61 million children of primary school age were out of school in 2010, down from a high of over 110 million out-of-school children in the mid-1990s, according to new estimates by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 32 million or 53% of the 61 million out-of-school children were girls.
The trend in out-of-school numbers since 1990 is illustrated in Figure 1. Much of the global progress over the past 15 years is due to developments in South and West Asia, where the number of out-of-school children fell from a high of 41 million in 1998 to 13 million in 2010.
Progress in sub-Saharan Africa, another region with a historically large number of out-of-school children, has been much more modest, by comparison. Here, the number of children out of school decreased from a high of 43 million in 1996 to 31 million in 2010. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa today is home to half of all out-of-school children worldwide.
In relative terms, the global out-of-school rate fell from 18% in the early 1990s to 9% in 2010, in spite of a large increase in the number of children of primary school age over the same period. However, the estimates by UIS also show that the out-of-school rate and the number of out-of-school children have stagnated over the past three years, partly because sub-Saharan Africa is struggling to increase enrolment rates in primary education while being confronted with continued strong population growth. At this rate, the world is unlikely to reach the Millennium Development Goal and Education for All goal of universal primary education by 2015.
The regional distribution of children in and out of school is illustrated in Figure 2. The width of each region in the graph indicates the size of the population of primary school age. The height of the bars indicates which proportion of children in each region is in or out of school.
In absolute terms, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of children out of school (31 million), although its primary school-age population (132 million) is smaller than that of two other regions: South and West Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific. In relative terms, Sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest out-of-school rate of all regions. 23% of all primary school-age children have either never attended school or left school without completing primary education.
In South and West Asia, the proportion of out-of-school children (8%) is smaller than in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but in absolute terms, the region is home to 13 million out-of-school children, second only to sub-Saharan Africa. More than half of all out-of-school children in South and West Asia live in only two countries: India (2.3 million) and Pakistan (5.1 million).
East Asia and the Pacific has 168 million children of primary school age, nearly as many as South and West Asia, but only 4% are out of school. Still, due to the large primary school-age population in the region, this means that 7 million children are excluded from education.
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).
Figure 2: Global distribution of children of primary school age in and out of school, 2010
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, July 2012. - CA = Central Asia, CEE = Central and Eastern Europe, LAC = Latin America and the Caribbean, NAWE = North America and Western Europe. - Figure 2 was created with the spineplot add-on for Stata (Cox 2008). - Click image to enlarge.
- Children of primary and secondary school age out of school
- Children out of school: Global trend 1999-2008
- Trends in primary school enrollment, 1970-2004
- Universal primary education by 2015: A goal out of reach?
- Global population of primary school age, 2000-2015
- Population structure and children out of school
- National wealth and school enrollment
- Survival rate to the last grade of primary school
- Transition from primary to secondary education
- Regional disparities in school life expectancy
- School attendance among 5- to 24-year-olds in Liberia
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)
- UIS Data Centre
- UIS announcement of new out-of-school data, June 2012
- UNESCO e-Atlas of Out-of-School Children
- Reaching Out-of-School Children is Crucial for Development, UIS Fact Sheet no. 18, June 2012 (PDF, 833 KB)
- UNICEF-UIS Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children
- Millennium Development Goals
- Education for All goals
- Cox, Nicholas J. 2008. "Speaking Stata: Spineplots and their kin." Stata Journal 8 (1): 105-121. http://www.stata-journal.com/article.html?article=gr0031.
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