Education for All (In’am Al Mufti)

In the past two decades in particular, governments and international agencies in the
developing world sought to respond to developmental challenges by focusing
increasingly on expanding educational opportunities. This drive by developing
countries was in fulfilment of UNESCO’s mission to achieve ‘Education for All’. But
the expansion in education was concentrated on coping with the growing
demand for schooling, while the quality of education itself was not given
priority. The result was over-crowded schools, outdated teaching methods based
on learning by rote and teachers who have become unable to adapt to more
modern approaches such as democratic participation in the classroom, cooperative
learning and creative problem-solving. These are now obstacles to
better education.
Significantly, the vast and rapid expansion of the education system, and its
o v e r b u rdening in many countries, have resulted in the inability to attend
adequately to the question of educational equity, which calls for providing learning
experiences appropriate to the learning needs of students with varying abilities. In
the overwhelming ambition to provide education for all, the needs of students with
high potential have been neglected and students with differing abilities have been
treated equally. As Jefferson once said: ‘There is nothing more unequal than equal
treatment of unequal people.’ Notwithstanding the good intentions of traditional
policies, to deprive outstanding students of appropriate educational opportunities is
to deprive society of the best human resources that lead towards real and effective
development.
As we move into the twenty-first century, developing countries face a multiplicity
of challenges in their quest for development. Taking up those challenges requires wellt
rained and pre p a red leaders to confront socio-economic needs. The specific
educational requirements of outstanding students, the ‘leaders of tomorrow’, must be
recognized and met.
T o a d d r e s s t h e s i t u a t i o n
To address the situation, additional educational opportunities that provide a more
advanced content and methodology must be established to cater to individual
differences. Classroom teachers should be trained to accommodate the different
learning needs of talented students. One of the top priorities of every school should
be to develop and set challenging curricula that offer advanced comprehensive
learning opportunities, in order to meet the needs of outstanding students. This is of
the utmost importance for the preparation of future leaders who will spearhead the
march towards sustainable development. The regular school curriculum needs to be
developed to offer talented students a challenge.

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