26.04.2013 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

EFA Global Monitoring Report 2012: 200 million young people fail to complete primary school and lack skills for work

The National launch of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2012: Youth and skills: putting education to work will take place in New Delhi on the 26 April 2013.   UNESCO has already published the Summary of the Report in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Nepalese, Bengali, Thai, Swahili, Japanese, and German languages. Today the Hindi and the Telugu version was launched by Dr Karan Singh, India’s Representative to UNESCO’s Executive Board and President ICCR, in the presence of Dr S. S. Jena, Chairman, National Institute of Open Learning, and Dr Santosh Mehrotra, DG, Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR).   The 2012 Report, Putting Education to Work, reveals the urgent need to invest in skills for youth.  200 million young people in the world have not completed primary school and need a second chance to acquire basic skills for work. 91 million of these young people live in South and West Asia, making up more than a quarter of the region’s youth population and the greatest number of unskilled young people of any region in the world.

The Report looks in depth at youth skills and shows that young people need the foundation skills taught at primary and lower secondary school to find decent jobs. India accounts for a huge proportion of the 200 million youth lacking foundation skills worldwide. Over a third of 15-19 year olds in the country have less than a lower secondary education and lack the skills they need for work. 

The skills crisis is unlikely to improve anytime soon. In South and West Asia, about 13 million are still out of primary school and 31 million teenagers are out of secondary school, missing out on vital skills for future employment. Despite India making dramatic inroads increasing access to primary school, it still has the fourth highest number of out of school children of any country in the world. 

There is also a learning crisis impeding the likelihood of the skills deficit being rectified with ease: Worldwide, 250 million children of primary school age cannot read or write, whether they are in school or not. In India, fewer than 5% of poor students reached over level 2 in mathematics in learning assessments done in 2009. 

The Report cautions that these education failures are not only thwarting young people’s hopes, but are also jeopardizing equitable economic growth and social cohesion. The urban poor, those living in remote rural areas and young women are the worst off of all. Many youth coping without skills are unemployed or working with bad working conditions and being paid poverty line wages for life. In India in the 2000s, for example, there were estimated to be 10 million street vendors working informally. 

Skills development programmes can be improved to boost young people’s opportunities for decent jobs and better lives.  Such investment in skills is a smart move for improving economic growth. The EFA Global Monitoring Report calculates that every US$1 spend on a person’s education yields US$10-15 in economic growth over that person’s working lifetime. India has realized this potential and aims to train 500 million of its poor urban youth by 2022 in courses and apprenticeships run by the public and private sector. There is also a national policy working to develop the skills of street vendors. NGOs are also helping: some work giving transferable skills such as confidence and self-esteem to poorer urban youth.

 Mr Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO Representative to India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka says: “There is much that India can be proud of as regards its remarkable achievements and ambition for training young people in skills for work. However, it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of urban youth have little training to acquire skills. The skills shortage risks hampering the country’s growth and reinforcing inequality unless it is tackled immediately. Only if countries give their youth a second chance to learn basic skills such as reading, and skills in relevant trades will they make the full use of their potential.”

Ms Tine Staermose, Director ILO New Delhi, says: “As one of the largest informal economies, the percentage of skilled workers in India with any formal plus informal vocational training has been estimated as being close to 10% compared to 60-80% in developed countries.  The limited reach of skills development programmes not only affects the potential for socio-economic growth but also makes the transition from school to decent work more difficult for Indian youth.

Governments, donors and the private sector have a key role to play in raising new resources and using them more effectively to fill the US$38 billion annual finance gap for good quality basic and lower secondary education. Many donors are not prioritizing education in their budgets. Only 2% of India’s commitment to other developing countries 2008 to 2010 was directed at education, for example.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report aims to inform, influence and sustain genuine commit-ment across more than 200 countries and territories towards the six Education for All goals established at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000. It shows that progress is stalling just when increased urgency should be fuelling a final push towards the 2015 deadline for meeting the goals.

  • Goal 1: Improvements in early childhood care and education have been too slow. In 2010, around 28% of children under five suffered from stunting, and less than half the world’s children received pre-primary education.
  • Goal 2: Progress towards universal primary education is stalling. The global number of children out of school stagnated at 61 million in 2010.  Of 100 children out of school, 47 are never expected to enter.
  • Goal 3: Many young people lack foundation skills. In 123 low and lower middle income countries, around 200 million of 15 to 24 year-olds have not even completed primary school, equivalent to one in five young people.
  • Goal 4: Adult literacy remains an elusive goal. The number of illiterate adults has dropped by just 12% between 1990 and 2010. In 2010, around 775 million adults were illiterate, two-thirds of who were women.
  • Goal 5: Gender disparities take a variety of forms. In 2010, there were still seventeen countries with fewer than nine girls for every ten boys in primary school. In more than half of the ninety-six countries that have not achieved gender parity in secondary school, boys are at a disadvantage.
  • Goal 6: Global inequality in learning outcomes remains stark. As many as 250 million children could be failing to read or write by the time they should reach grade 4.

The EFA GMR Report calls for immediate action to solve the youth skills crisis. It identifies five key steps that should be taken, which can be tailored to fit country-specific circumstances: 

  1. Over 91 million  young people in South and West Asia need to be given alternative pathways to learn foundation skills.
  2. All young people need quality training in relevant foundation skills at lower secondary school.
  3. Upper secondary curricula should provide a balance between vocational and technical skills, including IT, and transferable skills such as confidence and communication which are indispensable for the work place.
  4. Skills strategies must target the disadvantaged: particularly young women and urban and rural poor.
  5. Governments as well as donors and the private sector must help fill the funding gap of $38 billion to ensure all young people complete basic and lower secondary education. 

The EFA Global Monitoring Report is developed annually by an independent team and published by UNESCO.   The full report is available online at: www.efareport.unesco.org 

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