Children who don’t go to school are often the most vulnerable and marginalized. They are a high priority for GPE.
Despite dramatic improvements over the last decade, progress towards achieving education for all has stagnated. In total, 121 million children and adolescents are currently out of primary and lower secondary school worldwide – a number that has remained essentially constant since 2007. 78 million of these children live in GPE countries.
A disproportionate number of out-of-school children live in countries that are characterized by instability and conflict and/or extreme poverty. Conflict-affected countries have only 20% of the world’s primary-school-age children but 50% of the world’s out-of-school children, and 55 million out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the countries with the highest numbers of out-of-school children still do not receive adequate external financing to meet their needs.
Within and across countries, what progress has been achieved has not been equitable: the children who face the most severe barriers to education, such as those associated with gender, poverty, displacement, nomadism, disability, and/or ethnicity, are still left behind. Many of these children do not get a chance to go to school because their families rely on them for labor, for example, or because the walk to school is too long and/or too dangerous.
Some cannot attend because the local schools lack water points, latrines, or accessible facilities for children with disabilities. Others are excluded from education because they speak a language that is not accommodated by the teachers and textbooks available where they live. The greatest challenges are faced by children who encounter several of these barriers.
Gender is a key factor in who has access to education, though the picture is complex. Girls make up 53% of all children out of primary school and 52% of all adolescents out of lower secondary school, even though only 48% of the world’s under-15 population are girls.
But these averages mask much more dramatic disparities in individual countries, including some cases in which boys are disadvantaged. For example, there are 16 countries in which fewer than 80 girls for every 100 boys are enrolled in lower secondary school – and there are 3 countries with more than 120 girls enrolled for every 100 boys. Cultural norms can play a large role, whether in contributing to a lower value placed on girls’ education in some countries, or an expectation that adolescent boys will earn income instead of attending secondary school in others.