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UNESCO: Inequalities in Education Still Serious

Millions of children around the world are denied opportunities to go to school and have to live in poverty because of deep inequalities in education, a UNESCO report said on Tuesday.

The report, published by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), blamed a combination of political indifference, weak domestic policies, and the failure of aid donors to act on commitments for the persistent inequalities in education.

It warned that "unacceptable" national and global education disparities were undermining efforts to achieve international development goals.

"Unequal opportunities for education fuel poverty, hunger, and child mortality, and reduce prospects for economic growth. That is why governments must act with a greater sense of urgency," said UNESCO's Director-General Koichiro Matsuura.

The report noted that there was a "vast gulf" in educational opportunity separating rich and poor countries.

One in three children in developing countries, or 193 million in total, reaches primary school age with their brain development and education prospects impaired by malnutrition, it said.

Some 75 million poor children, including almost one-third of sub-Saharan children of primary school age, can not go to school, compared to over a third of children in rich countries completing university, it added.

In addition, gender enrollment gaps remain large across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Disadvantages based on language, race, ethnicity and rural-urban differences also remain deeply entrenched.

The report warned that the world is not on course for achieving the international development target of universal primary education by 2015.

According to partial projections, at least 29 million children will still be out of school in 2015. And this headline figure is an under-estimate as it does not include conflict affected countries such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report stressed that governments need to attach a greater priority to fairness and social justice.

Drawing on international experience, it identified a range of policies to remedy extreme inequality.

These include the removal of school fees for basic education, increased public investment, incentives for girls and marginalized groups, and a strengthened commitment to education quality.

(Xinhua News Agency November 26, 2008)

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