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International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)

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Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development

Chapter 11 : Population, Development and Education

A. Education, population and sustainable development

B. Population information, education and communication


A. Education, population and sustainable development                     [ UP ]

Basis for action

11.1. In the past 20 years, the world has experienced a rise in educational levels. Although the differences in educational attainment between males and females have shrunk, 75 per cent of illiterate persons in the world are women. Lack of basic education and low levels of literacy of adults continue to inhibit the development process in every area. The world community has a special responsibility to ensure that all children receive an education of improved quality and that they complete primary school. Education is an indispensable tool for the improvement of the quality of life. However, it is more difficult to meet educational needs when there is rapid population growth.

11.2. Education is a key factor in sustainable development: it is at the same time a component of well-being and a factor in the development of well-being through its links with demographic as well as economic and social factors. Education is also a means to enable the individual to gain access to knowledge, which is a precondition for coping, by anyone wishing to do so, with today's complex world. The reduction of fertility, morbidity and mortality rates, the empowerment of women, the improvement in the quality of the working population and the promotion of genuine democracy are largely assisted by progress in education. The integration of migrants is also facilitated by universal access to education, which respects the religious and cultural backgrounds of migrants.

11.3. The relationship between education and demographic and social changes is one of interdependence. There is a close and complex relationship among education, marriage age, fertility, mortality, mobility and activity. The increase in the education of women and girls contributes to greater empowerment of women, to a postponement of the age of marriage and to a reduction in the size of families. When mothers are better educated, their children's survival rate tends to increase. Broader access to education is also a factor in internal migration and the composition of the working population.

11.4. The education and training of young people should prepare them for career development and professional life in order to cope with today's complex world. It is on the content of the educational curricula and the nature of the training received that the prospects of gainful employment opportunities depend. Inadequacies in and discrepancies between the educational system and the production system can lead to unemployment and underemployment, a devaluing of qualifications and, in some cases, the exodus of qualified people from rural to urban areas and to "brain drain". It is therefore essential to promote harmonious development of educational systems and economic and social systems conducive to sustainable development.


11.5. The objectives are:

(a) To achieve universal access to quality education, with particular priority being given to primary and technical education and job training, to combat illiteracy and to eliminate gender disparities in access to, retention in, and support for, education;

(b) To promote non-formal education for young people, guaranteeing equal access for women and men to literacy centres;

(c) To introduce and improve the content of the curriculum so as to promote greater responsibility and awareness on the interrelationships between population and sustainable development; health issues, including reproductive health; and gender equity.


11.6. The eradication of illiteracy is one of the prerequisites for human development. All countries should consolidate the progress made in the 1990s towards providing universal access to primary education, as agreed upon at the World Conference on Education for All, held at Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990. All countries should further strive to ensure the complete access to primary school or an equivalent level of education by both girls and boys as quickly as possible, and in any case before the year 2015. Attention should also be given to the quality and type of education, including recognition of traditional values. Countries that have achieved the goal of universal primary education are urged to extend education and training to, and facilitate access to and completion of education at secondary school and higher levels.

11.7. Investments in education and job training should be given high priority in development budgets at all levels, and should take into account the range and level of future workforce skill requirements.

11.8. Countries should take affirmative steps to keep girls and adolescents in school by building more community schools, by training teachers to be more gender sensitive, by providing scholarships and other appropriate incentives and by sensitizing parents to the value of educating girls, with a view to closing the gender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005. Countries should also supplement those efforts by making full use of non-formal education opportunities. Pregnant adolescents should be enabled to continue their schooling.

11.9. To be most effective, education about population issues must begin in primary school and continue through all levels of formal and non-formal education, taking into account the rights and responsibilities of parents and the needs of children and adolescents. Where such programmes already exist, curricula should be reviewed, updated and broadened with a view to ensuring adequate coverage of such important concerns as gender sensitivity, reproductive choices and responsibilities, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. To ensure acceptance of population education programmes by the community, population education projects should emphasize consultation with parents and community leaders.

11.10. Efforts in the training of population specialists at the university level should be strengthened and the incorporation of content relating to demographic variables and their interrelationships with development planning in the social and economic disciplines, as well as to health and the environment, should be encouraged.

B. Population information, education and communication                 [ UP ]

Basis for action

11.11. Greater public knowledge, understanding and commitment at all levels, from the individual to the international, are vital to the achievement of the goals and objectives of the present Programme of Action. In all countries and among all groups, therefore, information, education and communication activities concerning population and sustainable development issues must be strengthened. This includes the establishment of gender- and culturally sensitive information, education and communication plans and strategies related to population and development. At the national level, more adequate and appropriate information enables planners and policy makers to make more appropriate plans and decisions in relation to population and sustainable development. At the most basic level, more adequate and appropriate information is conducive to informed, responsible decision-making concerning health, sexual and reproductive behaviour, family life, and patterns of production and consumption. In addition, more and better information about the causes and benefits of migration can create a more positive environment for societies to address and respond to migration challenges.

11.12. Effective information, education and communication are prerequisites for sustainable human development and pave the way for attitudinal and behavioural change. Indeed, this begins with the recognition that decisions must be made freely, responsibly and in an informed manner, on the number and spacing of children and in all other aspects of daily life, including sexual and reproductive behaviour. Greater public knowledge and commitment in a democratic setting create a climate conducive to responsible and informed decisions and behaviour. Most important, they also pave the way for democratic public discussion and thereby make possible strong political commitment and popular support for needed action at the local, national and international levels.

11.13. Effective information, education and communication activities include a range of communication channels, from the most intimate levels of interpersonal communication to formal school curricula, from traditional folk arts to modern mass entertainment, and from seminars for local community leaders to coverage of global issues by the national and international news media. Multichannel approaches are usually more effective than any single communication channel. All these channels of communication have an important role to play in promoting an understanding of the interrelationships between population and sustainable development. Schools and religious institutions, taking into account their values and teachings, may be important vehicles in all countries for instilling gender and racial sensitivity, respect, tolerance and equity, family responsibility and other important attitudes at all ages. Effective networks also exist in many countries for non-formal education on population and sustainable development issues through the workplace, health facilities, trade unions, community centres, youth groups, religious institutions, women's organizations and other non-governmental organizations. Such issues may also be included in more structured adult education, vocational training and literacy programmes, particularly for women. These networks are critical to reaching the entire population, especially men, adolescents and young couples. Parliamentarians, teachers, religious and other community leaders, traditional healers, health professionals, parents and older relatives are influential in forming public opinion and should be consulted during the preparation of information, education and communication activities. The media also offer many potentially powerful role models.

11.14. Current information, education and communication technologies, such as global interlinked telephone, television and data transmission networks, compact discs and new multimedia technologies, can help bridge the geographical, social and economic gaps that currently exist in access to information around the world. They can help ensure that the vast majority of the world's people are involved in debates at the local, national and global levels about demographic changes and sustainable human development, economic and social inequities, the importance of empowering women, reproductive health and family planning, health promotion, ageing populations, rapid urbanization and migration. Greater public involvement of national authorities and the community ensure the widespread diffusion of such technologies and the freer flow of information within and between countries. It is essential that parliaments have full access to the information necessary for decision-making.


11.15. The objectives are:

(a) To increase awareness, knowledge, understanding and commitment at all levels of society so that families, couples, individuals, opinion and community leaders, non-governmental organizations, policy makers, Governments and the international community appreciate the significance and relevance of population-related issues, and take the responsible actions necessary to address such issues within sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development;

(b) To encourage attitudes in favour of responsible behaviour in population and development, especially in such areas such environment, family, sexuality, reproduction, gender and racial sensitivity;

(c) To ensure political commitment to population and development issues by national Governments in order to promote the participation of both public and private sectors at all levels in the design, implementation and monitoring of population and development policies and programmes;

(d) To enhance the ability of couples and individuals to exercise their basic right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information, education and means to do so.


11.16. Information, education and communication efforts should raise awareness through public education campaigns on such priority issues as: safe motherhood, reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health and family planning, discrimination against and valorization of the girl child and persons with disabilities; child abuse; violence against women; male responsibility; gender equality; sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; responsible sexual behaviour; teenage pregnancy; racism and xenophobia; ageing populations; and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. More education is needed in all societies on the implications of population-environment relationships, in order to influence behavioural change and consumer lifestyles and to promote sustainable management of natural resources. The media should be a major instrument for expanding knowledge and motivation.

11.17. Elected representatives at all levels, the scientific community, religious, political, traditional and community leaders, non-governmental organizations, parents' associations, social workers, women's groups, the private sector, qualified communication specialists and others in influential positions should have access to information on population and sustainable development and related issues. They should promote understanding of the issues addressed in the present Programme of Action and mobilize public opinion in support of the actions proposed.

11.18. Members of Parliament are invited to continue to promote wide awareness on issues related to population and sustainable development and to ensure the enactment of legislation necessary for effective implementation of the present Programme of Action.

11.19. A coordinated strategic approach to information, education and communication should be adopted in order to maximize the impact of various information, education and communication activities, both modern and traditional, which may be undertaken on several fronts by various actors and with diverse audiences. It is especially important that information, education and communication strategies be linked to, and complement, national population and development policies and strategies and a full range of services in reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health, in order to enhance the use of those services and improve the quality of counselling and care.

11.20. Information, education and communication activities should rely on up-to-date research findings to determine information needs and the most effective culturally acceptable ways of reaching intended audiences. To that end, professionals experienced in the traditional and non-traditional media should be enlisted. The participation of the intended audiences in the design, implementation and monitoring of information, education and communication activities should be ensured so as to enhance the relevance and impact of those activities.

11.21. The interpersonal communication skills - in particular, motivational and counselling skills - of public, private and non-governmental organization service providers, community leaders, teachers, peer groups and others should be strengthened, whenever possible, to enhance interaction and quality assurance in the delivery of reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health services. Such communication should be free from coercion.

11.22. The tremendous potential of print, audiovisual and electronic media, including databases and networks such as the United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN), should be harnessed to disseminate technical information and to promote and strengthen understanding of the relationships between population, consumption, production and sustainable development.

11.23. Governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector should make greater and more effective use of the entertainment media, including radio and television soap operas and drama, folk theatre and other traditional media to encourage public discussion of important but sometimes sensitive topics related to the implementation of the present Programme of Action. When the entertainment media - especially dramas - are used for advocacy purposes or to promote particular lifestyles, the public should be so informed, and in each case the identity of sponsors should be indicated in an appropriate manner.

11.24. Age-appropriate education, especially for adolescents, about the issues considered in the present Programme of Action should begin in the home and community and continue through all levels and channels of formal and non-formal education, taking into account the rights and responsibilities of parents and the needs of adolescents. Where such education already exists, curricula and educational materials should be reviewed, updated and broadened with a view to ensuring adequate coverage of important population-related issues and to counteract myths and misconceptions about them. Where no such education exists, appropriate curricula and materials should be developed. To ensure acceptance, effectiveness and usefulness by the community, education projects should be based on the findings of socio-cultural studies and should involve the active participation of parents and families, women, youth, the elderly and community leaders.

11.25. Governments should give priority to the training and retention of information, education and communication specialists, especially teachers, and of all others involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of information, education and communication programmes. It is necessary to train specialists who can contribute to the important conceptual and methodological development of education concerning population and related issues. Therefore, systems for professional training should be created and strengthened with specializations that prepare them to work effectively with Governments and with non-governmental organizations active in this field. In addition, there should be greater collaboration between the academic community and other entities in order to strengthen conceptual and methodological work and research in this field.

11.26. To enhance solidarity and to sustain development assistance, all countries need to be continuously informed about population and development issues. Countries should establish information mechanisms, where appropriate, to facilitate the systematic collection, analysis, dissemination and utilization of population-related information at the national and international levels, and networks should be established or strengthened at the national, subregional, regional and global levels to promote information and experience exchange.

[ UP ]

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