By Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
A new paper jointly released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR), shows that the number of children and adolescents out of school is on the rise, reaching 124 million in 2013. While international aid to education increased slightly in 2013, it is still below 2010 levels and grossly insufficient to meet new education targets to achieve universal primary and secondary education.
New UIS data show that one in eleven children is out of school, totaling 59 million children in 2013, a growth of 2.4 million since 2010. Of these, 30 million live in sub-Saharan Africa while 10 million are in South and West Asia.
According to UIS estimates, 24 million children of primary school age will never enter a classroom. Half of all out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa will never enroll. Girls are the most disadvantaged, particularly in South and West Asia, where 80% of out-of-school girls in the region are unlikely to ever start school, compared to 16% of boys.
In addition, one out of six adolescents is not in school at the lower secondary level, totaling 65 million in 2013. Of these, 26 million lived in South and West Asia, and 23 million in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are more adolescents out of school today than in 2000.
Conflict is a huge barrier to education. New data show the devastating impact of the civil war in Syria. Before the conflict, nearly every child was enrolled in primary school but by 2013 about 1.8 million children and adolescents were out of school. It took just two years of civil war to erase all education progress made since the start of the century.
Meanwhile, the EFA GMR shows that, despite a small increase of 6% in aid to education from 2012 to 2013, levels are still 4% lower than they were in 2010. Without substantial new commitments, it is expected that aid will continue to stagnate until at least 2017.
Against this backdrop, the Report shows that aid must increase by at least six times to fill the annual finance gap of $39 billion needed to achieve one year of universal pre-primary education, universal primary and lower secondary education completion, and universal access to upper secondary education by 2030 in low and lower middle income countries. Instead, donors are placing education lower on their list of priorities: 23 out of 47 donors decreased their aid to basic education between 2008-2010 and 2011-2013.
The paper continues to show that current aid is not going where it is needed most. In 2013, only a third of aid to basic education was allocated to the poorest countries. Almost half of the poorest countries saw aid to basic education decline. Despite sub-Saharan Africa accounting for over half of all out-of-school children, aid to basic education to the region made up only a third of total resources.
The Incheon Declaration, recently adopted at the World Education Forum in May, commits countries to “ensuring the provision of 12 years of free, publicly funded, equitable quality primary and secondary education.” As this paper shows, this huge ambition simply won’t happen unless donors get serious about funding. The Oslo Summit on Education for Development and the Third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa over the coming weeks present a real test of donor commitment. Without this, targets and promises for progress will not be met.