Reducing the Number of Out-of-School Children Means Reaching the Most Marginalized

A new report issued today by UNESCO and UNICEF explains who the out-of-school children are, where they live, and what we can do to reach them.

January 19, 2015 by Karen Mundy, UNESCO Institute of Educational Planning
6 minutes read
data tool on out-of-school children by UNESCO/UNICEF

Over the past four years, the Global Partnership for Education has supported specific research, capacity development and knowledge sharing activities to develop evidence-based good practices to persistent education challenges.  Through our Global and Regional Activities Grants, a total of US$33 million in grants was awarded to GPE partner organizations to address knowledge gaps in three areas that are at the heart of the Global Partnership’s work: learning outcomes and quality, out-of-school children and equity, and financing and systems building.

Among the 58 million out-of-school children worldwide, 41 million (71%) are living in GPE partner developing countries. And most of them, 82% or 33.5 million, are living in fragile or conflict-affected countries. If the total number of out-of-school children fell by 2 million since 2008 to 41 million in 2012, it still represents a huge challenge for the education community.

Some of the research and work we’ve funded on this topic is now bearing fruit and today two of our key partners, UNICEF and UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, are launching a new report Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All – Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children. The report finds that 9% of all primary school-age children (58 million) are denied the right to education. If current trends continue, around 43% of these children—or 15 million girls and 10 million boys—will probably never set foot in a classroom.

The report also highlights an alarming increase of children of lower secondary school age who are not in school. The analysis shows that 12- to 15-year-olds are almost twice as likely to be out of school as their younger counterparts. The conclusion is that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases. Globally one in five adolescents is excluded from the classroom. What is worse is that there has been almost no progress in reducing this number since 2007.

Graphic on out of school children

Who these children are and where they live is critically important for GPE partners

Over half of the world’s out-of-school children of primary age live in Sub-Saharan African countries where we are actively working with the majority of governments to improve education systems, educate more girls, improve teaching conditions and lift learning outcomes. Despite having the highest population growth rate of any region in the world, countries in Sub-Saharan African have reduced the total primary aged out-of-school population from 44 million in 2000 to 33 million in 2013.  The report finds that most of these children will never go to school if education spending patterns continue at their current levels.

And what’s even more critical for partners is the call for action to invest in better data. Naturally, it may cost more to reach the most marginalized children but statistics and innovative tools can help governments and donors to spend their education budgets more wisely. Improving data is one of the most important pieces of the Global Partnership’s new results-based funding model, and overarching data strategy.

Equity is key to solve education challenges

Children living in conflict, child laborers and those facing discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and disability are the most marginalized. As our Results for Learning Report 2014/15 says, there is also a growing concern that previous gains in expanding access to education will erode without a major shift in policies and resources.

The report shows the way forward to break the barriers, often related to poverty, that keep children out of school. It is worth highlighting that the key findings are presented in an easily accessible and quite powerful interactive data tool, which illustrates why millions of children are being left behind. In Nigeria, for example, the data tools shows that two-thirds of children in the poorest households are not in school and almost 90% of them will probably never enroll. In contrast, only 5% of the richest children are out of school and most of them are expected to start in the future.

To learn more:


Related blogs

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • Global and entity tokens are replaced with their values. Browse available tokens.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.