The first part of this introduction presents the general findings of the Barometer. The second part explains the study methods and indicators used to help the reader interpret the results.

"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least at the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit."

Article 26(1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly,
10 December 1948

Part 1: Findings

Education rights

Education does not take place in a vacuum. Its availability and quality are dependent on the political will of those who have the power to provide or deny this fundamental human right. Education as a right is interrelated with other human rights whose fulfilment depends on it. All sectors of society are affected by what is taught, who are taught, who are excluded and who teaches. For this reason a very brief synopsis of what is happening in interdependent rights is provided in the introduction of each country report.

This Barometer shows that legislation is almost always in place to guarantee quality education for all, gender equality, minority rights, the rights of persons with special needs and the right of children not to be exploited for labour. However, it also shows that all too often this legislation is ignored.

Civil society can bring about change when governments can be held accountable by the electorate and when an independent judiciary upholds the rights guaranteed in law. This allows citizens to challenge the status quo and to hold the powerful to account. Where governments are freely elected and are not the bastions of male privilege or a particular ethnic group but are truly representative, where judiciaries can withstand political and other pressures, where freedom of speech and of the press are practised and where budgets reflect the importance of education for all, then we have ideal conditions to promote a fundamental human right of all children – the right to receive free, quality education. Where such conditions do not exist, the struggle is much more difficult, and educators and their unions face difficulty and danger in their pursuit of this right. Some governments still deny education to the majority of their citizens; some deny education to certain groups; while others demand a single accepted interpretation of information and call it education. This Barometer shows the tremendous challenges our colleagues face in such countries.

The gaps in opportunities for education are huge, and education for all is still far from being a reality. There are still some 115 million children world-wide who are denied any education altogether. In some countries a person may be able to go to school for only 4 years, compared with at least 15 or 16 years in high-income countries. Some improvement in enrolment in primary education has occurred in some countries, but the gap is widening between rich and poor countries in the average years of education provided. In today’s knowledge economy this will have a profound effect on national development. Access to higher education remains more of a privilege than a right, and it is available mainly to those in high-income countries.

While all countries have gaps in educational opportunities for certain sectors of society, it is on the African continent that the largest disparities remain despite the efforts of some governments to make progress in the provision of quality education for all. African countries are still paying a heavy price for poorly conceived structural adjustment policies imposed on sovereign states by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the 1980s and 1990s. Countries that had made significant efforts to provide education to all children saw their efforts negated and their social services decimated by ill-conceived economic policies. This situation has been further exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has been killing the work force and has left children orphaned and desperately in need of social services that are either not available or inadequate.

In countries where rights are denied, teachers’ organisations often help lead the struggle for change. As they strive to achieve and protect their rights in education they also work to make sure that conditions in the classroom and school actually encourage learning. Skills development, questioning, challenging, debating, disagreeing and drawing conclusions must all be possible. Teachers, academics and other education personnel want quality education for all to be a reality and not a feel-good slogan. Those employed in education want the rights of children to be guaranteed and respected just as they expect their own rights to be respected. But around the world we see evidence of the erosion of rights in education.

Promises are easily made and easily broken when no one is held accountable. The promise made by the World Education Conference in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990 to provide education for all children by 2000 was betrayed, and the deadline to provide gender equality in education by 2005 has now fallen by the wayside. At a conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000 a new commitment was made to Education For All by 2015. We are now in 2007 and, as can be seen in this report, the 2015 goal will require a monumental effort to achieve. Some countries are making valiant efforts, but the international community has not kept its promises, and much more needs to be done. At the half-way point, only Norway and the Netherlands get top marks for having fulfilled their commitments. Meeting commitments is what G8 countries must do if their promises are not to become empty rhetoric.

We also question what is meant when we speak of “education for all.” For Education International the meaning is clear: every child must be included, not just those who usually get counted and for whom policy is usually developed. Education For All as a goal must encompass children with special needs regardless of the nature of their special needs. Those who are differently abled have just as much right to education. It should not matter whether children are incarcerated through their own indiscretions or because they have the misfortune to be part of a family or community subjected to collective punishment; “all children” should mean just that. Education For All must include those who have the misfortune to live as refugees or who belong to indigenous, ethnic or religious minority groups shunned by the majority. Education For All must include children living with HIV/AIDS and those whose lives have been changed dramatically because their parents have died of AIDS. Education For All must include the re-integration of child soldiers into school. And we must never permit any discussion of Education For All to ignore the plight of millions of children who labour under conditions that shame us all or who are victims of trafficking.

A finding of this report is that it is very difficult to obtain current information about children in vulnerable or marginalised groups. What little information is available tends to be out of date, or to appear as a single-sentence afterthought in a report or as a brief reference in a funding appeal. Too many project proposals would only make a difference for small numbers of children but would not have an impact on national policy to improve the lot of all children. National statistics provide more and better information on mainstream children than on children with special needs or child refugees or child labourers. EI members may be able to provide valuable information on the situation of these groups in their country or bring pressure to bear on governments to provide the information necessary for effective policy development.

In a number of countries, access to primary education has improved, but often there is neither opportunity nor access for children to continue beyond the primary level. We read that education is “free,” when what is meant is that it is only tuition-free and the additional costs deprive millions of children of any education at all. A lack of schools and teachers, particularly in rural areas, still curtails educational opportunities at all levels, and policymakers are not dealing effectively with teacher shortages. For some teachers, their chosen profession has become a volunteer activity since so much time passes without payment. Clearly the disparities in education exist not only between continents or between countries but within each one. Wealthy countries are not exempt, as can be seen from the information on the plight of their indigenous students.

When children do have access to school, the next concern is with how they are taught. Small numbers of children in a classroom make it possible to provide individual attention and individual education plans. But what can be expected of teachers in countries where the pupil/teacher ratio is reported at 50 : 1 or 60 : 1, especially since these are overall averages where actual classes may have over 100 students?

In tertiary education one must question why in some countries almost as many students study abroad as study at home. It is also interesting to note that a mere 6 countries host 71% of the higher education students who study abroad (USA 25%, UK 12%, Germany 11%, France 10%, Australia 7% and Japan 6%). A troubling trend in some countries with strong economies is the increases in tuition costs being borne by students that leave many young people with heavy debts. This trend effectively closes the door to higher education for qualified youth from low-income families.

Special needs

Inclusive education is the model that human rights groups support for children with special needs. However, there is still vigorous debate about whether every child with special needs can be successfully integrated into a mainstream classroom. Many children with special needs are successfully included in mainstream education and receive excellent education with the provision of the necessary support services. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006, the first human rights treaty of the new century. It is hoped it will make a significant improvement in the treatment of persons with differing abilities. This new Convention will become the subject of debate at the national level, and education unions should note that one of the most heated debates at the United Nations centred on education. Information provided at the United Nations shows that in developing countries 90% of children with disabilities do not go to school, and not all countries have legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. The new Convention states that “children with disabilities should have full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.” Some countries were keen to defend specialist education for children with certain challenges, saying it provided for the highest possible quality of education. This view did not prevail. Education unions must ensure that teachers receive the support and training necessary to provide education for special needs children in the best possible conditions.


The UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees states that refugees “shall be accorded the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to elementary education” and that they will be accorded the same freedom as nationals to practise their religion and receive religious education of their choice. Country reports show that these conditions often do not occur, and millions of children who suffer the trauma of fleeing their home and their country frequently find themselves in situations where their education has also ended. The lack of information on what takes place in practice is informative in and of itself. In many countries the legislation may comply with the convention but the status quo does not. Some countries in the developing world make more effort to assist refugee children than do their counterparts in certain wealthy countries where citizen children receive many benefits but refugees receive little. The situation of refugee children must be highlighted, and governments must fulfil their responsibility to them.

In this Barometer human trafficking is highlighted because it denies millions – mostly but not exclusively girls and young women – their right to live in dignity and to receive an education. People in the industrialised world who thought slavery was a thing of the past must look again. Human trafficking forces people into sexual and labour exploitation that is nothing less than slavery, and it is in our midst. Human trafficking is present in both industrialised and developing countries, and unless this scourge is put into the spotlight and kept there, it will continue to grow. Education International and its members can help turn a spotlight on these issues and demand action from governments.


The issue of religious education is also highlighted in a number of country reports and is increasingly a topic of debate. Education systems run the gamut when dealing with religious symbols. They extend from public systems where no religious symbol is permitted to those that fund schools of many different faiths to those that fund some faiths but not others. In some countries a girl cannot attend school if she wears a hijab, and in others she cannot attend school unless she does. Some countries allow girls but not teachers to wear a hijab. This subject will not disappear in the near future. Nor will the discriminatory issues in the traditional, customary or religious law that is practised in many countries. Schools are increasingly the place where such issues play out. What can be seen from the country reports in the Barometer is that there is more than one interpretation of traditional or religious law even within the same country. Elders or religious scholars who interpret custom or religion do so according to local tradition or sect. The cultural building blocks that are a central part of identity will not be removed with the stroke of a pen, but through education it is possible to maintain and build on traditions that do not discriminate.

Academic freedom

In higher education, academic freedom lies at the heart of education. The right to teach, learn, study, research and publish free of reprisal and discrimination makes true education possible. Educators, researchers and students are for a variety of reasons often the targets of state-sponsored violence and repression. Intimidation is used to silence critics and dissidents, and is often followed by censorship of teaching, research and publication. When criticism is directed at institutions or at their policies and procedures, the reprisal may be more subtle but no less damaging to academic freedom. Tenure allows academic staff the security to fulfil their responsibility to their students and to their profession without fear of reprisal. There is cause for concern when one examines what is happening in a number of countries. Criticism of government policy or practice is often not tolerated, and there are reports of spies informing on both faculty and students in a flagrant violation of academic freedom and human rights. However, there are other inroads being made into higher education that may threaten academic freedom. The move from tenure to contractual appointments is increasingly common. An erosion of academic freedom can follow, since contracts have to be renewed and instances of self-censorship are reported. Privately funded research in universities is also an area that requires clarity and careful monitoring. Who decides how the information arising from the research will be used? How do academics ensure that information from their research is not set aside if the results do not please the source of funding? These are only a few of the questions that arise, and attempts to silence researchers are reported. Anti-terrorism legislation, intended to track terrorist threats in a number of countries, also raises concern within the academic community. Restraints were removed on the type of information that could be gathered and on the means of gathering that information. Some countries are now amending anti-terrorist legislation to remove the worst violations, but areas of concern remain.


Gender inequality is evident in many aspects of education, but on the bright side we also often see special programmes to encourage parents to send girls to school and keep them there. Education unions must also look at gender inequality in countries with a high percentage of unqualified teachers. For example, in countries where more unqualified men are hired than unqualified women, training programmes established to help unqualified teachers gain certification benefit more men than women.

Gender inequalities still limit opportunities for girls. There is some narrowing of the gender gap at the primary school level, but it remains wide at the secondary level and beyond. Interestingly, women now account for the largest percentage of tertiary students in countries where gender equality has been actively promoted and where access is based on merit. Yet in these countries, gender discrimination persists in employment, where educated women still lag behind men in the top levels of employment and in government and where they still earn less than men for comparable work.

The gender targets in primary and secondary education were set as a Millennium Development Goal to be met in 2005. This did not happen, with the result that some 14 million girls that should have been in school by 2005 are not. The UN Development Program estimates that, at the current rate of progress, some 6 million girls will still be out of school in 2015. In 41 countries the gender gap is closing so slowly that parity will not be achieved until after 2040. This has to be a cause for concern, but we must ask how much attention is now paid to gender parity in education since the target date passed? Once again this is an issue that EI and its member organisations must bring to the fore in all discussions. It cannot be allowed to disappear from the radar of the decision-makers.

Gender parity must also go beyond education if it is to have a real impact on the wider aspects of gender disadvantage rooted in attitudes and cultural practices. But it starts with education, and, as has been shown in report after report for several decades, educated women are the engine of economic and social development. With every additional year of female schooling, maternal mortality rates decline, fertility rates decline, family nutrition improves and children are more likely to stay in school. Mothers channel much more of their income to expenditures on children than fathers do, and educated mothers have healthier children. However, political power remains a bastion of inequality, with women holding only 15% of legislative seats worldwide. The information provided on violence and harassment of women and girls makes for sad reading. In countries where shelters are non-existent and where domestic violence is expected to be addressed within the family, and where law enforcement turns its back on the problem, one can only imagine the quiet despair and hopelessness. The same applies to victims of trafficking.

Gender inequalities do not diminish with higher levels of incomes, and this can be seen clearly through an examination of many industrialised countries. Without NGOs providing shelter, many women would be sentenced to a life of violence. EI and its members must remember that women make up the majority of their members and women teachers are included in the statistics on violence against women.

Child labour

Child labour continues to plague lives and diminish opportunities for millions of children. The momentum that accompanied the adoption of the ILO Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour has waned without resolving the problem. Children forced to labour cannot wait for solutions; they need them now. They are not children forever, and if they miss the opportunity for education most of them will have no second chance. Child labour is the breeding ground of future poverty for the individuals concerned and for their children.

Trade union rights

If education personnel are expected to teach about human rights and to promote the right to education, as they must, then their fundamental rights must also be respected. There is still much work to be done. Through their unions or associations, educators can influence all aspects of education. They can work with others to build societies where social justice prevails. But that can only be done if we have a clear picture of the problems that must be tackled. This issue of the Barometer tries to do that, but it can be strengthened by information provided directly by those at the national level. Education International urges readers to help make this publication a useful tool in the campaign to ensure compliance with the right to education and to make the rights in education available to all.

The Barometer reports on the laws and regulations governing trade union rights and the attitude of governments and employers in implementing those rights. When possible, the focus is on teachers’ rights, but this information is not always readily available. Abuses are dealt with by the International Labour Organisation, and these can be reported since EI usually files the complaint. Another source of information is the annual report of the International Trade Union Confederation. Any change in legislation that strengthens or weakens trade union rights in certain countries is reported. It is noteworthy that in many countries the percentage of trade union members is relatively low, but the numbers of people who benefit from the terms of collective contracts is high as a result of the practice of extending negotiated benefits to all within a sector whether they are fee-paying union members or not. Governments continue to bypass collective agreements or find ways to avoid providing education personnel with the right to bargain collectively or organise nationally. Where unions are regarded as social partners, it is gratifying to note that education unions can spend time and energy to help improve education not only within the country but also by assisting colleagues in other countries where trade union rights are trampled. The listing of ILO Conventions that have been ratified highlights the conventions included in the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted by the ILO in 1998 and another convention that is not part of the Declaration but is important to EI and its members. The latter, ILO Convention 169, deals with the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. In the information provided on minority rights it can be seen that the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples require a great deal of attention if education for all is to become a reality.

Following the advent of the adoption of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Education International and its affiliates have closely monitored the negotiations on trade in services, since education is part and parcel of GATS. Negotiations were suspended in mid 2006, but, in what was termed a “soft re-launch” of the stalled trade talks, plans have been made to hold a series of informal meetings to resume negotiations in early 2007. While some countries have indicated they want to protect their public education systems, they are nevertheless willing to consider making commitments under GATS for private (commercial) education. The inclusion of commercial, private education in GATS poses a risk to a number of aspects of education since the distinction between public and private education services is increasingly difficult to draw, particularly in tertiary education. While some member states of the World Trade Organisation view higher education as an essential public service, others have promoted increased privatisation and liberalisation and created a mixed system of both commercial and non-profit providers. EI sees GATS as a serious threat to public interest regulations, including those governing higher education. Increasing vigilance will be required by EI and its member organisations if GATS negotiations re-open. The education statistics provided for tertiary education give some information on the extent of public and private provision in this sector, but information is not available for all countries, and in some cases the only statistic provided concerns the number of students who study abroad. This in itself highlights the need to improve the information available on tertiary education.

Part 2: Study methods and indicators

The Barometer attempts to show, country by country, the current context in which education is provided to children and to highlight the plight of those who are denied education. It also examines the extent to which the rights of those who work in education are respected. It is hoped that the information provided in the Barometer will help educators and their organisations not only to monitor trends but to make changes that will help improve their lot and to make education for all children a reality.

A series of indicators have been chosen to help with the analysis of the situation. The indicators have been selected from statistical data provided on students and teachers and on other aspects of education by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in its Global Education Digest, 2006. This information will be updated in the Barometer on EI’s website as new reports become available. In addition the Barometer includes information provided in reports presented to UN committees, in reports of UN specialised agencies such as the International Labour Organisation and UNICEF, in World Bank Reports, in reports by noted human rights organisations, particularly Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and in reports from other organisations in civil society. When information is used from such sources they are noted in the text.

The approach used and the materials chosen for inclusion have both benefits and limitations. The format of the Barometer allows for a consistent approach to information in all countries. This impartiality and uniformity allows for comparisons to be made over time and for a long range view to be taken of the developments in education. However, in a country at war or undergoing disruptive social upheaval, such an approach does less than justice to the drama and suffering involved. In these cases the Barometer descriptions do not reflect the daily media reports of crisis situations. Nevertheless, the Barometer format not only gives a usefully long-term perspective of underlying continuities but also will show through updates over time the degree to which social continuities have been maintained or have in fact been breaking down.

Difficult choices had to be made on what information to include in the Barometer. In each country description the introductory paragraph focuses on the rights that EI believes support strong systems of public education. Democratic governance, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and of the press, equality rights, the rights of indigenous peoples and minority groups are reported on. These rights were chosen since it is necessary to hold governments accountable for the provision of education and to ensure that legislation that exists to provide education is enforced by the judiciary. A free press and free speech are needed to help hold governments to account.

The right of all children to receive education requires that we distinguish between those who are in school and others who are not. Statistical information is provided for those who are in school, but children outside school tend to be ignored in educational statistics. The Barometer tries to provide information as well on children excluded from school. For this reason special sections are devoted to providing information on children who have special educational needs. These include children with disabilities, refugees, minority or indigenous groups and child labourers. In all instances we have tried to report on whether there are differences in the treatment of boys and girls within each group.

Gender equality is one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and information is provided on the situation of women and girls in each of the countries included in the Barometer. It is clear that much remains to be done to achieve this goal, not only in education but more broadly across society. Information on traditions, culture and religion is included to highlight some of the barriers to the achievement of gender equality.

The legal rights of teachers and other employees in education are reported on, and violations of these rights are highlighted. The International Conventions that guarantee these rights are listed. Identifying trends affecting teachers in other countries is essential for better planning and provision of training and other activities to promote rights in education.


The indicators in the Barometer are in two groups. Some indicators are dealt with in a table at the beginning of each country report, while others are dealt with in the body of the report. Unless otherwise stated, all statistics are taken from UNESCO’s Global Education Digest 2006 and are ultimately based on information provided by official government sources in each country. Since countries have not all provided the same amount of information, Barometer readers will repeatedly encounter data gaps and must be content with the assurance that this is the best information available anywhere on these matters. The indicators that have been examined are:

  • Population < 15: the percentage of the total population younger than age 15, which is often the age at which compulsory education ends. This helps show the percentage of the population that should be planned for in some level of education beginning with early childhood care and education to the end of the compulsory phase.
  • Illiteracy : the estimated percentage of the population aged 15 and above which is unable, with understanding, to either read or write a short, simple statement related to their everyday life. Increasingly, information is also being provided that shows the percentage of illiteracy in a country for those 15 to 25, and the figures are being disaggregated by gender.
  • Pre-primary net enrolment : enrolment in education of children of the population age group corresponding to the national regulations for this level expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of this age group. Such programmes are variously referred to as infant education, nursery education, kindergarten, or early childhood care and education. Early childhood care and education are increasingly recognised as crucial in educational development. This report shows that much of the education provided in this sector is provided privately and not all is regulated or monitored.
  • School life expectancy : the number of years that a student is expected to remain at primary and secondary school or university, including years spent on grade repetition.
  • Net enrolment : the percentage of children of the official school age for a stated level of education who are actually enrolled at that level. This shows both the effective reach of the education system and the size of the child population excluded from education.
  • % of the cohort reaching the final grade of primary school : the percentage of the children starting primary school who attain the final grade level, which varies by country. This helps to determine the number of children who are dropping out of primary school.
  • Pupil/teacher ratio in primary school : the average number of pupils per teacher at the primary level. This ratio is an average. Class sizes will be smaller in some parts of the education system and larger in others. In countries where this ratio is high, some very large classes exist.
  • Gross enrolment : the total enrolment in a stated level of education, regardless of age, divided by the population of the age group which officially corresponds to that level. Note that gross enrolment can be higher than 100% because of grade repetition and entry at younger and older ages than the typical grade-level age.
  • Lower secondary and upper secondary enrolment: This provides information on the number of students who continue in education beyond the end of compulsory education, which is usually but not always at age 15 or 16.
  • Percentage of students studying in technical/vocational education in secondary school: This statistic is included since it is important to know what percentage of young people opts for studies in this area. In many countries this group of students is more likely to proceed directly to the work force if they have been able to obtain vocational training in secondary school to ease their entry into specific areas of work. In some countries no information is provided on the number of students who opt for technical/vocational studies. It is not clear whether schools in such countries provide such education or whether training is left up to employers.
  • Tertiary students: the actual number of students enrolled in postsecondary education.
  • Gross Enrolment Rate tertiary : this statistic is provided by the UIS for some countries and we have included it in the information in the Barometer. However the GER depends on an estimate of the “age-appropriate” population in the country, which raises the question of what is considered an age-appropriate limit for tertiary education. In industrialised countries it is increasingly common for people to return to tertiary education programmes for re-training and for higher education. In developing countries efforts are being made to have tertiary education available to a broader sector of society. Although we have included the GER in tertiary education we caution that such indices are not comparable between countries.
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP): A measure of national income, the GDP may be defined as the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy, including distributive trades and transport, plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products.
  • % of GDP spent on education : total public expenditure on education expressed as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product.
  • % of the government expenditure on education : total public expenditure expressed as a percentage of total government expenditure.

Education International hopes that the country snapshots provided in this report will help in the campaign to ensure the full realization of right to education and the rights in education.

30 June 2007

Country data

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