Education for All

August 4, 2014

Arne Hoel/World Bank

Education for All (EFA) is an international initiative first launched in 1990 to bring the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society.” To realize this aim, a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank Group committed to achieving six specific education goals:

  1. Expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
  2. Ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality.
  3. Ensure that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs.
  4. Achieve a 50% improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
  5. Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve 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. Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure the excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

In 2000, 189 countries and their partners adopted the two EFA goals that align with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2 and 3, which refer to universal primary education and gender parity. The World Bank recognizes that achieving these goals requires supporting the full EFA commitment.

Why is EFA important?

Although there has been steady progress towards achieving many EFA goals, many challenges remain:

  • Today, an estimated 250 million children around the world are unable to read and write, even after spending three or more years in school.
  • In 2012, 58 million children were out of school; half of these children lived in conflict-affected countries.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, girls accounted for 56% of out-of-school children in 2012.
  • In 2011, only 60% of countries had achieved gender parity in enrollment at the primary level and 38% at the secondary level.
  • In around one-third of countries, fewer than 75% of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards.
  • In 2011, around half of young children had access to pre-primary education, and in sub-Saharan Africa the share was only 18%.

Achieving the Education for All goals is critical for attaining all eight MDGs—in part due to the direct impact of education on child and reproductive health, as well as the fact that EFA has created a body of experience in multi-partner collaboration toward the 2015 targets. Simultaneously, achieving the other MDGs, such as improved health, access to clean drinking water, decreased poverty, and environmental sustainability, are critical to achieving the education MDGs.

What is the World Bank doing to achieve EFA?

The Bank supports EFA through multidimensional efforts to:

  • Improve educational quality and learning outcomes
  • Improve primary school access and equity
  • Improve the dropout and retention rates of girls, as well as their learning outcomes
  • Promote early childhood development

Protect EFA prospects in fragile statesThe Bank helps countries achieve their education goals through finance and knowledge services in the forms of analytic work, policy advice, and technical assistance.

Policy work is a key component of the Bank’s work to realize EFA. The Bank’s Systems Approach for Better Education Results Initiative (SABER), for example, collects and analyzes policy data on education systems around the world, using evidence-based frameworks to highlight policies and institutions that matter most to promote learning for all children.

The World Bank Group also supports the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), as a Board Member, host of the GPE Secretariat, trustee and supervising entity for the vast majority of GPE grants.

Finally, the World Bank also supports EFA efforts through analytic work and sharing of global knowledge and good practice. The Bank’s analytic work has, for example, helped establish benchmarks for quality, efficiency, and resource mobilization in the education sector. 

Last Updated: Aug 04, 2014