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Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Meeting on the University Community and EFA; UNESCO

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, yesterday opened an international meeting at Headquarters on the theme of the “University Community and EFA”.


Attracting over 100 participants from ministries of education, individual universities, higher education associations and federations, civil society organizations and international agencies, this international conference will explore how to bring universities and the wider higher education community more fully into the broad partnership to achieve education for all (EFA) and the millennium development goals (MDGs).

While observing that it is “the first meeting at the international level at which the views of the higher education community will be brought to bear comprehensively upon the EFA agenda”, the Director-General stressed that “this is not to say that higher education has until now been absent from EFA processes; this is far from the case.” He pointed out that universities are actively involved in teacher education, the training of educational researchers and administrators, the conduct of research into education and other fields, and the production and dissemination of knowledge “which eventually finds its way into classrooms, curricula, examination syllabi, textbooks and learning materials in primary and secondary education.” He described the influence of higher education upon the rest of the education system as “pervasive.”

In association with the outcomes of the strategic review of UNESCO’s post-Dakar role in education for all, Mr Matsuura said that it is now a timely moment to explore how that pervasive influence can be heightened and directed strategically to where it can generate the greatest benefits. He asked: “How can higher education institutions and networks interact more productively with other EFA partners? And how can universities and higher education systems themselves reap benefits from this engagement with the EFA challenge?”

The Director-General outlined several areas of UNESCO’s work where the relation between the university community and EFA might be further developed, notably the three new initiatives on literacy, teacher training in Sub-Saharan Africa and HIV/AIDS prevention education, as well as UNESCO’s priority concern for promoting quality education at all levels but especially in EFA. However, he said that he was most interested in learning how the higher education community itself approaches the whole question of EFA and how it sees itself playing an enhanced role in EFA in the years ahead. The Director-General concluded by informing the representatives of the higher education community that “the EFA movement needs your partnership and your contributions.”

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