and regional levels, of institutions with high academic standards capable of showing the way in critical development areas.
  2. Programs on technical education and professional training to turn out skilled workers and middle-level technicians in occupations needed for productive activities and to assure their participation in the social and cultural benefits of their communities, including reform and adaptation of middle-level education programs, which provide training in technical occupations without sacrificing the opportunity of acquiring basic education.
  3. Education programs to provide a minimum of social and work skills to young persons and adults who did not have access to formal education, thus equipping them to find employment in rural development programs or rehabilitation of urban areas.
  4. Programs to introduce substantive reforms in curriculum, teaching methods, structure, organization, and functioning of basic, formal, and nonformal education at the primary and secondary level. These programs can include education research, training and retraining of teachers and auxiliary technical staff, nontraditional forms of education, and the design, production, and evaluation of institutional materials, equipment, and communication systems of proven effectiveness. The basic objective of these programs is to improve the quality and efficiency of education activities and to expand the levels of participation without considerable increase in cost.
  5. Programs to improve efficiency and fairness in the application of funds intended for financing education and promoting the creation of additional sources of financing by improving student loan systems, social security, business support, scholarships for priority professional fields, and such other systems as appropriate.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank, a regional multilateral development institution established in 1966, provides loans and investments for developing countries; technical assistance for development projects, programs, and services; facilitation of public and private capital investment for development; and assistance in policy coordination and planning. The ADB has fifty-nine member countries, with Japan and the United States as the largest shareholders (combining for almost one-third of the shares). The ADB has a stated primary goal of reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific, and its headquarters are in Manila, Philippines.

One of the ADB's objectives is supporting human development, and education is one of the major means to this end. Noting that education is a basic human right recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ADB states, "Education helps lay the foundation for the three pillars of poverty reduction: human development, equitable economic growth, and good governance" (Asian Development Bank 2001). However, it was not until 1988 that the ADB formally stated in a policy paper that basic education was a human right. According to its own historical accounts, the ADB invested $4.6 billion in education between 1970 and 2000, with about two-thirds of that investment occurring in the 1990s. During its initial years, the ADB followed a "manpower planning" and economic growth philosophy and funded facilities and equipment for vocational and technical education. In 1988 the ADB published its first education sector policy paper, which called for investment in primary and secondary education to foster human and social development. In 1990 the ADB adopted the goals set down by the World Conference on Education for All, held in Jomtien, Thailand, which called for universal education and gender equity. With these goals came an emphasis on basic education, teacher training, and curriculum planning. The ADB also moved deeper into policy, research, and capacity-building activities. However, education represented only about 6 percent of the ADB's total investments during the 1990s.

The ADB's 2001 education policy paper called for the ADB to support programs in literacy and nonformal education, early childhood development, basic education, secondary education, higher education, and skills training. It also called for reducing poverty, enhancing the status of women, and facilitating economic growth.

Critique of the ADB has included a narrow focus on "schooling as opposed to education in the broader sense" (Asian Development Bank 2001), uneven distribution of support (three countries accounted for two-thirds of the total education lending between 1970 and 2000), an early focus on traditional project technical assistance, education as a relatively small proportion of the ADB's overall investment portfolio, sector reform not always guided by clear policy goals and strategies, and overall education investment not reaching its impact potential because of weak sector analysis.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

The Economic Commission for Africa is a United Nations regional institution designed to foster economic and social development and promote regional integration and cooperation in Africa. Established in 1958, the ECA has its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and it reports directly to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The fifty-three African countries comprise the ECA's member states, and it serves four main modal functions: (1) advocacy and policy analysis; (2) convening stake-holders and building consensus; (3) technical cooperation and capacity building; and (4) enhancing the United Nation's role in Africa. In approaching educational and other policy issues, the ECA essentially reports on social situations and influences policy.

Because of Africa's size, political situations, and economic extremes, education in the continent provides a variety of challenges. A 1995 conference of ministers' report (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa 2001) outlined many of the educational issues the ECA has faced and documented during its existence. According to the report, "the crisis in African education" intensified in the 1980s and 1990s, because of rapid population growth and cuts in public spending. Many African countries during this period offered little funding for primary education, and primary school enrollments declined while total enrollment increased. Together with these issues were declining standards, overcrowding, lack of teaching materials, and declining teacher morale. Inadequate facilities and "deteriorating" educational quality also plagued secondary education during the period. Girls were not served at the same level as boys, and fewer girls stayed in school through tertiary education. Higher education as a whole faced low salaries, political issues, lack of materials, student and professor unrest, and university closures. Finally, the number of adult illiterates rose considerably during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

The ECA has served a number of roles in handling educational issues and other sector situations. It helped create the African Development Bank in 1964, and it has assisted in the establishment of a number of other regional organizations and technical institutions. The ECA also helps member nations communicate and cooperate in efforts to tackle issues. Through analyses and reports, the ECA tries to suggest and implement strategical approaches to problem areas, and it also helps evaluate the progress of implemented programs.

As economic development strategies moved away from primarily physical or structural developments and recognized the importance of education and human capital in capacity building, many of the ECA member states adopted international conventions on educational development. A 2001 ECA strategy noted eight "sub-programs," including facilitating economic and social policy analysis, promoting trade and mobilizing finance for development, enhancing food strategy and sustainable development, strengthening development management, harnessing information for development, promoting regional cooperation and integration, promoting the advancement of women, and supporting subregional activities for development.

The African Development Bank (AfDB)

The African Development Bank, a regional multilateral development bank, was established in 1964 and began operations in 1966. The AfDB has seventy-seven shareholder states, including each of the fifty-three African countries and twenty-four nations in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. As a development bank, the AfDB provides: (1) loans and investments for developing countries; (2) technical assistance for development projects, programs, and services; (3) facilitation of public and private capital investment for development; and (4) assistance in policy coordination and planning. Education is one of the AfDB's major sectors of support, and financing includes specific projects, loans, private-sector support, and cofinancing with bilateral and multilateral institutions.

The AfDB did not support an education project during its first nine years of operation. The first education project occurred in Mali in 1975. From 1975 through 1998, education lending represented 6.7 percent of the total lending to all sectors. During that period, over 80 percent of the AfDB's lending in education went to hardware, such as equipment and furniture. In addition to funding hardware, the AfDB has funded training for teachers, administrators, and planners, and construction and rehabilitation. The AfDB has also supported both regional and national projects.

Three publications/conferences had major effects on AfDB educational policy. First, the AfDB published an Education Sector Policy Paper in 1986. Before that time, education accounted for just under 60 percent of the AfDB's social-sector lending. After the policy paper, education accounted for an average of 70 percent of all social-sector spending (from 1985 to 1998). A second milestone was the 1990 Jomtien World Conference on Education for All, which called for gender equality and universal basic education. Prior to 1990 nearly half of all funding went to secondary, general, vocational, and technical education or teacher-training projects. After the Jomtien conference (1991–1998), however, 52.8 percent of the total lending went to basic education.

As Africa's education issues evolved in the last years of the 1990s, the AfDB tried to address challenges, such as globalization, the growth of information technology, the increased role of the private sector, deepening poverty, high unemployment, low human-capital production, extreme population growth, HIV/AIDS and malaria, armed conflicts and population displacement, and unequal access to education. Recognizing that education could both affect and was affected by these issues, the AfDB released a new Education Sector Policy Paper in 1999. This paper listed three priority areas: (1) quality education for all; (2) provision of middle and high-level skills; and (3) organization and management of the education sector. The paper also listed five strategies of improvement: (1) access; (2) equity; (3) quality of instruction and output; (4) management and planning; and (5) financing mechanisms. It also suggested the AfDB's approach would shift from a project-orientation to a sectorwide approach focused on joint financing with governments and institutional partners. Among the areas of interest that had grown since 1986 were girls' education, technology and distance learning, environmental education, population and AIDS education, and peace education.

Some of the areas in need of improvement within education-sector funding, according to the policy paper, included the need to balance qualitative and quantitative approaches, coordinating projects at the community level, participation of beneficiaries and stakeholders, maintenance and sustainability of building and equipment, supervision of projects, and monitoring of evaluations. In addition, Njoki Njoroge Njehû, the director of 50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice, a coalition "dedicated to the profound transformation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund" ("Hearing on U.S. Policy," 2001), noted that the conditions in Africa had not improved substantially during the first thirty-five years of bank lending and that the AfDB, "as it recovers from its management crisis of the 1990s, is losing relevance to most of the people of the continent" by lending to "very few sub-Saharan countries."


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UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA. 2001. "Report on the Activities of ECA in the Areas of Human and Social Development as Well as Civil Society: The Years 1997–2001." <www.uneca.org/publications/dmd/old/civil/report.htm>.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comEducation EncyclopediaInternational Development Agencies and Education - Regional Institutions, United Nations And International Agencies - BILATERAL AGENCIES, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)