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FREE, EQUITABLE AND QUALITY

The world’s poor will get universal access to basic education 100 years after the rich

Students share a desk during a mathematics class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly)
By Neha Thirani Bagri
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

At last year’s United Nations summit on sustainable development, world leaders vowed to provide “free, equitable, and quality” primary education for all children, by 2030. But for millions of kids, it will not come in time—and probably not even in the next 50 years.

The Sept. 5 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows that economic inequality will keep the world from achieving education for all anytime soon. The report uses past trends to project when different countries will achieve ”universal education,” defined as 100% of children enrolled in school. Its findings are grim: The world’s poorest countries will reach universal primary-school education more than a century after the richest nations.

Low-income countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic and Ethiopia are predicted to achieve universal primary education in the year 2100. That’s over 100 years after high income countries, such as Russia, the United States, Sweden and the Czech Republic, which all achieved universal primary education by 1970.

High income
1985
Upper middle income
2020
Lower middle income
2054
Low income
2088

India is predicted to achieve universal primary education by the year 2050, ten years after Brazil and 45 years after China. Saudi Arabia and South Africa will both achieve universal primary education in 2030.

In many countries, conflict has been a major obstacle to the spread of education. Nigeria, where terror group Boko Haram has targeted hundreds of schools and teachers, is expected to achieve universal primary enrollment by the year 2070. Syria, wracked by civil war, could achieve universal primary education by 2060, the GEM report predicts. (Syria actually achieved universal primary enrollment in 2001, but civil war caused primary net enrollment to fall 71% in 2013.)

The importance of basic schooling cannot be exaggerated. Primary education levels have a measurable impact on all other social, political, economic and cultural conditions in a country. As the report points out, in countries such as Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, increases in primary school enrollment from the mid-90s on led to a marked reduction in women’s ideal family size and desire for high fertility.

Primary education also impacts political participation. A 2014 study of 27,000 people in emerging African democracies, cited in the GEM report, found that people with primary education were slightly more likely to attend community meetings, than those who had never attended school. Primary and secondary education also gives future farmers greater knowledge about sustainable food production, impacting the environment.

 

Belarus
1970
Czech Republic
1970
Slovakia
1970
Georgia
1970
Poland
1970
Russian Federation
1970
Ukraine
1970
Estonia
1970
United States of America
1970
Latvia
1970
Sweden
1970
Switzerland
1970
Austria
1970
Denmark
1970
Germany
1970
Ireland
1970
Finland
1970
Iceland
1970
Norway
1970
Turkmenistan
1975
Canada
1975
Japan
1975
Armenia
1975
Slovenia
1975
Lithuania
1975
New Zealand
1975
Bulgaria
1975
Hungary
1975
Kyrgyzstan
1980
Kazakhstan
1980
Australia
1980
France
1980
Montenegro
1980
Serbia
1980
Republic of Moldova
1980
Albania
1980
Republic of Korea
1985
Cyprus
1985
Croatia
1985
Romania
1985
Azerbaijan
1985
Italy
1985
Tonga
1985
Greece
1990
Mongolia
1990
Samoa
1990
Malta
1990
Belgium
1995
Tajikistan
1995
Bosnia and Herzegovina
2000
Puerto Rico
2000
Cuba
2000
Singapore
2005
Spain
2005
China
2005
Bahamas
2005
Jamaica
2005
Saint Lucia
2005
Trinidad and Tobago
2005
Netherlands
2010
Luxembourg
2015
Bahrain
2015
Lebanon
2015
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
2015
Guyana
2020
Malaysia
2025
Chile
2025
United Arab Emirates
2025
Thailand
2025
Tunisia
2025
Kuwait
2025
Aruba
2025
Suriname
2025
Uruguay
2025
Saudi Arabia
2030
South Africa
2030
Maldives
2030
Jordan
2030
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
2035
Algeria
2035
Indonesia
2035
Occupied Palestinian Territory
2035
Turkey
2035
Myanmar
2035
Argentina
2035
Mexico
2035
Philippines
2040
Egypt
2040
Peru
2040
Brazil
2040
Panama
2040
Vietnam
2040
Colombia
2045
Zimbabwe
2045
Portugal
2045
Costa Rica
2045
Dominican Republic
2045
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
2045
Equatorial Guinea
2045
India
2050
Iraq
2050
Nepal
2050
Qatar
2050
Ecuador
2050
Paraguay
2050
Mauritius
2055
Bangladesh
2055
Timor-Leste
2060
Pakistan
2060
El Salvador
2060
Namibia
2060
Bhutan
2060
Syrian Arab Republic
2060
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
2060
Cape Verde
2065
Gabon
2065
Ghana
2065
Kenya
2065
Morocco
2065
Belize
2070
Honduras
2070
Nicaragua
2070
Gambia
2070
Nigeria
2070
Swaziland
2070
Vanuatu
2070
Cameroon
2075
Congo
2075
Democratic Republic of the Congo
2075
Cambodia
2075
Guatemala
2080
Haiti
2080
Malawi
2080
United Republic of Tanzania
2080
Zambia
2080
Benin
2085
Guinea-Bissau
2085
Lesotho
2085
Sao Tome and Principe
2085
Somalia
2085
Sudan
2085
Uganda
2090
Comoros
2090
Madagascar
2095
Senegal
2095
Sierra Leone
2095
Ethiopia
2100
Guinea
2100
Central African Republic
2100
Burundi
2100
Rwanda
2100
Mozambique
2100
Chad
2100
Mali
2100
Liberia
2100
Niger
2100
Burkina Faso
2100

Girls, marginalized populations and displaced people tend to lag even further behind. In 2014, only 63% of all countries surveyed in the GEM report had achieved gender parity in primary education, while populations considered “indigenous” often scored lower on education indicators such as enrollment rates. According to March 2016 data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNESCO, one in every two primary school-age refugee children is out of school, missing crucial years of education and development.

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