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Survival rate to the last grade of primary school

Since January 2008, the survival rate to the last grade of primary school is an official indicator to track progress toward the second UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which calls for universal primary education by the year 2015. The survival rate to the last grade is the percentage of a cohort of students who enter the first grade of primary education and who are expected to reach the last grade, regardless of repetition.

As an example, assume that primary school has four grades. Assume further that 100 children enter grade one and that 5 of these children drop out from school before they reach the last grade. The remaining 95 children reach grade four, with or without repeating one or more grades. In this case, the survival rate to the last grade is 95 / 100 = 95%.

As a previous article on this site explains, the survival rate to grade five was used an official indicator for MDG 2 until 2007. The survival rate to the last grade is a better indicator because it can be calculated for countries with fewer than five grades of primary school and because it is more in line with the goal of universal primary education.

The map below shows the most recent statistics on the survival rate to the last grade from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). In most cases, the statistics are from the year 2005. The next revision of the UIS database, expected in mid-2008, will contain survival rates for 2006.

Survival rate to the last grade of primary school, 2005
Map of the world showing national survival rates to the last grade of primary school, 2005
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Data Centre, January 2008.

The current UIS database lists the survival rate to the last grade for 154 countries. The values range from 25% in Nauru and Uganda to 100% in Croatia, Cyprus, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Tajikistan. In addition to Nauru and Uganda, nine other countries have survival rates below 50%: Chad (26%), Rwanda (31%), Equatorial Guinea (33%), Malawi (34%), Mauritania (39%), Madagascar (43%), Turks and Caicos Islands (45%), and Benin and Mozambique (46%). In these eleven countries, more than half of all children who start attending primary school drop out before they reach the last grade.

Ten countries have survival rates in the range 50-60%, 20 each are in the range 60-70% and 70-80%, 26 countries have survival rates from 80% to 90%, and in 67 countries 90% or more of all primary school entrants reach the last grade. As the map shows, almost all countries with survival rates below 60% are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The following table compares average survival rates in the different MDG regions. In the group of developed countries, in the countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Republics), and in Eastern Asia, almost all children reach the last grade of primary school. In contrast, fewer than two thirds of all first grade students in Sub-Saharan Africa reach the last grade. Survival rates are also relatively low in Northern Africa and Oceania (78%), and in Southern and South-Eastern Asia (84%). In Western Asia and Latin America, around 90% of all first grade students reach the last grade.

Survival rate to the last grade of primary school, 2005
MDG region Survival rate to last grade (%)
Male FemaleTotal
Developed countries 99.199.299.2
Commonwealth of Independent States99.699.099.4
Eastern Asia98.998.898.8
South-Eastern Asia84.584.384.4
Oceania78.478.278.3
Southern Asia84.583.083.8
Western Asia88.786.988.0
Northern Africa75.381.878.3
Sub-Saharan Africa64.363.163.9
Latin America and the Caribbean90.590.190.4
World85.184.584.9
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Data Centre, January 2008.

The average survival rate to the last grade at the global level is 85%, with virtually no difference between boys and girls. However, gender disparities exist in some regions, in particular in Northern Africa, were girls, with an average survival rate of 82%, are more likely to continue their education to the last grade of primary school than boys, whose survival rate is 75%.

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External links
Friedrich Huebler, 11 February 2008, Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2008/02/survival-rate-to-last-grade-of-primary.html

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