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Education Conference, Thailand

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the conclusions made at, and outcome of, the world conference on education for all, held in Thailand on 5 to 9 March.

The ultimate goal affirmed by the world declaration on education for all is to meet the basic learning needs of all children, youth and adults. Countries have been advised of a variety of interim targets towards this end taking account of local circumstances. The conference was a constructive one with a general emphasis on the importance of the role of education throughout the whole range of social, technical and economic development. The World Bank, the United Nations international children's emergency fund, and the United Nations development programme, to all of which her Majesty's Government are a major contributor, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation have all agreed to increase support for education especially at the basic level.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what commitment Her Majesty's Government have made towards achieving the goals of basic primary education for every child, and reducing worldwide levels of illiteracy in response to the world conference on education for all held in Thailand in March; what is the current funding for such goals; and what intention there is to increase funding for these purposes.

In addition to the use of its contributions to the World Bank, the United Nations international children's emergency fund and the United Nations development programme, Her Majesty's Government are ready to respond to the wishes of developing country Governments, who are themselves responsible for deciding the priority they wish to give to expenditure on basic education in relation to other priorities they may have.In 1988, the latest year for which final figures are available, £6·5 million of capital aid from our bilateral aid programme was spent on education, with £1·1 million specifically on primary education. In the same year further expenditure on technical co-operation (for example staff, training and books) and including some £45 million provided to the British Council, was about £95 million, with £2·6 million specifically for primary education and adult literacy. Help given across the whole spectrum of education by, for example, the provision of key personnel in a Ministry of Education, will have a considerable effect on individual sectors. It is likely that the consequences of the conference on education for all will, by encouraging developing country Governments to give higher priority to basic education, enable us to expand more easily our bilateral support for primary education and adult literacy programmes, the latter with a particular emphasis on education for women.