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Chapter XI: Population, development and education - A. Education, population and sustainable development

Basis for action

11.1. In the past 20 years, the world has experienced a rise in educational levels. Although the differences in educational attainment between males and females have shrunk, 75 per cent of illiterate persons in the world are women. Lack of basic education and low levels of literacy of adults continue to inhibit the development process in every area. The world community has aspecial responsibility to ensure that all children receive an education of improved quality and that they complete primary school. Education is an indispensable tool for the improvement of the quality of life. However, it is more difficult to meet educational needs when there is rapid population growth.

11.2. Education is a key factor in sustainable development: it is at the same time a component of well-being and a factor in the development of well-being through its links with demographic as well as economic and social factors. Education is also a means to enable the individual to gain access to knowledge, which is a precondition for coping, by anyone wishing to do so, with today's complex world. The reduction of fertility, morbidity and mortality rates, the empowerment of women, the improvement in the quality of the working population and the promotion of genuine democracy are largely assisted by progress in education. The integration of migrants is also facilitated by universal access to education, which respects the religious and cultural backgrounds of migrants.

11.3. The relationship between education and demographic and social changes is one of interdependence. There is a close and complex relationship among education, marriage age, fertility, mortality, mobility and activity. The increase in the education of women and girls contributes to greater empowerment of women, to a postponement of the age of marriage and to a reduction in the size of families. When mothers are better educated, their children's survival rate tends to increase. Broader access to education isalso a fact or in internal migration and the composition of the working population.

11.4. The education and training of young people should prepare them for career development and professional life in order to cope with today's complex world. It is on the content of the educational curricula and the nature of the training received that the prospects of gainful employment opportunities depend. Inadequacies in and discrepancies between the educational system and the production system can lead to unemployment and underemployment, a devaluing of qualifications and, in some cases,the exodus of qualified people from rural to urban areas and to"brain drain". It is therefore essential to promote harmonious development of educational systems and economic and social systems conducive to sustainable development.


11.5. The objectives are:

  1. To achieve universal access to quality education, with particular priority being given to primary and technical education and job training, to combat illiteracy and to eliminate gender disparities in access to, retention in, and support for, education;
  2. To promote non-formal education for young people, guaranteeing equal access for women and men to literacy centres;
  3. To introduce and improve the content of the curriculum so as to promote greater responsibility and awareness on the interrelationships between population and sustainable development; health issues, including reproductive health; and gender equity.


11.6. The eradication of illiteracy is one of the prerequisites for human development. All countries should consolidate the progress made in the 1990s towards providing universal access to primary education, as agreed upon at the World Conference on Education for All, held at Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990. All countries should further strive to ensure the complete access to primary school or an equivalent level of education by both girls and boys as quickly as possible, and in any case before the year 2015. Attention should also be given to the quality and type of education, including recognition of traditional values. Countries that have achieved the goal of universal primary education are urged to extend education and training to, and facilitate access to and completion of education at secondary school and higher levels.

11.7. Investments in education and job training should be given high priority in development budgets at all levels, and should take into account the range and level of future workforce skill requirements.

11.8. Countries should take affirmative steps to keep girls and adolescents in school by building more community schools, by training teachers to be more gender sensitive, by providing scholarships and other appropriate incentives and by sensitizing parents to the value of educating girls, with a view to closing thegender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005. Countries should also supplement those efforts by making full use of non-formal education opportunities. Pregnant adolescents should be enabled to continue their schooling.

11.9. To be most effective, education about population issues must begin in primary school and continue through all levels of formal and non-formal education, taking into account the rights and responsibilities of parents and the needs of children and adolescents. Where such programmes already exist, curricula should be reviewed, updated and broadened with a view to ensuring adequate coverage of such important concerns as gender sensitivity, reproductive choices and responsibilities, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. To ensure acceptance of population education programmes by the community, population education projects should emphasize consultation with parents and community leaders.

11.10. Efforts in the training of population specialists at the university level should be strengthened and the incorporation of content relating to demographic variables and their interrelationships with development planning in the social and economic disciplines, as well as to health and the environment, should be encouraged.


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