Focus on secondary education
Download the 2011 Global Education Digest
Two out of three children in Africa are left out of secondary school
Governments are struggling to meet the rising demand for secondary education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are enough school places for just 36% of children of age to enrol, according the latest edition of the Global Education Digest.
Globally, secondary schools have been accommodating almost one hundred million more students each decade, with the total number growing by 60% between 1990 and 2009. But the supply is dwarfed by demand as more countries approach universal primary education.
In 2009, 88% of children enrolled in primary school reached the last grade of this level of education, compared to 81%. Yet, in 20 countries -- mostly in sub-Saharan Africa -- a child in the last grade of primary school has a 75% chance at best of making the transition to lower secondary school.
The path to prosperity
“There can be no escape from poverty without a vast expansion of secondary education. This is a minimum entitlement for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need to secure decent livelihoods in today’s globalized world. It is going to take ambition and commitment to meet this challenge. But it is the only path towards prosperity,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova.
“An educated population is a country’s greatest wealth,” she added. “The inequalities signalled in this Report, especially in relation to girls’ exclusion from secondary education in many countries, have enormous implications for the achievement of all the internationally agreed development goals, from child and maternal health and HIV prevention to environmental security.”
In terms of enrolment, sub-Saharan Africa has made the greatest gains of all regions, with gross enrolment ratios rising from 28% to 43% for lower secondary and from 20% to 27% for upper secondary education between 1999 and 2009. Nevertheless, more than 21.6 million children of lower secondary school age remain excluded from education across the region and many will never spend a day in school.
Girls face barriers in all regions
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in which the gender gap is getting worse at the upper secondary level, with 8 million boys enrolled compared to 6 million girls, according to the Digest. Girls also face significant barriers in South and West Asia, although the situation is improving. About 35 million girls were enrolled in lower secondary education in 2009, with the female gross enrolment ratio reaching 69% compared to 53% in 1999. However, household survey data reveal even further inequities based on the geographic location and household wealth of students. For example, in Pakistan a 10 to 12-year-old boy from a wealthy urban family is three times more likely to attend school than a girl from a poor family living in a rural area.
Translate commitment into reality
“All of these data underscore a central message: secondary education is the next great challenge,” stated Hendrik van der Pol, director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. “According to the Digest, about one-third of the world’s children live in countries where lower secondary education is formally considered to be compulsory but the laws are not respected, he added. “We need to translate the commitment into reality.”
Key indicators on secondary education by region
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