General basic education

Approaches, actors and instruments

Hand of a man writing in a notebook

In the Action Plan of Dakar and the Millennium Declaration, the international community pledged to enable all children, by 2015, to receive a formal basic education. Basic education comprises early childhood learning, primary school education, secondary school education and the extracurricular (non-formal) acquisition of basic knowledge and life skills.

Early childhood learning

Preschool children at the German school in Erbil, Iraq

The foundation stone for lifelong learning and individual development is laid in early childhood. Omissions at this stage are difficult to rectify later, so it is worth investing in early learning. Early learning programmes help to counteract developmental delays, particularly in disadvantaged children; prepare children for school; help combat exclusion and poverty; prevent educational disadvantages from being passed on from parent to child; and improve children's prospects of a successful school career. Children's chances of leading a productive and self-determined life are also considerably improved.

The BMZ has introduced early learning into its education strategy and is sharpening the focus on it. The first programmes are already in implementation.

Primary education

A girl at a primary school in Burkina Faso writing on a blackboard during class.

Once the foundation stone has been laid in early childhood, primary education provides the basis for lifelong learning. Not only are reading and writing most easily learned at primary-school age, social and behavioural skills, abstract reasoning and moral conduct all develop during this phase of life.

Despite the significant progress made in recent years, almost 10 per cent of children of primary-school age do not attend school. The most common reason is poverty: parents cannot afford school fees, travel expenses or purchases such as school uniforms, pens and books. Furthermore, many families rely on their children’s labour and contribution to the family's income.

Promoting mother-tongue education

Children with their mothers in Cambodia

In multilingual societies, the language of teaching in primary schools may play a key role in determining a child’s educational prospects. Use of the mother tongue, or at least a second language familiar to the child, is a pre-requisite for effective teaching.

In Latin America, Germany has long supported the introduction of mother-tongue education for indigenous children whose native language is not Spanish. Projects have been successfully implemented in Peru and Bolivia. The introduction of intercultural bilingual education in Guatemala is also beginning to bear fruit.

In a number of African countries, the BMZ has made it possible to produce school books and other books in local languages.

Secondary school education

Class in Burkina Faso

Secondary education is very important as a bridge between primary education and the acquisition of vocational and professional qualifications. Only those who have successfully completed secondary education have any chance of moving on to vocational education and training or higher education.

Enrolment rates for secondary education increased from 43 to 82 per cent in the period from 1970 to 2011. There are large regional disparities, however. While all young people in North America and western Europe move on to secondary school after completing primary school, the corresponding figure in the Arab countries is only 88 per cent, and in sub-Saharan Africa only 49 per cent of children in the relevant age group go on to secondary education.

Non-formal education

Students at a lecture in the auditorium of the Institute for Training and Applied Agricultural Research in Katibougou, Mali

Non-formal basic education encompasses all educational activities offered outside the formal school system. The spectrum includes general, vocational, cultural and political education for children, young people and adults. Non-school basic education plays a key bridging role in developing countries. For example, it can pave the way (back) into formal education for children and young people who have either not attended school at all or dropped out of school.

Adults who cannot read or write can take literacy courses, where they may also acquire a knowledge of health and hygiene, nutrition and family planning, or of career opportunities and funding options.

Actors, cooperation and instruments

In addition to direct cooperation with its partner countries, Germany is committed to promoting primary and secondary school education through international organisations.

One of the BMZ's priority areas in multilateral cooperation is its support to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Germany provides financial contributions to the GPE multi-donor trust fund and supports GPE in-country projects through the provision of experts and by means of supplementary educational activities of its own.

Germany is a founding member of UNESCO's International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All. Since 2008, the task force has been working to combat the shortage of teachers in developing countries. Germany also takes part in the education programmes of the European Union and the World Bank through its financial contributions.

BMZ glossary

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