In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly set aside November 20 as Universal Children’s Day, when the world recognizes the importance of advancing children’s welfare across the globe.
Thirty years ago, the UN used this annual observance to adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which further specified the many rights – among them education – that all children deserve.
The anniversary of that commitment prompts us to step back and assess how the world’s children have done over the past three decades with regards to education.
Out-of-school children around the world
As we celebrate remarkable advances, unacceptably large numbers of children – hundreds of millions, especially in the poorest countries and among the most disadvantaged communities – are still missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime, basic human right to unlock their full potential.
The gains in developing countries lag far behind those in wealthier countries, and in the past decade the pace of progress has stagnated, meaning it could be decades before the vision of ‘education for all’ becomes reality.
Around the world, the percentage of primary through secondary school age children who were not in school dropped from just under 30% in 1988 to about 17% in 2018, the latest year for which UNESCO Institute for Statistics data are available.
Low-income countries in that same 30-year span reduced their out-of-school children from 57% to 32%, and lower middle-income countries went from 39% to 21%.