Adolescents twice as likely to be out of school as primary-age children


A fifth of adolescents aged between 12 and 15 around the world are out of school, compared to one in 11 children of primary school age.

About 63 million of them are being denied their right to an education – and as they get older it is more likely that they will never start school or drop out.

The findings are contained in a report released today by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF. Added to the 58 million out-of-school children of primary age, this means there are 121 million children and adolescents who have either never started school or have dropped out of classes.

Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and disability are the most affected.

Despite the promise by world leaders in 2000 that there would be Education For All by the end of 2015, there has been little progress in cutting the overall number since 2007. This is partly due to rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

A World at School’s #UpForSchool Petition is calling on the international community to keep to that pledge to have children in school without danger or discrimination. You can sign the petition here.

Click on the interactive tool below to see findings from the new report:

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Business-as-usual strategies based on more teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks are not enough to reach the most disadvantaged children. We need targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, the girls forced to stay home, the children with disabilities and the millions obliged to work.

“But these policies come at a cost. This report serves as wake-up call to mobilise the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all.”

The report – Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children – was funded by the Global Partnership for Education and launched at the Education World Forum in London. It says that if current trends continue, 25 million children – 15 million girls and 10 million boys – are likely to never set foot inside a classroom.

The highest out-of-school rates are in Eritrea and Liberia, where 66% and 59% of children respectively do not go to primary school. In many countries, the rates of exclusion are even re even higher for older children, especially girls. In Pakistan, 58% of adolescent girls roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 are out of school compared to 49% of boys.

The report says poverty is the greatest barrier to education. In Nigeria, two-thirds of children in the poorest households are not in school and almost 90% of them will probably never enrol. In contrast, only 5% of the richest children are out of school and most of them are expected to start in the future.

UNESCO and UNICEF say new policies must focus on the most marginalised children as part of larger efforts to improve access to and quality of education. To do this, governments need robust information on who these children are, where they live, whether they have ever attended school and if they are likely to do so in the future. But many of these children remain invisible within current data collection methods. Children with disabilities are amongst the least visible – reliable data simply don’t exist – and they are being overlooked in national responses to out-of-school children.

The report calls for action to invest in better data and demonstrates that reaching the most marginalised may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits. Better statistics and innovative tools can help guide governments and donors to allocate their education funding more effectively and efficiently.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “To realise the promise of universal education for every child, we need a global commitment to invest in three areas:

  • Getting more children into primary school
  • Helping more children – especially girls – stay in school through the secondary level
  • Improving the quality of the learning they receive throughout their schooling

“There should be no debate among these priorities: we need to do all three, because the success of every child – and the impact of our investment in education – depends on all three.”

The report is available in English and the executive summary in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

See the data exploration tool to better understand which children are out of school and why at Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children (  The eAtlas of Out-of-School Children presents a range of interactive maps and charts for countries around the world – available in English, French and Spanish.

Also, watch the short video on the global numbers of excluded children in English and French.