No progress in reducing out of school numbers, with some exceptions

By Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report and Albert Motivans, head of Education Statistics at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

There has been no global progress in reducing the number of children who are denied their right to access primary school, although some countries are bucking the trend. So shows a new joint policy paper from the EFA Global Monitoring Report and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).  Showing barely no change since 2007, the new international data reveals that 58 million children roughly between the ages of 6 and 11 years are still out of school. The new figures confirm the fears that there is no chance, whatsoever, that all countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015.


The momentum to reduce the numbers of out-of-school children has slowed considerably in recent years, with the global primary out-of-school rate stuck at 9% since 2007, according to UIS data. This marks a stark contrast to progress at the start of the decade, when the international community pledged to achieve universal primary education at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000.


Click to enlarge

The standstill at the global level is the result of contrasting trends: a significant decline in the number of out-of-school children in certain countries due to important policy initiatives, and a rising school-age population in sub-Saharan Africa. Across this region, more than one in three children who started school in 2012 will leave before reaching the last grade of primary.   To better visualize these trends, UIS has launched an eAtlas, which lets you explore the global and country data on out-of-school children.

The new UIS data also show critical gaps in the education of older children roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 years. Globally, 63 million adolescents were out of school in 2012. Although numbers have fallen by nearly one-third since 2000 in South and West Asia, the region has the largest population of out-of-school adolescents at 26 million. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 21 million out-of-school adolescents and their numbers will continue to grow if current trends continue.

Beyond the global picture, however, positive signs of success at the national level are apparent. Analysis by the EFA Global Monitoring Report highlights the progress made by 17 countries, which accounted for about one-quarter of the global out-of-school population in 2000. In little over a decade these countries have reduced their out-of-school populations by 86%, equivalent to a fall of numbers from 27 million to less than 4 million. In Nepal, for instance, 24% of children were out of school in 2000, but this rate fell to 1% by 2013. Morocco’s out-of-school population fell by 96% over the same period (from 24% to 3 %).


Which countries have seized the chance to reduce the numbers of out of school children, while others have languished? The analysis identifies six country policies that have demonstrated success in significantly expanding access of younger children to primary schools in very different contexts and may offer useful lessons for other countries:

–          Fee abolition: Burundi abolished school fees in 2005 and increased the percentage of children enrolled in primary school from 54% to 94% in six years.

–          Social cash transfers: In Nicaragua, which introduced social cash transfers to help families offset the costs of schooling in 2000, the percentage of children who had never been to school fell from 17% in 1998 to 7% in 2009.

–          Increased attention to ethnic and linguistic minorities: In Morocco, which introduced the teaching of Amazigh, a local language, in primary schools in 2003, the percentage of children who had never been to school fell from 9% to 4% between 2003 and 2009.

–          Increasing education expenditure: Ghana doubled education spending and saw the number of children enrolled in school rise from 2.4 million in 1999 to 4.1 million in 2013.

–          Improving education quality: Viet Nam, which introduced a new curriculum that paid particular attention to disadvantaged learners, managed to more than halve the percentage of children who had never been to school between 2000 and 2010.

–          Overcoming conflict: After the civil war ended in Nepal, children in the regions most affected by conflict – which originally were lagging behind – had the same level of access to school as those in less affected regions.

Only two weeks ago, the EFA Global Monitoring Report released new data showing that aid to education has fallen by 10% since 2010. It is no coincidence that out-of-school numbers are also coming to a standstill. As we stand on the crest of new, more ambitious global goals being defined, lessons must be drawn from the policies which have achieved breakthroughs and used to inform plans in countries struggling to provide Education for All.  Donors must also take note of the stagnation taking place in the education sector, which is so vital to global prosperity.

As we consider the sorry state of international aid to education we must also remember that accessing school is also only part of the challenge; universal primary education goes beyond simply children enrolling in school – it also involves enabling them to complete their education and, as a result, acquire basic skills and knowledge. We know that some 250 million children are not learning the basics whether in school or not. The evidence also shows that not all countries showing major progress in helping children access school, are able to ensure they stay till the end. This unfinished business must take centre stage in 2015 and beyond.

Read the full paper – English | French | Spanish

About Aaron Benavot

Director, Global Education Monitoring Report; Professor, School of Education, Univ at Albany-SUNY; mentor
This entry was posted in Aid, Environment, Equality, Out-of-school children, Primary school, Quality of education. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to No progress in reducing out of school numbers, with some exceptions

  1. Wambui Gichuru says:

    Quite an informative report with regards to the state of access in education for children. It is time governments, businesses and individuals commit to boost funding especially for basic education to ensure children gain access to quality education, have structures in place that monitor the activities in schools so that there are sufficient relevant supports that create opportunities for children to remain in school.

    The language of instruction is evident to encourage and support learning. Policy makers must wake up to the reality facing education and implement vernacular or mother tongue education at least in K-6 to create a sound foundation in learning and transfer of community knowledge to inform other areas of knowledge. Most instruction in Africa and other emerging economies need to invest more funds and expertise to mobilize knowledge on how their landscape and space inform the education of young children and apply the same to school curricula. This might support valuing, engagement and construct positive identity in children and youth.

    To support the above suggested ideas to steer access to education for children, emerging nations must support sustainable economic and social development in rural areas so these remain attractive in providing diverse levels of employment and reasonable income for families to adequately support their children some who may drop out of school for such reasons as poverty to the extend that children are too hungry to stay in school with some looking for menial jobs to survive.

    On the larger scale, political and religious conflicts have seen millions of children out of school. Governments, and multinationals who rake billions in profits even as families and children are suffering need to reconsider the future of humanity and rethink strategies to improve education even when it means funding quality education as a social responsibility, consequently, improve the well being of populations, reduce insecurity and crime and contribute towards local, national and global peace and sustainable development.


  2. Pingback: Reflections on the Replenishment | World Education Blog

  3. Sujitha says:

    its is a good information for students to develop in national level and global peace


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