NEW DELHI: Achieving the goal of getting all children in school by 2015 is now clearly impossible. It has emerged that there are 57.8 million children who are out of primary school globally. And India, with 1.4 million children, ranks among the top five nations with kids aged six to 11 out of school.
These are some of the findings in Unesco’s Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report on out-of-school populations. The report also details how Nepal overcame conflict and brought down the number of its out-of-school children to 1%, while Burundi, by doing away with school fees, achieved a 94% enrolment rate, up from 54% in 2005.
The report attributes India’s woeful performance to, among other things, the largest cuts in aid to basic education effected by any country. Its aid to the sector fell by a massive $278 million between 2010 and 2012.
The Unesco data shows little overall improvement in out-of-school figures since 2007. Pointing out that the EFA will miss its 2015 deadline for putting all children in school, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova said, “Combined with the news from Unesco that aid to education has fallen yet again, the lack of progress in reducing out-of-school numbers confirms our fears – there is no chance whatsoever that countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015.”
“We cannot meet this news with further inertia. We must sound the alarm and mobilize political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” Bokova said.
The data shows that around 43% of those out of school globally – of whom 15 million are girls and 10 million boys – will probably never set foot in a classroom if current trends continue.
India and Pakistan were the countries with the largest cuts in aid to basic education between 2010 to 2012, even though both are among the top five countries with the most children out of school. These cuts resulted in the South and West Asia emerging as the region with the largest decline in aid to basic education, with disbursements falling by 26% between 2010 and 2012.
The report also cited that in sub-Saharan Africa most of the 30 million out-of-school children will never start school and those who do are at risk of dropping out before reaching the last grade of primary school.
The new policy paper however highlighted that improvements are possible. It highlighted how policies like fee abolition in Burundi, social cash transfer in Nicaragua, attention to ethnic and linguistic minorities in Morocco, increasing expenditure in Ghana, improving curriculum in Vietnam can improve enrolment significantly.
For example, India’s neighbour Nepal overcame conflict and after the civil war ended – children in the regions most affected by conflict – which originally were lagging behind – had the same level of access to school as those in less affected regions.
“These countries face very different circumstances but all share the political will to bring about real change in education,” said Bokova, “While they have brought about momentous change, their task is far from complete – they must now ensure that every child starts and finishes school while learning the relevant skills needed for a productive life. But today, others can learn from the experiences of countries like Burundi and Ghana: real progress is possible.”