Development's Best Buy

June 12, 2002—The World Bank will announce today that 23 countries will be invited to join the Education For All Fast Track to help developing countries meet the Millennium Development Goal of providing every girl and boy with quality primary school education by 2015. 


Eighteen of the countries —from Sub-Saharan Africa, East and South Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East-- are eligible to receive additional financing to support their primary education programs. By helping these countries to strengthen the quality and delivery of their education systems, and to remove key bottlenecks in school completion, some 17 million children who do not now attend school in these countries will have the opportunity to complete  primary education. To qualify for financing under the Fast Track, countries must prioritize primary education and embrace policies that improve the quality and efficiency of their primary education systems.  


The other five countries are those with the largest numbers of children not in school—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo (the Democratic Republic of Congo does not as yet have a World Bank program), and Nigeria. Together these countries account for 50 million of the estimated worldwide total of 113 million children out of school. The World Bank and the donor community will work with these countries to address the data, policy, and capacity gaps that will need to be resolved for them to be eligible for EFA grant financing support. 


 These 23 countries are part of a larger group of 88 low-and middle-income countries, which, without special national and global efforts, will not achieve the goal of a complete primary education for every girl and every boy by 2015.  Dialogue will be initiated with all countries to ensure that none is left behind in the pursuit of the EFA goal. 


Bank President James D. Wolfensohn calls this “an historic first step towards putting all developing countries on an education Fast Track that could  transform their social and economic prospects.”  He will make the announcement at a press conference at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C. this morning. 


“We’re making an important start with these 23 countries,” says the Bank’s president.  “More than 67 million children in these countries have never set foot in a classroom and many more drop out before completing even 5 or 6 years of primary school, which is the minimum to be able to read, write and do basic arithmetic, and to provide the basis for further learning. Education for All is an achievable goal but it will not be achieved without extraordinary effort by both the countries and their development partners.


“Now it is up to the G-8 and other donors to follow through and provide the financing necessary to make this education Fast Track work. For generations to come, the children of the world will thank them for it.”


The Bank estimates that the G-8, and the rest of the international community, would need to commit approximately $3 billion a year in additional financing over the next 10 years to help all low-income developing countries meet the Millennium education goal of leaving no child without a quality primary education. At the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, the World Bank and other donors promised that no country with a viable and sustainable plan for achieving Education for All would be unable to implement it for a lack of resources. This commitment was reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus.


At the U.N. Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico in March this year, the donor community pledged an additional $12 billion a year to support developing countries in achieving their education plans and other development priorities.    


“If you consider the key lessons of aid effectiveness:  measuring outcomes, focusing on poor countries that can use development aid most effectively, and having donors cordinate their efforts more systematically, then the G-8 have to acknowledge that financing this EFA Fast-Track for all countries in need would be one of the most compelling and sensible development investments ever made,” says Wolfensohn. 


  Country criteria for joining the EFA Financial Fast-Track


   The 18 countries eligible for Fast Track financing were chosen after wide-ranging discussions with developing countries, donors, and civil society. As a result, two simple and transparent criteria have been set for access to Fast Track financing, namely: a full Poverty Reduction Strategy or PRSP in place (by end-August 2002); and an education sector-wide plan for education agreed with the donors and being implemented effectively.


In September, consultations will be completed with the countries themselves to assess their education targets and financing requirements, and to formalize their commitment                       to the EFA “indicative framework,” outlined at the recent meeting of the Development Committee in April 2002.  


Broadly, under the EFA “indicative framework,” each participating country will need to reach agreement on targets for the following:

·        government spending on education

·        spending on primary education

·        teacher salary levels

·        pupil-teacher ratios

·        non-salary recurrent spending

·        average repetition rates


Why Education For All? 


 Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth. For example, the children of a Zambia mother who has completed a primary education, have a 25 percent better chance of surviving. In Bangladesh, women with a secondary education attend political meetings three times as often as women with no education. 


 Broad-based education is fundamental to the construction of democratic societies and knowledge-based, globally competitive economies. Education for All is a necessary first step in this process. Economic prosperity and the reduction of global poverty cannot be accomplished unless all children in all countries have access to, and can complete a primary education of adequate quality. The global record of the last century shows convincingly that learning in broad-based education systems must lie at the heart of any national transformation that succeeds and endures.


According to Mamphela Ramphele, the World Bank’s Managing Director For Human Development, and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, South  Africa, it is now time for the G-8 and other donors to finance the cost of turning ‘Education For All’ into reality for millions of children worldwide, and to mobilize itself behind a global program that aims at nothing less than the worldwide eradication of illiteracy.


 “Economic prosperity and the reduction of global poverty cannot be accomplished unless all children in all countries can at a minimum complete a primary education of good quality.  Education alone will not solve this problem, but the problem cannot be solved without education.” 


Useful links: For more information on the Bank’s work in the area of education, go to