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Population structure and children out of school

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest percentage of children out of school. At the same time, the population of most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing and children of primary school age constitute a large and growing share of the population.

The link between the population structure and the number of children out of school is shown in the figures and table below. Data on the share of children of primary school age out of school were obtained from the Childinfo website of UNICEF. The official primary school ages in individual countries from the Data Centre of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics were combined with demographic data from the UN Population Division to calculate the share of children of primary school age in each country's population. In total, data for 177 countries were available. All values are for the year 2007.

In Figure 1, the population of primary school age as a percentage of the total population is plotted along the horizontal axis. At the lower end of the scale are Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine. In these countries, children of primary school age account for less than 4 percent of the total population. The countries with the highest share of children of primary school age are located in Sub-Saharan Africa: Uganda (21 percent), Zambia (20 percent), Lesotho, Mozambique, Somalia (19 percent), Malawi, Swaziland, and Tanzania (18 percent).

The share of children out of school is plotted along the vertical axis. For five countries, the available statistics indicate that less than 0.5 percent of children are out of school: Japan, Malaysia, Spain, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. In eight countries, half or more of all children are not in school: Somalia (77 percent), Chad (64 percent), Niger (62 percent), Liberia (61 percent), Ethiopia (55 percent), Eritrea (54 percent), Burkina Faso (53 percent), and Haiti (50 percent). Except for Haiti and Pakistan, the 20 countries with the highest share of children out of school are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The color of the marker for each country in Figure 1 indicates the geographic region according to the grouping used for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The size of each marker indicates the absolute size of the population of primary school age. The big red circle is the marker for India and the big green circle is the marker for China. Other countries with a large number of children of primary school age are Indonesia in South-Eastern Asia, USA in the developed countries, and Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The distribution of the points in Figure 1 shows that countries with a small share of children of primary school age in the total population also tend to have a small percentage of children out of school. By contrast, countries with a relatively large population of primary school age also have a higher percentage of children out of school. This positive correlation between the two variables is confirmed by a linear regression of the percent of children out of school on the percent of children of primary school age and the squared percent of children of primary school age. The predicted share of children out of school is indicated by the dark gray line. The light gray band around the prediction line indicates the 95 percent confidence interval.

Figure 1: Population of primary school age and children out of school by country, 2007
Scatter plot with country data on the share of children of primary school age and the share of children out of school in 2007
Note: Marker size indicates the number of children of primary school age in a country.
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UNICEF, UN Population Division.

For Figure 2, the data from the 177 countries in Figure 1 were combined by MDG region. The share of children of primary school age in a region's population is plotted along the horizontal axis and the share of children out of school along the vertical axis. The colors of the markers are the same as in Figure 1. The regional values, summarized in Table 1, reflect the 177 countries for which data were available.

Figure 2: Population of primary school age and children out of school by MDG region, 2007
Scatter plot with regional data on the share of children of primary school age and the share of children out of school in 2007
Note: Marker size indicates the number of children of primary school age in a region.
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UNICEF, UN Population Division.

At the global level, about 10 percent of the population are of primary school age. The regional values range from 4.6 percent in the Commonwealth of Independent States to 16.5 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. The average share of children out of school across the 177 countries with data is 15.5 percent. In six regions, fewer than 10 percent of all children are out of school: Commonwealth of Independent States, developed countries, Eastern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa, and South-Eastern Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa has by far the highest share of children out of school, with 36.2 percent, followed by Southern Asia with 20 percent and Oceania with 17.1 percent.

Table 1: Population of primary school age and children out of school by MDG region, 2007
MDG region
Population of primary school age as share of total population (%) Children of primary school age out of school (%)
Developed countries 6.4 4.6
Commonwealth of Independent States 4.6
6.8
Eastern Asia 7.1
0.8
South-Eastern Asia 10.8
6.5
Oceania 14.5
17.1
Southern Asia 10.8
20.0
Western Asia 12.5 12.5
Northern Africa 11.9
5.9
Sub-Saharan Africa 16.5
36.2
Latin America and the Caribbean 10.3 7.2
World 9.8 15.5
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UNICEF, UN Population Division.

Due to their current population structure and demographic trends, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have to provide schools and teachers for a relatively larger number of children than countries in other regions. The Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015 is therefore more difficult to meet for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa than for countries with a relatively small and constant or shrinking population of primary school age.

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Friedrich Huebler, 8 February 2009 (edited 9 February 2009), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2009/02/coos.html

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