Education International
Education International

Number of out-of-school children increasing worldwide

published 30 July 2012 updated 31 July 2012

Progress in reducing the number of children out of school has stalled across the globe. 61 million children were out of primary school in 2010, a similar number to the previous year.

This is according to a Policy Paper released jointly by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Entitled "The number of out-of-school children is stagnating", the GMR paper shows the decline in out-of-school figures has slowed down since 2005 and, therefore, will make it difficult to reach the six Education For All goals by 2015.

These commitments were made by world leaders at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 and progress was greatest in the immediate aftermath. However, the decline in out-of-school figures has stalled since, underlining that millions of children are still denied their right to education, and jeopardising development progress more generally.

These children are typically poor and living in rural areas, the policy paper points out. In all countries, whatever their level of development, some individuals and groups experience extreme and persistent disadvantage in relation to their education.

Children from the poorest households are four times more likely to be out of school than those from the richest. Moreover, rural children are twice as likely to be out of school as urban children.

Girls are more likely to be out of school (28%) than boys (25%), even though efforts to improve educational access for girls have been relatively successful. In 2010, girls accounted for 53% of out of school children compared with 58% in 2000. Nevertheless, the greatest disparities exist between rural girls and urban boys.

Unequal progress

According to the GMR paper, much of the global stagnation is due to trends in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of children out-of-school has actually risen over the past three years, from 29 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2010. Consequently, this region accounts for half of all out-of-school children worldwide.

For instance, Nigeria alone was home to 10.5 million out-of-school children, 42% of its primary school age population.

In stark contrast, South and West Asia have made great gains over the past two decades, reducing the number of out-of-school children by two-thirds, from 39 million in 1990 to 13 million in 2010.

The remaining regions have significantly fewer children out of school: Arab States (5.0 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (2.7 million), North America and Western Europe (1.3 million), Central and Eastern Europe (0.9 million), and Central Asia (0.3 million).

Key to development

In addition, the paper sets out five reasons why reversing this trend is urgent:

  • Education reduces poverty and promotes education growth;
  • Maternal education improves children’s nutrition and chances of survival;
  • Education helps fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases
  • Education promotes gender equality
  • Education promotes democracy and participation in society.

As a conclusion, the paper states: “The Education for All goals must remain at the top of the development agenda if we are to have any chance of reaching the wider targets of Rio+20 and the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”

To read the complete GMR Policy Paper: "The number of out-of-school children is stagnating" please go here