New UNESCO education report focuses on skills gap

This week, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released the 10th annual 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, focused on youth skills. It’s a 480-page tome chock-full of analysis and the statistics that allow us to measure progress in education.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the statistics from the report:

    • Worldwide, 61.7 million children are still out of school. 30.6 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half of the children out of school worldwide and in sub-Saharan Africa are girls.

  • Primary school enrollments in sub-Saharan Africa jumped by 50.7 million children between 1999 and 2010, thanks in large part to debt relief and development assistance. However, three quarters of the reduction in out of school children in sub-Saharan Africa was achieved between 1999 and 2004. Since then, progress has stalled.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, out-of-school numbers in sub-Saharan Africa have actually increased in by 1.6 million. The reduction in children out of school in sub-Saharan Africa was impressive in that it occurred despite rapid population growth. This recent increase in children out of school is an indicator that progress has stalled enough for population growth to overtake the gains we’re making putting kids in school.
  • Because of historical gaps in primary enrollment, UNESCO reports that there are 250 million children of primary school age today who cannot read or write, both in school and out of school. An additional 71 million teenagers are out of secondary school, and they are all missing out learning the vital skills for employment.
  • In developing countries, 200 million people aged 15 to 24 have not completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire skills for employment and prosperity.
  • The world’s youth population is larger than ever before; one in eight young people are unemployed and over one-quarter are trapped in jobs that keep them on or below the poverty line. Investing in young peoples’ skills is a smart move for countries seeking to boost their economic growth.
  • The report estimates that every $1 spent on a person’s education yields $10 to $15 in economic growth over that person’s working lifetime. However, the funding gap necessary to close the gaps in education is substantial. UNESCO calculates that, in addition to the $16 billion needed annually to attain universal primary education by 2015, universal lower secondary school enrollment would cost $8 billion.

The report also provides an update on the progress that’s being made towards other education goals, such as gender parity, adult literacy and education quality.

  • Globally the adult literacy rate has increased over the past two decades, from 76 percent in 1985 to 1994 to 84 percent in 2005 to 2010.
  • In terms of gender parity, 68 countries still have not achieved gender parity in primary education, and girls are disadvantaged in 60 of them. However, the number of countries in which girls were facing the most extreme disadvantages (countries where there are fewer than 7 girls in school for every 10 boys in school) fell from 16 in 1990 to 11 in 2000, and to just one in 2010 – Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan has also made great strides in recent years.
  • One of the key indicators to measure education quality is the hiring of trained teachers. The UNESCO report estimates that 5.4 million teachers will need to be recruited in 112 countries to cover the 2 million additional teachers needed to reach universal primary education, and 3.4 million to replace teachers who will retire from the profession. Sub- Saharan African countries will need to recruit more than 2 million teachers to achieve UPE.

The education statistics are in turn uplifting and sobering. In many countries, the situation is improving – more children are in school, being taught by trained teachers, learning skills that will enable them to live healthy, prosperous lives. But it is clear that there is much more to do to ensure that children all around the world – regardless of class, gender, location or disability, all have those opportunities.

Which was the most surprising fact you learned? Tell us in a comment below.