Half of world’s children will be left without basic skills warns Education Commission

Education funding, Gordon Brown, The Education Commission

Five-year-old Fajer in a school in the Ninewa Governorate of Iraq Picture: UNICEF/Anmar


More than half of the world’s children will have little or no education by the year 2030 unless urgent action is taken, a shocking new report has warned.

The findings of the global Education Commission will reveal that 800 million children are currently on track to either not start school at all, drop out of primary or secondary school or complete secondary education with poor learning levels.

That combination could have a devastating effect on a generation of girls and boys and their chances of fulfilling their potential.

The commission’s report – The Learning Generation – will be released on September 18 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, as world leaders gather for a series of meetings and events that could define the future for millions of children.

Previewing the report today, commission chair Gordon Brown – the UN Special Envoy for Global Education – spoke of the needs of society’s most marginalised, vulnerable, refugee and displaced young people.

Chudier Gatkuoth, aged five, plays in UN-protected site in South Sudan Picture: UNICEF/Gonzalez Farran


He said: “I consider this to be the civil rights struggle of our generation – the demand of young people for their right to education and the ticking time bomb of discontent that results from the betrayal of the hopes of half of an entire generation.

 “The world is faced with a stark choice. Either we make the investment we need or we face the discontent of a generation.”

The Education Commission is a group of world leaders, policymakers and researchers who have spent a year developing a compelling case for major funding and planning that can deliver equal opportunities for all children and youth.

Brown said the commission will outline a “plan for the first global education budget – to deliver the biggest expansion of educational opportunity in history”.

Gordon Brown previews the Education Commission report at the UN today


Among the other statistics contained in the report are:

  • 263 million children and youth of school age are not at school – 61 million of them are primary age and many will never go to school
  • Of the 800 million children on track to have little or no education, half will not even achieve the most primary school-level skills in literacy and numeracy
  • Among the most urgent priorities are 30 million boys and girls displaced from their homes as refugees – most of them denied an education
  • Countries in the developed world spend about $100,000 on a child’s education from age five to 17 – in low-income countries like Nepal and Somalia it is just $400
  • Education aid has fallen from 13% of all aid to 10% since 2002 – in some countries the aid per child is barely enough to buy one text book 

Brown said the commission did not propose taking money from another humanitarian budget – such as food or shelter. Instead, it will propose several ways to finance education in emergencies such as conflicts and natural disasters.

He added: “We have a chance for a victory of hope over battered ambition. A triumph of determination over desolation, drive over despair and right over wrong.

“We can create a world where no one is left behind, no one is losing out and no one is forgotten. A world where we develop all of the talents of all of our children.”


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