UNESCO Report Shows World Slow to Improve Primary Education


Despite promises made by global leaders of 164 countries fifteen years ago to have universal primary education by 2015, only one-third have actually achieved the six-goal set.

According to a report released by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), there are currently 58 million children without access to primary school, and 100 million who will not complete a primary education.  Only half of the countries to sign up for the 2000 Education for All (EFA) agenda have achieved the goal of universal primary enrollment.

“The world’s poorest children are four times more likely not to go to school than the world’s richest children, and five times more likely not to complete primary school. Conflict remains a steep barrier, with a high and growing proportion of out-of-school children living in conflict zones,” the report said.

Only one-fourth of the countries to make the pledge have achieved the goal of cutting adult illiteracy in half.

Despite this, UNESCO boss Irina Bokova believes “tremendous progress” has been made.

“Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions more children are in school than would have been had the trends of the 1990s persisted. However, the agenda is far from finished,” said Bokova. “We need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritise the poorest, especially girls, improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap so that education becomes meaningful and universal.”

UNESCO went on to report that despite a decrease in the teacher-pupil ratio in 121 countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, an additional 4 million teachers are still needed in order to get all children around the world into the school system.  “Trained teachers remain in short supply in one-third of countries: in several sub-Saharan countries, less than 50% are trained,” the report said.

The report continued to say that an additional $22 billion per year would be needed on top of “already ambitious” government contributions in order to make the goals a reality by 2030, reports Clár Ní Chonghaile for The Guardian.

Although 38 countries have increased their spending by 1 percentage point or more of national income between 1999 and 2012, education has not been a priority in many national budgets.

The report has pushed for governments to at least make one year of pre-primary education a goal, in addition to cutting fees for tuition, textbooks, uniforms and transport.

Progress has been particularly slow concerning the goal of cutting adult literacy in half by 2015.  Only 25% of countries were able to meet the goal, while an additional 32% fell short.

“While globally, the percentage of illiterate adults fell from 18% in 2000 to 14% in 2015, this progress is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood. Women continue to make up almost two-thirds of the illiterate adult population. Half of sub-Saharan African women do not have basic literacy skills,” the report said.