The world has missed the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. Worldwide, 91 per cent of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school in 2015. There is still a long way to go before achieving UPE in some regions. The challenge is most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the net enrolment rate stood at 79 per cent in 2015. Although the number of out-of-school children of primary school age declined globally from 100 million to 61 million between 2000 and 2015, progress has stalled since 2007.
More than half of countries and areas worldwide have achieved or nearly achieved universal primary education – that is, they have a net enrolment rate or net attendance rate of more than 95 per cent. In about 25 countries, however, net enrolment or attendance is less than 80 per cent. These countries are concentrated mainly in West and Central Africa and in South Asia, and many of them are affected by conflict.
DISPARITIES IN PRIMARY EDUCATION
In many countries, children from the poorest 20 per cent of the population are less likely to attend school than those who are better off, with each successive quintile having a higher average attendance. The largest disparities of all are in West and Central Africa. In Guinea, for example, nearly 87 per cent of children from the wealthiest households attended primary school in 2016, compared with less than 40 per cent of children from the poorest quintile. Children in rural areas are in general more disadvantaged, being almost twice as likely to be out of primary school as their urban counterparts. In Niger, 83 per cent of children in urban areas attended primary school in 2012, whereas only 45 percent of rural children did so in 2012.
CHILDREN OUT OF SCHOOL
In 2015, an estimated 61 million children of primary school age were out of school; 53 per cent of them were girls. About one third of the world’s out-of-school children live in West and Central Africa; about one fifth are in Eastern and Southern Africa. In West and Central Africa, more than a quarter of all primary-school-age children are out of school. In Liberia, the out-of-school rate rises to 62 percent. In Nigeria, more than 8 million children of primary school age are out of school.
More than two thirds of countries and areas have reached gender parity (GPI between 0.97 and 1.03) in primary education. However, girls remain at a disadvantage in many countries, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. In South Sudan, for example, the gender parity index, or GPI, is 0.76, meaning that 76 girls are enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys.
While more and more children are attending school worldwide, many of them drop out or fail to meet minimum standards of learning. Of the world’s 650 million children of primary school age, 120 million do not reach Grade 4; another 130 million reach Grade 4 but fail to achieve a minimum level of learning.
Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa face the double challenge of non-completion and low learning performance in primary education. In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, only half of children reach Grade 4, either because they never enrolled or dropped out. In Togo, more than 70 per cent of children reach Grade 4, but less than 30 per cent of them master basic reading skills.
This resource features detailed country-level data on education systems and education policy implementation. The data provide insights into education system performance across a range of dimensions, from community participation in education, to learning assessment systems, to inclusive education. Country Offices utilize a 1-4 scoring criteria to assess progress in the areas delineated by UNICEF’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017. The raw country-level data are available to download in addition to global, regional, and country profiles which provide trend and comparative analysis and provide export to pdf and print functions.
For a full picture of children’s school participation, UNICEF uses two sources of data: enrolment data, which are based on administrative records, and attendance data from household surveys. In half of all countries, data on primary and secondary education come from more than one source. All data on primary and secondary education used by UNICEF are based on official International Standard Classifications of Education (ISCED) and may deviate somewhat from those used by country-specific school systems.
DEFINITION OF INDICATORS
Gender parity index – The ratio of female-to-male values of a given indicator. A GPI of 1 indicates parity between the sexes.
Literacy rate – Total number of literate persons in a given age group, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that age group. The adult literacy rate measures literacy among persons aged 15 years and older, and the youth literacy rate measures literacy among persons aged 15 to 24 years.
Out-of-school population – Total number of primary or lower secondary-school-age children who are not enrolled in primary (ISCED 1) or secondary (ISCED 2 and 3) education.
Pre-primary school gross enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in pre-primary school, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official pre-primary school age.
Primary school gross enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in primary school, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age.
Primary school net attendance ratio – Number of children attending primary or secondary school who are of official primary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age. Because of the inclusion of primary-school-age children attending secondary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a primary adjusted net attendance ratio.
Primary school net enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in primary or secondary school who are of official primary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age. Because of the inclusion of primary-school-age children enrolled in secondary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a primary adjusted net enrolment ratio.
Secondary school net attendance ratio – Number of children attending secondary or tertiary school who are of official secondary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official secondary school age. Because of the inclusion of secondary-school-age children attending tertiary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a secondary adjusted net attendance ratio.
Secondary school net enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in secondary school who are of official secondary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official secondary school age. Secondary net enrolment ratio does not include secondary-school-age children enrolled in tertiary education, owing to challenges in age reporting and recording at that level.
Survival rate to last primary grade – Percentage of children entering the first grade of primary school who eventually reach the last grade of primary school.
- UNESCO, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14: Teaching and Learning – Achieving Quality for All, UNESCO, Paris, 2014.
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics, global databases, 2014.
- UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Global Education Digest 2012, Opportunities Lost: The impact of grade repetition and early school leaving, UIS, Montreal, 2012.
- UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2015: Reimagine the Future – Innovation for Every Child, UNICEF, New York, 2014.