• Kyodo

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The Group of Eight major nations will set 2015 as its goal for having universal primary education in developing countries, when their leaders gather here for the July 21-23 G8 summit, officials said Thursday.

Japan plans to include the goal in a comprehensive aid package to help developing countries mainly in Asia deal with the rapid pace of globalization and advances in information technology, the officials said.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has said Japan will hammer out the aid package prior to the Okinawa summit to underline its leading role as the chair nation of the G8.

The education initiative was put on the summit agenda at a three-day meeting of personal representatives (sherpas) of the G8 leaders charged with preparing for the annual summit, that commenced Thursday in Nago.

The Nago session is the final round of preparatory sherpa meetings that began in January. The representatives are to complete drafting a joint communique and other documents to be issued by their leaders at the summit.

The G8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The Okinawa summit is to take up education as a key development issue, along with poverty and infectious diseases.

The G8 leaders hope to help developing nations tackle the “digital divide” and other more fundamental problems so they can seize opportunities for global economic integration and IT innovation.

The officials said the leaders will endorse and promise to follow up on a “Framework for Action” in the joint communique to underline their commitment to attain the 2015 education goal.

The framework, adopted at a 181-nation meeting of the World Education Forum held in April in Dakar, calls for ensuring by 2015 that all children — especially girls, children in difficult circumstances, and those from ethnic minorities — have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education.

Also included are achieving by 2015 a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy, eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and attaining gender equality by 2015 to ensure full and equal access for females to basic education.

To achieve the goals, the G8 nations will focus on implementing educational programs to combat AIDS, meeting the needs of educational systems affected by armed conflicts, harnessing new information and communications technologies, and stepping up cooperation with nongovernmental organizations to monitor and implement education plans.

The officials said the G8 nations plan to step up their assistance in line with a plan for “comprehensive national education for all,” to be prepared by developing nations by 2002 under the framework.

A Japanese official said Tokyo is working on ways to use its official development assistance to incorporate the goals into the planned aid package.

“The framework will serve as the blueprint for the summit . . . and the aid package,” the official said.

The forum, backed by related U.N. agencies and the World Bank, estimates that some $8 billion will be needed annually to achieve the education goal and prevent some 100 million children from remaining out of school in 2015.