09.04.2015 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

Education for All 2000-2015: India is first in the race to reduce out of school children

India has made striking progress towards reaching the measurable ‘Education for All’ goals, according to a new UNESCO global education report being launched today at an event hosted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in New Delhi.

Since 2000, when countries committed themselves to the global education goals, India has reduced its out of school children by over 90% and Universal Primary Education has been achieved. This year India is predicted to be the only country in South and West Asia to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education.  

Globally, just one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. Only half of all countries have achieved the most prominent goal of universal primary education. Now, new education targets are being set for the year 2030. An extra $22 billion a year is needed on top of already ambitious government contributions to ensure we achieve them. 

These are the key findings of UNESCO’s 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges”, which has tracked progress on these goals for the past 15 years.  

The Report was launched at The Ashok Convention Hall, with notable speakers, including H.E. Ms. Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate 2014 and Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General, UNESCO.

Released one month before the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea), the Report reveals the following:

Goal 1. Expand early childhood care and education

Globally, 47% of countries achieved universal pre-primary enrolment and another 8% were close, including India. 20% of countries were very far from the goal. Yet, in 2012, around the world nearly 2/3 more children gained access to pre-primary education than in 1999.

Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education 

52% of countries achieved the target of universal enrolment in primary education, including India; 10% are close and the remaining 38% are far or very far from achieving it. This leaves almost 100 million children still not completing primary education. A lack of focus on the marginalized has left the poorest five times less likely to complete a full cycle of primary education than the richest and over a third of out of school children living in conflict affected zones. 

There have been important successes: Around 50 million more children are enrolled in primary school now than were in 1999. Education is still not free in many places, but interventions such as cash transfer programmes and school feeding programmes have enabled the poor to increasingly gain access to school. 

Goal 3. Ensure equal access to learning and life skills for youth and adults.

46% of countries reached universal lower secondary enrolment.  Globally, numbers in lower secondary education increased by 27% and more than doubled in sub-Saharan Africa.  Nonetheless, 61 million adolescents remain out of school and one third of adolescents in low income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015. 

Goal 4. Achieve a 50 % reduction in levels of adult illiteracy 

Only 25% of countries reached this goal; 32% are very far from it, including India. Globally the percentage of adults with minimal literacy skills fell from 18% in 2000 to 14% in 2015, but this is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood. Women continue to make up almost 2/3 of the adult population denied the right to literacy; in India the percentage is 68%.

Goal 5. Achieve gender parity and equality 

Gender parity will be achieved at the primary level in 69% of countries by 2015, including India. At secondary level, only 48% of countries will reach the goal. Child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder girls’ progress in education as does the need for teacher training in gender sensitive approaches. 

Goal 6. Improve the quality of education and ensure measurable learning outcomes for all

The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 83% countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed. Trained teachers remain in short supply in one third of countries; in several sub-Saharan African countries, less than 50% are trained.

More and more countries are focused on learning since 2000. For example, the number of countries carrying out national learning assessments has doubled. 

The world has made tremendous progress towards Education for All,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions more children are in school than would have been had the trends of the 1990s persisted. However, the agenda is far from finished. We need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritize the poorest – especially girls – , improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap so that education becomes meaningful and universal.”

Funding and political will

Since 2000 many governments significantly increased their spending on education: 38 countries increased their commitment to education by one percentage point or more of GNP. However funding remains a major obstacle at all levels. 

“India has made exemplary progress in helping children gain access to pre-primary and primary education since the global education goals were set in 2000. India’s example clearly shows that with sufficient political will and resources the world can step up to meet the new education targets by 2030.” said GMR Director, Aaron Benavot. “To achieve global change in promoting a more sustainable future, all governments, including India, must mobilize new resources for education. International partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.”

The GMR makes the following recommendations:

Complete the EFA agenda: All governments should make at least one year of pre-primary education compulsory. Education must be free: fees for tuition should be abolished; costs for textbooks, school uniforms and transport should be covered. Policy makers should prioritize skills to be acquired by the end of each stage of schooling. All countries should ratify and implement international conventions on the minimum age for employment. Literacy policies should link up with community needs. Gender disparities at all levels must be reduced. 

Equity: Programmes and funding should be targeted to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged. There should be more emphasis on gender equality, including through teacher education and safe school environments. Governments should close critical data gaps in order to be able to direct resources to those marginalized groups most in need. 

Post-2015: Countries should ensure that all children and adolescents complete pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education by 2030.  Governments should significantly expand adult learning and education opportunities within a lifelong learning approach. The education sector should collaborate closely with other sectors at the national and global levels to improve sustainable development prospects.

Close the finance gap: The international community, in partnership with countries, must find the means to bridge the US$22 billion annual finance gap for quality pre-primary and basic education for all by 2030. Clear education finance targets must be established within the Sustainable Development Goals where none currently exist.

For interviews, photos, b-roll, infographics, videos, including a video message by the United Nations Secretary General, or for more information, please contact: 

Kate Redman: k.redman(at)unesco.org 

Rekha Beri: r.beri(at)unesco.org 

To download the full Report please click here

To directly access country-level statistics, please click here 

Notes to Editors

Developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report is an authoritative reference that aims to inform, influence and sustain genuine commitment towards Education for All.

Twitter: @EFAReport/#EduVerdict / Web: http://www.efareport.unesco.org 

World Education Blog: http://efareport.wordpress.com 


India specific notes: 

-  Minister Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, India: “India has successfully moved towards reaching the EFA goals, especially in ensuring near Universal Elementary Education and enrolment of girls. India’s efforts have been backed by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and the national Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme. To ensure continued participation of girls in education, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Girl, Educate the Girl) initiative has recently been launched in India.” 

-  India has made progress in increasing the net enrolment ratio of children in primary education by redistributing more economic gains in the education sector. The elementary education budget increased more than twofold between 2007/08 and 2012/13.  However, there could be more improvement in allocating appropriate funds to schools as there are several cases of banking delays and cases of cash transfers not reaching schools. 

-  Between 2003 and 2010, rural India saw substantial improvement in nearly all aspects of school facilities and infrastructure. 45% of schools now have electricity compared to 20% and 78% of roads are paved within 1 kilometre of schools versus 63%. Education outcomes subsequently increased with the availability of paved roads and electricity. 

-  Government policies have not only changed children’s lives, but have altered adult lives through various second-chance programmes for life-long education. India has been excelling in this area by introducing institutions such as the National Institute of Open Schooling and Pratham Open School of Education (available in seven states) propose vocational and technical courses, certification for secondary and higher secondary education, as well more specialised courses such as personality development and enhancement of soft skills. 

-  Women represent the majority of illiterate adults. India’s nationwide government-sponsored literacy programme, Saakshar Bharat Mission, is making a strong effort to empower women and reach an 80% literacy rate.

-  India has reached gender parity for primary and lower secondary school enrolment. (2011) Factors contributed to this achievement includee: free textbooks for all girls, back-to-school camps, bridging courses, add-on curriculum addressing gender, health and violence and the recruitment of female teachers. Much more focus has been dedicated to girls from poor and remote areas. 

-  The one measurable Education for All goal that India did not reach was to reduce its adult illiteracy rate by 50%. Since 2000, India has reduced its adult illiteracy rate by 26%. 



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