UNESCO: The world is not set to meet its education goals by 2030
Schools that keep an eye on student progress are often considered as dependable. Source: Shuttersock

Education is the key to success and yet, UNESCO projections say if trends continue, a whopping 225 million children will still be out of school by 2030. 

UNESCO projections show that 40 percent of children worldwide will fail to complete secondary education, a figure that will reach 50 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, where the proportion of trained teachers has been declining since 2000.

Back in 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a blueprint for all developed and developing countries to address global challenges, such as those relating to poverty and quality education – to be achieved by 2030.

SDG 4 calls for countries to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. But UNESCO warns that the world is off track in its education commitments. 

Other highlights from the report include:

Based on trends, by 2030, an estimated 225 million or 14 percent of children, adolescents and youth aged six to 17 will be out of school, compared to 262 million or 18 percent in 2017.

A total of 64 million or 9 percent of primary school-aged children (typically 6–11 years) are out of school. The figure fell from 15 percent to 9 percent between 2000 and 2008 and has not changed in subsequent years. 

UNESCO attributes this to the “sudden halt in the growth of aid to education to low-income countries after the onset of the financial crisis”. 

Meanwhile, 61 million or 16 percent of adolescents of lower secondary school age (12–14 years) are out of school, falling from 25 percent to 17 percent between 2000 and 2010 – a figure that has since remained stagnant. 

The out-of-school rate is 14 percent in middle-income countries and 36 percent in low-income countries, with the figure increasing in the latter group, mostly driven by “reverses in countries such as Ethiopia and the Syrian Arab Republic”.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasises leaving no-one behind, yet only 4 percent of the poorest 20 percent complete upper secondary school in the poorest countries, compared to 36 percent of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower-middle-income countries,” said UNESCO.

“In 2015, UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report identified an annual funding deficit of $39 billion to achieve SDG 4 but aid to education has stagnated since 2010.”

Despite the lack of progress, all is not bleak. There are countries making efforts to meet the goal, such as Bolivia, which issues vouchers to indigenous students; Vietnam’s poorest no longer have to pay tuition fees; while conditional cash transfers are given to refugee children in Turkey and to children with severe intellectual disabilities in South Africa.

While efforts are being made to transform lives through education, it’s clear that world leaders and governments around the world will need to step up their efforts and strengthen their resolve to ensure they get back on track to meet the goal for this agenda.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics Director Silvia Montoya and UNESCO Global Education Monitoring report Director Manos Antoninis noted on the World Economic Forum: “We hope that the world leaders at the HLPF [High-Level Political Forum] will hear this warning and use the opportunity to meet this challenge, and commit to this vital – and still achievable – development goal.”

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