January 26, 2023

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UNESCO’s report reveals: More than 80 million children will still be out of school by 2030

A child in Nyaruguru District of Rwanda attending an ECD class/ PHOTO: TOP AFRICA NEWS

Largest ever country-led exercise to determine realistic education ambitions for 2030 shows that most countries will not meet Sustainable Development Goal 4 of universal access to quality education

New York and Paris, 6 July 2022 – With less than eight years remaining to meet Sustainable Development Goal 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, governments are forecasting that, even if they meet their national targets, there will still be an estimated 84 million children and young people not attending school by the end of the decade – equivalent to more than the number of children living in Europe today. 

The findings come as a stark reality check for political and civil society leaders who are meeting at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development from 5 to 15 July, where they will review progress towards five Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 4 on quality education for only the second time since 2015.

The report called “Setting commitments: National SDG 4 benchmarks to transform education”, by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM), has compiled findings from a five-year process that has enabled countries to set their own targets towards achieving SDG 4. Nine out of ten countries now have national benchmarks which consider their unique context providing clear insights into what their contribution will be to the global education goal.

The fact that the majority of governments have now set national benchmarks for progress towards the crucial education goal is a sign of serious commitment. The momentum is here. The international community now has the opportunity to boost their efforts by filling the large data gaps that exist and by prioritising education funding. This way, we can create a truly transformative compact”, said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.

The report shows that despite the promise of universal secondary school completion, millions of children and young people will never finish secondary school. Based on their own projections, only one in six countries aim to meet this target by 2030. Just four in ten youth in sub-Saharan Africa will be completing secondary school.

Countries anticipate making progress in learning outcomes, with the percentage of students achieving basic skills in reading at the end of primary school improving from 51% in 2015 to 67% in 2030. But despite this progress, an estimated 300 million children and young people will still not have the basic numeracy and literacy skills they need to be productive members of society.

“UNESCO’s leadership supporting governments to set benchmarks comes at a critical time when education systems, especially in lower income countries, are struggling to recover after the pandemic. COVID-19 has led to an education crisis. Fewer children and young people are leaving school with the minimum skills they need. By 2030, far too many children are expected to remain out of classrooms. We can and must do better. These realistic renewed commitments can help bring us a step closer to the promise we made all children.”, said David Sengeh,  Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, and chief innovation officer for the government of Sierra Leone and Chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report.

The report makes the following recommendations to all governments: 

  1. Strive to improve and align data reporting with the SDG 4 indicators in order to benefit from the peer learning made possible by this common exercise.
  2. Synchronise the work done on identifying benchmarks with national education plans in order to transform education systems around their ambitions for change.
  3. Drive informed national and regional policy dialogue and peer learning, comparing own benchmarks with those of peers and discussing policy priorities between now and 2030 that can help maintain strong progress towards SDG 4.
  4. Review and provide feedback on the proposed approaches described in this report for annual monitoring of progress from now until 2030 according to their own, and indicative benchmarks for progress.
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