According to new data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), 67 million children were out of school globally during the school year ending in 2009 (see Figure 1) . This figure has been falling, especially since 2000, when the international community reinforced commitments to achieve universal primary education. Since then, the share of out-of-school children of primary school age has fallen from 16% to 10%. In addition, efforts to improve educational access for girls have yielded positive results. In 2009, girls accounted for 53% of children out of school compared to 57% in 2000.
Yet despite this progress, the pace of change appears to be slowing. “Between 2000 and 2005, we saw a dramatic reduction in the number of children excluded from primary education. But since then, the rate of change has slowed down considerably,” states Hendrik van der Pol, Director of the UIS. “At this rate, we will not achieve universal primary education by 2015. So it is time to raise the alarm among governments and international agencies globally.”
“It is increasingly difficult to reach those children who remain excluded from education,” states Kevin Watkins, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report. “Governments must commit not just to achieving national goals, but to seriously tackling disparities based on wealth, location, ethnicity, gender and other markers for disadvantage. More must also be done to protect and provide education opportunities for the millions of children deprived of education due to conflict.”
Figure 1. Number of out-of-school children by region and sex, 1990-2009
Source: UIS database, 2011.
In 2009, there were 17 countries with more than 500,000 out-of-school children. Nine of these countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia, about 2 million children were not in school in 2009. This represents 16% of the country’s primary school-age population, which nevertheless reflects considerable progress since 1999, when the figure reached 63%.
Many other sub-Saharan African countries have managed to significantly reduce their numbers of out-of-school children during the last decade. Between 1999 and 2009, the share of out-of-school children declined by more than 30 percentage points in Burundi, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger and the United Republic of Tanzania. Much of this progress has been attributed to the abolition of school fees. Nevertheless, the proportion of children out of school remains very high in the following countries: Equatorial Guinea (46%), Côte d'Ivoire (43%), Niger (41%), Burkina Faso (36%) and the Central African Republic (31%).
For more information:
- Download the UIS fact sheet available in English and French
- Read about the joint UNICEF/UIS Global Initiative on Out-of-school Children.