ISLAMABAD: Recognising that the ‘Education for All’ goal remains unachieved in the nine most populous countries of the world, E-9 member countries on Friday expressed a commitment to strengthen collaboration with each other to improve education standards in their countries.

Participants of the two-day long 10th E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting, hosted by Pakistan here in the capital highlighted achievements and challenges in the education sector faced by their countries.

E9 is a forum of nine countries, which was formed to achieve goals of Unesco’s Education For All (EFA) initiative.

The E-9 Initiative was taken up in 1993, with the aim of strengthening national efforts to ensure access to quality basic education in nine most populous developing countries, where the scale of the challenge was the greatest.

This year, Pakistan hosted the annual conference attended by Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The member countries agreed that the high number of out-of-school children and adults with insufficient literacy skills in the E-9 countries continues to be a great challenge.

“The number of illiterate adults growing in a number of countries is an issue of serious concern. We are determined to scale up efforts to promote functional literacy and non-formal education programmes, supervised by the government and adapted to diverse local contexts and needs,” said a detailed communiqué issued by member countries at the closing ceremony.

The communiqué said the nine countries have made significant progress towards achieving the EFA goals.

“While the size and scale of progress has been diverse among the nine countries, we recognise that the EFA agenda remains unfinished in each of the countries in terms of fulfilling equal right to relevant and quality education for all,” it said.

It further said, multifaceted social and economic transformation and the changing landscape of international cooperation have given rise to new challenges for educational development. E-9 countries, that include Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria recommended that education should be the top priority for government funding.

“We strongly recommend reaching the internationally recognised benchmark of 4-6 per cent of gross domestic product and/or 20 per cent of total public expenditure for education,” it said.

While emphasising that strong domestic financing is the key to success, it also recommended development partners to increase and better target aid towards education, in particular to those countries most in need.

Participants also endorsed the vision, principles and targets laid out in the Muscat Agreement, noting that the overarching goal to ‘ensure equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030’ reflects the aspiration of each of our countries for national educational development beyond 2015.

Addressing at the concluding ceremony, Minister of State for Federal Education & Professional Training Engineer Balighur Rehman said: “Education is the only and best way for people to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty. I am confident that together we can steer this important boat to safe shores.”

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2014