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Youth and skills


EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012: Youth and skills: putting education to work

Nomakholwa Makaluza

For the past ten years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation   (UNESCO) has produced annual reports which analyse progress towards the six goals of Education for All (EFA). The 10th edition of UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2012) focuses on EFA Goal three, which is to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to acquire skills.

The report highlights how vital it is to ensure that all young people have the skills they need to prosper. It reminds us that education is not only about making sure that all children attend school but about setting young people up for life by giving them opportunities to find decent work, earn a living, contribute to their communities and societies and fulfil their potential. The lack of strategic planning for skills development, including targets for reaching the disadvantaged, shows the short-sightedness of many development strategies. Of the 46 countries reviewed for the report fewer than half address skills development among youth in the informal sector. 

The report draws attention to demographic challenges in developing countries where the population aged between 15 and 24 reached over 1 billion in 2010, but where jobs are not being created fast enough to meet the needs of this large population. Three pathways are identified which can act as a tool for understanding skills development needs and areas where policy action should be targeted, namely: 

  1. Foundational skills, which include literacy and numeracy.

  2. Transferable skills, which include ability to solve problem, communicate ideas and information effectively and demonstrate entrepreneurial capabilities.

  3. Technical and vocational skills, which require specific know-how, such as growing vegetables, using sewing machines, laying bricks or using a computer. 

The report calls for strengthening the link between school and work, and suggests that countries should learn from the German dual model which combines structured training within a company with part-time class room tuition. This involves strong regulations and partnerships between government, employers and employees. Governments are also advised to provide alternative routes for early school leavers, for example programmes targeted at vulnerable youth in neighbourhoods, with paid internships, individual counselling and workshops.

The 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report concludes that the well-being and prosperity of young people depends more than ever on the skills that education and training provide. Failure to meet this need is a waste of both human potential and economic power. 

The 2012 Global Monitoring Report can be found at:

Nomakholwa Makaluza is an Assistant Director at DHET, email:


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Enquiries or contributions may be directed to: Nomakholwa Makaluza Tel: 012 312 5243 Email: Department of Higher Education and Training, 123 Francis Baard Street, Pretoria 0001