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Children of primary and secondary school age out of school

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) publishes annual estimates of the number of children of primary school age out of school. A recent paper by Michael Bruneforth and Peter Wallet, Out-of-school adolescents (UIS 2010), extends the analysis to children of lower secondary school age. Any child enrolled in primary, secondary or tertiary education is considered in school, regardless of the child's age. Only children that are truly excluded from education are counted as out of school.

The paper's regional and global estimates of the number and percent of children out of school are reproduced in this article. Table 1 lists the population of primary and lower secondary school age in 2007. Worldwide there were about 653 million children of primary school age and 388 million children of lower secondary school age. More than half of these children lived in South and West Asia and East Asia and the Pacific.

Table 1: Population of primary and lower secondary school age by region (million), 2007
Region Primary Lower secondary Total
Sub-Saharan Africa 124.9 57.9 182.7
Arab States 41.4 21.9 63.5
South and West Asia 176.8 106.8 284.2
Central Asia 5.6 8.0 13.8
East Asia and the Pacific 173.8 106.5 281.2
Central and Eastern Europe 22.2 20.3 42.1
North America and Western Europe 50.8 31.0 81.6
Latin America and the Caribbean 58.6 35.9 93.7
World 652.6 388.2 1042.5
Source: UIS 2010, page 10, Table 1; author's calculations. - Note: Figures may not sum due to rounding.

Figure 1 illustrates the regional distribution of the population of primary and lower secondary school age. The number of children in these age groups is plotted along the horizontal axis. The vertical axis indicates the share of children of primary and lower secondary school age in each region. The regions with the largest number of school-age children in 2007 were South and West Asia (284 million), East Asia and the Pacific (281 million), and Sub-Saharan Africa (183 million). More than 60 percent of the combined population of primary and lower secondary school age were of primary school age. Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe were exceptions, with a greater share of children of lower secondary school age than in other regions. The large share of primary-age children in Sub-Saharan Africa is a symptom of its high population growth rate.

Figure 1: Population of primary and lower secondary school age by region, 2007
Spine plot showing the distribution of the population of primary and lower secondary school age by region in 2007
Source: UIS 2010, page 10, Table 1; author's calculations. - CEE: Central and Eastern Europe, NAWE: North America and Western Europe, LAC: Latin America and the Caribbean.

The share and number of children out of school are listed in Table 2. At the global level, 11 percent or 72 million of all children of primary school age and 18 percent or 71 million of all children of lower secondary school age were out of school. The combined global share of children out of school was 14 percent. Out-of-school rates were highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of all primary school-age children and 37 percent of all secondary school-age children were excluded from education.

Table 2: Children of primary and lower secondary school age out of school by region, 2007
Region Primary Lower secondary Total
Percent Million Percent Million Percent Million
Sub-Saharan Africa 25.8 32.2 36.8 21.3 29.3 53.5
Arab States 13.9 5.8 19.5 4.3 15.8 10.0
South and West Asia 10.2 18.0 27.3 29.1 16.6 47.2
Central Asia 4.8 0.3 4.9 0.4 4.8 0.7
East Asia and the Pacific 5.2 9.0 10.0 10.6 7.0 19.7
Central and Eastern Europe 7.0 1.6 9.6 1.9 8.3 3.5
North America and Western Europe 3.8 1.9 4.3 1.3 4.0 3.3
Latin America and the Caribbean 5.1 3.0 5.5 2.0 5.3 5.0
World 11.0 71.8 18.3 71.0 13.7 142.8
Source: UIS 2010, page 10, Table 1.

As illustrated in Figure 2, out-of-school rates are always higher at the secondary level of education than at the primary level. This is not surprising because not all students complete primary education and not all of those who graduate from primary school transfer to secondary school to continue their education. In addition to Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia (27 percent) and the Arab States (20 percent) also had a high share of children of secondary school age out of school.

Figure 2: Children of primary and lower secondary school age out of school by region, 2007
Bar chart showing the share of children of primary and lower secondary school age out of school by region in 2007
Source: UIS 2010, page 10, Table 1.

The distribution of children out of school by region in 2007 is shown in Figure 3. A comparison with the population distribution in Figure 1 makes clear that children from Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia were disproportionately more likely to be out of school than children from other regions. More than two thirds of the 143 million out-of-school children of primary and lower secondary age were from Sub-Saharan Africa (54 million) and South and West Asia (47 million). 20 million children out of school lived in East Asia and 10 million in the Arab States. The remaining 13 million children out of school were from Latin America and the Caribbean (5 million), Central and Eastern Europe (3.5 million), North America and Western Europe (3.3 million), and Central Asia (0.7 million).

Figure 3: Children of primary and lower secondary school age out of school by region, 2007
Spine plot showing the distribution of children of primary and lower secondary school age out of school by region in 2007
Source: UIS 2010, page 10, Table 1. - CEE: Central and Eastern Europe, NAWE: North America and Western Europe, LAC: Latin America and the Caribbean.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States, North America and Western Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean most children out of school were of primary age. In South and West Asia, East Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe most children out of school were of lower secondary age. At the global level, the number of out-of-school children of primary school age and lower secondary school age was roughly equal (see Table 2).

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Friedrich Huebler, 28 March 2010 (edited 17 August 2011), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2010/03/coos.html

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