SCIENCE and EDUCATION19.9.2023 10:21

UNESCO: Global number of out-of-school children rises by 6 million

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New data from UNESCO show that the number of out-of-school children and youth has risen by 6 million since 2021, acoording to the official website of the organization.

This result undermines the United Nations’ goals for education. The Director-General of UNESCO calls on States to take rapid action: “The future of millions of children is in your hands”.

"Education is in a state of emergency. While considerable efforts were made over the past decades to ensure quality education for all, UNESCO data demonstrates that the number of children out of school is now rising. States must urgently remobilize if they do not want to sell out the future of millions of children," she said.

According to new UNESCO figures released today, the number of out-of-school children and youth has risen by 6 million since 2021 and now totals 250 million. This increase is partly due to the mass exclusion of girls and young women from education in Afghanistan but is also due to the continuing stagnation in education progress across the world.

This result undermines UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, which sets the goal of quality education for all by 2030. If countries were on track with their national SDG 4 targets, 6 million more children of primary school entrance age would be in pre-school today, 58 million more children, adolescents and youth would be in school, and at least 1.7 million more primary school teachers would have been trained, according to UNESCO analysis.

Commitments made must be honored

One year ago, 141 countries committed at the UN Transforming Education Summit to transform their education systems to accelerate progress towards SDG 4. Among them, 4 out of 5 countries aimed to advance teacher training and professional development, 7 out of 10 committed to increasing or improving their investment in education and 1 in 4 committed to increase financial support and school meals.

“These commitments must now be reflected in acts. There is no more time to lose. To achieve SDG 4, a new child needs to be enrolled in school every 2 seconds between now and 2030,” explained Audrey Azoulay. For countries to achieve their targets, 1.4 million need to be enrolled in early childhood education every year up to 2030, and the progress in primary completion rates needs to almost triple.

The 2023 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report finds that, since 2015, the percentage of children completing primary education has increased by less than 3 percentage points to 87%, and the percentage of youth completing secondary education has increased by less than 5 percentage points to 58%.

In the 31 low- and lower-middle-income countries that measure learning progress at the end of primary school, Viet Nam is the only country where most of its children are achieving minimum proficiency in both reading and mathematics. Globally, youth literacy rates improved by less than 1 percentage point. The rates of adult participation in education (either formal or non-formal) dropped by 10%. This decline is mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action called on countries to set intermediate benchmarks for SDG 4 indicators. In an inclusive approach, countries were assisted in setting benchmarks to achieve by 2025 and 2030 for seven SDG 4 benchmarks: on pre-primary education, school attendance, completion and learning, trained teachers, gender equity, and public expenditure.

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