Skip to Content

Besides International Human Rights Law and constitutional national laws, there are other important frameworks in the field of education. The two over-arching and most influential ones are EFA and MDG. While the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All was broad-reaching in its agenda, focusing across the education spectrum from early childhood care and education, to primary and secondary education, and adult learning, the Millennium Development Goals on education reduced this focus to universal primary schooling (and gender equality), diverting attention from other important education goals. This reduction is problematic but is also why the MDGs remain more popular amongst policy makers, governments and donors.

There are many studies that highlight the importance of early childhood development (ECCE), secondary education and investment in adult literacy; not least because of the huge impact investment in these areas has on gender equality and women’s rights. For example, women are nearly always the primary carers for young children and providing early childhood care can free up their time and expand their choices.

Moreover, the impact of secondary education on women’s ability to have control of their personal life (for example, to choose when and with whom to have sexual relations), as well as unlock economic, social and political resources, is widely evidenced.

As EFA and MDG are vague, less specific and less developed, they are less likely to appear constraining to dutybearers (either particular governments or the international community as a whole). Neither of them are legal texts with legal obligations, but both can be said to constitute moral obligations, because they have been popularised (through the media and civic society organizations) and have been introduced as priorities in many countries' anti poverty strategies.



 Education for All (EFA)

The Dakar Framework for Action is a collective commitment to action by countries, based on the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, 1990) and supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It recognises that ‘all children, young people and adults have the human right to benefit from an education that will meet their basic learning needs in the best and fullest sense of the term, an education that includes learning to know, to do, to live together and to be. It is an education geared to tapping each individual’s talents and potential and developing learners’ personalities, so that they can improve their lives and transform their societies.’ And that education is the key to sustainable development, peace and stability within and among countries.

Based on this, the collective governments, organisations, agencies, groups and associations committed to the following six goals:

1. Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;

2. Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality;

3. Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes;

4. Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults;

5. Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality;

6. Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The UN adopted the Millennium Development Goals amid great fanfare in 2000, setting out its commitment to halving world poverty, improving health and education and regenerating the environment in the world's poorest countries. Countries have repeatedly committed themselves to achieving these goals such as universal primary education and eliminating gender disparities at all levels of education by 2015.

The MDGs have been adopted by all major donor countries and agencies - including the World Bank - and by the governments of many developing countries as the backbone for their anti-poverty efforts. They thereby enjoy an air of respectability, although they are far from being legal in nature.

The MDGs for achieving gender equality in education are:

Achieving universal primary education, by ensuring that all boys and girls alike complete primary schooling by 2015

 Promoting gender equality and empowering women, by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary schooling in all levels of education no later than 2015