New figures released on Monday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have revealed a troubling reality – the number of children worldwide who are deprived of any form of education has reached a staggering 250 million. This marks an increase of six million children compared to previous data, and it is a deeply concerning trend.
One significant factor contributing to this increase is the widespread exclusion of girls and young women from education in Afghanistan. However, it’s important to note that this issue is not isolated; it reflects a broader stagnation in global lerning progress.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL
This concerning outcome directly undermines the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which aims to ensure quality education for all by 2030. If countries were on track to meet their national SDG 4 targets, the impact would have been substantial: six million more children of primary school age would be attending preschool today, 58 million more children, adolescents, and youth would be in school, and at least 1.7 million more primary school teachers would have received proper training, according to UNESCO’s analysis.
One year ago, 141 countries pledged at the UN Transforming Education Summit to transform their education systems and accelerate progress towards SDG 4. These commitments included advancements in teacher training, increased investment in education, and enhanced support for school meals.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, stressed the urgency of translating these commitments into action, saying, “There is no more time to lose. To achieve SDG 4, a new child needs to be enrolled in school every 2 seconds between now and 2030.” Meeting their targets requires countries to enrol 1.4 million children in early childhood education each year until 2030 and almost triple the progress in primary school completion rates.
However, the current state of education is far from meeting these goals. The 2023 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report paints a bleak picture, with progress since 2015 being slow. Only a modest increase of less than 3 percentage points has been observed in the percentage of children completing primary education, reaching 87%. Similarly, the percentage of youth completing secondary education has seen a minimal increase of less than 5 percentage points, now at 58%.
In the 31 low- and lower-middle-income countries that track learning progress at the end of primary school, Viet Nam stands out as the only country where most children achieve minimum proficiency in both reading and mathematics. Globally, youth literacy rates have improved by less than 1 percentage point and rates of adult participation in education, be it formal or non-formal, have declined by 10%, primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to these alarming trends, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay declared, “Education is in a state of emergency,” emphasizing the urgent need for action to prevent compromising the future of millions of children worldwide.