Our predecessors met here in Delhi in December1993, under the auspices
of UNESCO and UNICEF, to lay the foundations of the E-9 Initiative. The
Delhi Declaration says (please allow me to quote):
“We, the leaders of nine high-population developing nations of the
world, hereby reaffirm our commitment to pursue with utmost zeal and
determination the goals set in 1990 by the World Conference on Education
for All and the World Summit on Children, to meet the basic learning
needs of all our people by making primary education universal and
expanding learning opportunities for children, youth and adults. We do
so in full awareness that our countries contain more than half of the
world`s people and that the success of our efforts is crucial to the
achievement of the global goal of education for all.” (end of quote)
Since then, we have come a long way. Each of us has in our own unique
way taken rapid strides to meet the commitment which we made in 1993 and
reaffirmed in Dakar in 2000 to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015.
As Secretary Bhattacharya mentioned in his welcome speech, our countries
account for 60% of the world’s population, over 2/3rd of the world’s
illiterate population and over ˝ the world’s out of school children. The
latter two are statistics we must change.
In India, it has been our constant endeavour to take our Nation on a
high trajectory of educational reforms, which meet the aspirations of
the children, youth and adults of this country. India has always been
committed to providing quality education to one and all, cutting across
economic and social strata.
Let me highlight one major initiative that has been taken: The enactment
of the Right to Education Act in 2009, which guarantees free and
compulsory education to the children of this Nation, is a truly historic
decision of the Parliament of India. The Right to Education Act
envisions inclusive elementary education of equitable quality for all.
This means that we engage to improve the present delivery system by
making it sensitive to the needs of children, especially those belonging
to disadvantaged groups and the weaker sections of society. The Act also
intends to ensure that the values and content of education are in
accordance with our Constitutional values.
All of us who are responsible for implementing this legislation consider
ourselves privileged to serve the children of this country, and to
confer upon them a constitutional right which would not only provide
them with quality education, but also enable them to participate and
contribute to society in responsible and creative ways.
A number of other initiatives have been taken some of which we will
share with you during the deliberations in this Meeting. Yet, I would be
the first to acknowledge that despite numerous initiatives and
successes, vast challenges remain in my country in providing Inclusive
Relevant Quality Education for All. Therefore, we fully recognise the
critical importance of the theme for this Ministerial Meeting for the
21st century world. We trust that the deliberations here in the next two
days will lay down a clear pathway to achieve our mission of Inclusive
Relevant Quality Education for All, in our respective countries.
I believe that our role as E-9 is going to be crucial. We acknowledged
earlier in our Balimeeting, ‘EFA goals will not be achieved globally if
they are not achieved in the E 9 countries’. We also noted that some
countries may face greater challenges than others in meeting the EFA
goals by the 2015 target date, and that the quality problem is more
acute in the developing world, in part due to the rapid expansion of
access. However, it is recognized that improving the quality of
education and the equity of that quality is a global challenge.
Today, children and youth in low-income, in middle-income and in rich
countries alike are not always learning what they are supposed to learn,
nor acquiring the knowledge, skills and competences which equip them for
the world of work and for active citizenship. Any future education
agenda will have to focus on the issues of quality and relevance. And
when I speak of quality, I mean inclusive quality, i.e. no individual or
population group, irrespective of socio-economic background, is denied
or deprived of a high quality educational growth process.
Formal quality education transcends the provision of quality school or
infrastructure, professionally qualified teachers, child-centred
curriculum and pedagogical practices; it encompasses high learning
levels, an environment conducive to learning, creating systems of
assessment which continuously track the child’s learning abilities, and
above all prepares the child to face the challenges of tomorrow and
participate in the well being and growth of the Nation. With regard to
youth and adult education and learning, including literacy, the same
quality dimensions need to be addressed.
Now that we are only three years away from the 2015 deadline, it is
imperative that we scale up our efforts in a final attempt to reach the
EFA goals. But we also have to start thinking of the future agenda, i.e.
the agenda beyond 2015. Such an agenda should be based on two
considerations. First, it is important to make an analysis of where we
are in 2012 and what we expect to achieve by 2015 with regard to the
entire EFA agenda, the 6 goals of which are all interlinked. Secondly,
we need to examine what are the critical factors which affect our
efforts in reaching the EFA Goals.
Whereas many countries of the world experience economic slowdown which
affects their education systems, especially in terms of its financing,
several of our E-9 countries are, on the contrary, developing their
economies and societies. I do believe that this presents a huge
opportunity for strong and fruitful international cooperation amongst
the countries of the South, specifically the E-9 countries. Such
cooperation is not merely in terms of exchanging ideas and best
practices in international conferences, but also developing
long-standing bilateral or multi-lateral understanding with pro-active
participation of experts and institutions around the world on specific
It is in this context that this two day Review Meeting assumes added
significance. I am certain that as we sit and deliberate together, we
will arrive at decisions which will further strengthen the efforts of
our national Governments in their common endeavour to realize the dreams
of our children and youth. It will also allow us to converge in our
vision of education and to speak with a strong voice, as the E-9
network, in the current global debates about the future education
agenda. The E-9 has a special seat in the new EFA Steering Committee and
India is proud to carry your voice in this important forum which
provides strategic guidance to the EFA movement.
This is why we will strive to attain the objectives of this meeting and
deliver the expected results, namely:
A common action plan and mechanism to take the education quality, equity
of quality and learning effectiveness forward
· Adaptation and/or adoption of the GEQAF as a tool which the E-9
countries can use during the biennium; and
· A firm and concrete commitment to champion education quality beyond
the E-9 countries.
Of particular interest are the three round tables that focus on:
· Provision of Equitable & Inclusive Quality Education
· Relevant Quality Education
· Enhancing Learning Outcomes.