Two-thirds of the countries won't meet the 2030 education target: UNESCO

A new UNESCO report finds that countries across the world will fall short of the ambition expressed in SDG 4, even if they reach their own estimations by 2030.
Two-thirds of the countries won't meet the 2030 education target: UNESCO | World Education Day 2022
Two-thirds of the countries won't meet the 2030 education target: UNESCO | World Education Day 2022

International Day of Education 2022: According to their own estimations, countries across the world will fail to attain Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, finds the latest report released today by UNESCO's Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report. This means that millions of children will continue to miss out on school and quality learning.

“Even if countries reach their benchmark values by 2030, the world will still fall short of the ambition expressed in SDG 4, before even accounting for the potential impact of COVID-19 on education systems,” the report which was released on International Education Day 2022 underscored.

In 2014, the UN Secretary-General in his Synthesis Report called on the countries to do ‘benchmarking for progress’ and follow the Education 2030 Framework for Action. “This requires establishing appropriate intermediate benchmarks (e.g. for 2020 and 2025) through an inclusive process, with full transparency and accountability, engaging all partners so there is country ownership and common understanding. Intermediate benchmarks are indispensable for addressing the accountability deficit associated with longer-term targets,” Paragraph 28 of the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

Benchmark indicators of SDG4

The five thematic areas of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) are—early childhood, basic education, equity, quality, and financing.

In early childhood, the participation rate (one year before the official primary entry age) covers the students of age 5 who are either in pre-primary or primary school. The rate increased globally to 75% in 2020 from earlier 65% in 2002.

By 2030, Latin America, the Caribbean, Central and Southern Asia will achieve universal early childhood education while Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Western Asia will fall short of this goal where two in three children will be enrolled in an early childhood education as per estimates.

“All regions will meet or be very close to achieving universal primary education. Challenges will remain in sub-Saharan Africa where 8% of children of primary school age are still predicted to be out of school in 2030,” highlighted the report.

Three indicators cover basic education—out of school rate, completion rate, and minimum learning proficiency. The out-of-school rate for children of primary school age dropped from 15% in 2000 to 9% in 2007 but remained at the same level in 2020. For adolescents of lower secondary school age, it fell from 25% in 2000 to 16% in 2013. However, it remained at the same level in 2020. At last, the rate for youth of upper secondary school age descended from 36% in 2000 to 24% in 2020.

“By 2030, countries in sub-Saharan Africa expect to be able to achieve a reduction in the rate of out-of-school upper secondary age youth from 47% to 32%; those in Central and Southern Asia expect to reduce their rate from 32% to 17%. In North Africa and Western Asia, the benchmarks show that countries believe they can reduce the rate from 28% to 14% and from 19% to 11% in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report highlighted.

The primary completion rate increased from 76% in 2000 to 86% in 2020, the lower secondary completion rate improved from 59% in 2000 to 75% in 2020, and the upper secondary completion rate increased manifold from 36% in 2000 to 54% in 2020.

“The process has delivered a reality check with regards to the goal of universal completion of secondary education by 2030, which no region is on track to achieve. Completion rates are expected to land at 89% at lower secondary and 72% at the upper secondary level by the deadline,” the report noted.

The minimum learning proficiency refers to students (i) in grades 2 or 3, (ii) at the end of primary education, and (iii) at the end of lower secondary education achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (a) reading and (b) mathematics.

The average annual growth in the students who achieved the low international benchmark between 2015 and 2019 rounds was 0.3 percentage points in Grade 4 students, and 0.5 percentage points among Grade 8 students. The long-term trends over a period between 8 and 24 years show considerable variation, with some countries improving at rates over three times while others declining.

“By 2030, globally, benchmarks show that an expected 26% will still not be able to do basic mathematics in the early grades, 32% at the end of primary and 34% at the end of lower secondary. An expected 22% will still not have basic reading skills at the end of lower secondary education," the report underscored.

Equity measures the gender gap in upper secondary completion, i.e. the difference between females and males in the upper secondary completion. In 2000, the male completion rate exceeded the female completion rate by 3.2%, but the gap was reversed in 2013 wherein females had a 2.5% advantage by 2020. “There is large regional variation, with females 3.9 percentage points behind males in sub-Saharan Africa and males 11.5 percentage points behind females in Eastern and South-eastern Asia in 2020,” the report said.

The percentage of trained teachers at four levels of education is measured under quality. The trained teachers are expected to increase between 2015 and 2030 to over 90% at each level of education to ensure the international community does not lose sight of the quality of education.

“The fastest growth is expected at the pre-primary education level, from 70% to 94%. Still, by the deadline, countries in sub-Saharan Africa expect that, despite their best efforts, over a quarter of teachers at the pre-primary level will remain untrained,” the report highlighted.

Financing refers to the expenditure on education. It required allocating at least 4-6% of GDP to education and 15-20% of public expenditure to education. “Poorer countries tend to have a low capacity for mobilizing domestic resources but large child cohorts and therefore high needs to spend a larger share of their budget on education. Conversely, richer countries tend to raise more domestic resources but spend a lower share of the budget on education because the cohorts of school-age children are smaller. Nevertheless, one in three countries were spending below both benchmarks,” the report said.

What does the report say about India?

While India has made significant progress in access to school for primary aged school children, however, a lot needs to be done at the secondary level of education. “Just 61% of young people are completing secondary school. India projects that 88% of young people will graduate from secondary school in 2030,” the report highlighted.

Another challenge that India faces is the quality of learning. The proportion of children who can read and write well at the end of the primary is 60% while in mathematics, the proportion is barely 36%. India is projecting to increase substantially by 2030.

“The next step must be to encourage all countries to submit benchmarks and determine which policies to prioritise before 2030. These nationally determined targets do not yet take into account the possible impact of COVID-19 on education which we know has significantly slowed down and may have even rolled back progress on education. It is also troubling that a fifth of countries do not have plans with targets, so there is still work to do before a full realistic picture of where we aim to be by 2030 is available,” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report.

Also Read | UNESCO’s State of Education Report 2020: Key Findings and recommendations


What is the International Day of Education 2022 theme?

Changing Course, transforming Education is the International Day of Education 2022 theme proclaimed by UNESCO.

When is the International Day of Education is celebrated?

International Day of Education is celebrated each year on January 24.
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