Numbers to Know: About Education

Nelson Mandela once observed, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The world must agree. Maybe that’s why — when the United Nations came together in 2000 to adopt the Millennium Development Goals — they listed achieving universal primary education by the year 2015 as their second goal. How’s the world doing? We’ve come a long way — but there’s still some distance to go, as these numbers (from UNESCO) attest.


• Globally, 91% of children of primary school age were enrolled in schools in 2010. The remaining 9% of the targeted population is still excluded from a basic human right — access to education.

• In sub-Saharan Africa, 77% of children of primary school age are attending school, but only 71% of pupils make it to the last grade of this level.

• In sub-Saharan Africa, there are only 79 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in upper secondary education.

• In Angola and Tanzania, only 41% of children advance to lower secondary education, amongst the lowest rates in the world.

• In South and West Asia, approximately 28 million children of lower secondary school age are out of school.

• 39 million girls of lower secondary age are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education.

• In 2009, 112 out of 208 countries (54%) needed to further increase the size of their primary teaching workforce due to growing numbers of students.

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