Education and Skills

How to get all children into school

Emma Batha
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Only half of countries have achieved a global target of getting all children into primary school by 2015, some 58 million youngsters are still getting no education at all, but more girls are going to school, the United Nations said on Thursday.

Just one third of countries have met a 2015 deadline for six key educational goals agreed by governments in 2000, the U.N. educational arm UNESCO said in a report. Niger, Chad, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia are among those which are way off target.

Three quarters of countries have also failed to reach the target of halving illiteracy, UNESCO research showed.

An extra $22 billion a year is needed to ensure countries reach new education targets now being set for 2030, according to the UNESCO report, Education for All 2000-2015, which showed 50 million more children are enrolled in school today than in 1999.

Countries singled out for praise include Afghanistan, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Tanzania and India.

Nepal has achieved universal pre-primary and primary education, despite recently emerging from a conflict in which schools were attacked. It has also made huge strides in getting girls into class.

Afghanistan was considered the worst place in the world for schooling in 2000 following years of civil war and a ban on girls’ education by the hardline Taliban then in power.

But by 2012 the country had boosted the proportion of girls in primary school from 4 percent of the total to 87 percent. It has also seen one of the biggest rises in secondary school enrolment.

Government initiatives to increase the number of female teachers and build schools in remote areas have been instrumental in this success, UNESCO said.

By contrast, Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school and one of the world’s worst education systems thanks to a combination of corruption, conflict and lack of investment.

“We know when we work together and invest in the future the sky is the limit for young people,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said before the report was launched.

“Let us harness the power of education to build a better future for all.”

Teacher Shortfall

The Education For All (EFA) goals are the best indicator of progress towards educational targets set as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which also have a 2015 deadline.

The greatest progress has been in getting girls into school, but child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder progress school, but child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder progress, UNESCO said.

Gender parity will be achieved at primary level in 69 percent of countries by 2015, but only 48 percent will reach the goal at secondary level.

The report shows 52 percent of countries achieved universal primary education, which is also one of the eight MDGs. Ten percent are close, but 38 percent have a long way to go.

It also reveals that almost 100 million children who start primary school do not finish.

UNESCO called on governments to make at least one year of pre-primary education compulsory and ensure education is free.

It also urged the international community to help meet the $22 billion annual shortfall needed to pay for new schools, teachers and text books. Some 4 million more teachers are required to get all children into school.

The report will feed into discussions on new education targets under the Sustainable Development Goals which will replace the MDGs.

This article is published in collaboration with the Thomson Reuters Foundation Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Emma Batha is a journalist specialising in humanitarian crises and women’s rights.

Image: Children read state-issued textbooks from the “Bicentennial Collection” at a classroom of the Eleazar Lopez Contreras school in Caracas May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins.

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