Progress on raising primary school enrolment around the world has stalled after a period of rapid growth, according to a report out today.
The study reveals that as of 2012, 58 million primary-age children were still not in education, with two-fifths of them unlikely ever to set foot in a classroom.
The report – unveiled by the United Nations’ education agency Unesco and its children’s programme Unicef at the Education World Forum in London – finds that there has been no change in the number of out-of-school children since 2007.
Universal primary education by 2015 was one of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals, but today’s report shows it is still a long way from being realised.
Progress towards meeting the target was initially swift. In 2000 some 15 per cent of children aged 6-11 were out of school; by 2007 that had fallen to approximately 9 per cent. But since then the figure has flatlined and the new report shows that 8.9 per cent of primary-age children are not in education.
Of the 58 million out of school, 23 per cent attended once and a further 34 per cent are considered likely to attend at some point. However, 43 per cent are likely never to go at all, the report says.
Girls outnumber boys among the children not in school, with 9.7 per cent of primary-age girls out of school compared with 8.1 per cent of boys.
A third of the world’s children who are out of school live in West and Central Africa, where more than a quarter do not go to lessons, compared with one in 30 in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.
The report also shows that almost 17 per cent of lower-secondary-age children (11-14) are not in school. Although this is down from 25 per cent in 2000, this figure too has hardly changed since 2007.
In a joint statement, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova and Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said the international community should renew its commitment to universal primary education and even include secondary education.
“By working together and promoting greater investment, we can and must dismantle the barriers that stand in their way, one by one – and in doing so deliver on our global promise of education for every child,” they said.