Basic education and gender equality

Out-of-School Children Initiative

© UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0034/Harandane Dicko, Mali, 2013
In Mali, 50 per cent of children are out of school. ‘Back to School’ campaigns aim to improve children’s day-to-day lives while reviving the local economy in a region that has been severely affected by conflict.

For more than a decade, there were significant gains towards achieving universal access to education but recent data shows that progress towards achieving universal primary education has stalled. In 2012, nearly 58 million children of primary school age (typically between 6 and 11 years of age) were not enrolled in school. Many of them will probably never enter a classroom. Moreover, 63 million young adolescents around the world were not enrolled in primary or secondary school, compared with 97 million in 2000.

Some of the world’s most vulnerable children – especially girls, children living in conflict and children with disabilities – remain excluded from education systems. Sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for 52 per cent of all out-of-school children of primary school age, rising from just over 46 per cent in 2005. If current trends continue, there could be more children out of school in 2015 than there are today.

The second pressing challenge is the poor quality of the education offered in many schools, a challenge that is often referred to as a ‘learning crisis.’ As of 2011, 250 million children – one in four young people living in lower and middle income countries – were unable to read a single sentence. This is not just wasted potential – it is wasted investment, as learning outcomes and national economies are closely linked.

Business as usual is not reaching the most marginalized children. Since 2010, the Out-of-School Children Initiative – a partnership between UNICEF and UNESCO Institute for Statistics – is working in more than 30 countries to determine which children are out of school, assess the barriers that exclude them and develop innovative policies and strategies that will deliver them to the classroom and ensure that they are learning. Supported by multiple partners, including the Global Partnership for Education, the Initiative's second phase is already underway, with more than 20 new countries joining.

Addressing barriers to education

The Out-of-School Children Initiative uses innovative approaches to identify which boys and girls are being left behind and help them reach their full potential. Barriers to education – including poverty, discrimination, disability and location – differ dramatically between and within countries. In order to address these barriers effectively, the Initiative works with governments to examine the data and provide concrete recommendations tailored to the local context.

The goals of the Out-of-School Children Initiative include:

• Improving data and analysis on children not in school;
• Establishing detailed profiles of the children excluded from education;
• Identifying the barriers that keep children from getting an education; and
• Developing policies tailored to particular contexts so that school enrolment worldwide increases, drop-out rates go down and children exhibit better learning outcomes.

Every child in school and learning

There are more than 35 countries participating in the Initiative, as well as the sub-regional initiative of the Eastern Caribbean States and a regional initiative in Central Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The participating countries include:

• Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey
• East Asia and the Pacific: Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Viet Nam
• Eastern and Southern Africa: Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Zambia
• Latin America and the Caribbean: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico
• Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen
• South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
• West and Central Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria

Most importantly, education is a human right and a strong catalyst for social progress. Each dollar spent on education yields US$10 to US$15 in economic growth over a child’s lifetime. Getting every child into school and learning – the core goal of the Initiative – is essential to reducing global poverty, improving health, fostering peace, bolstering democracy, improving environmental sustainability and increasing gender equality.


East and Southern Africa OOSCI Regional Study - English
West and Central Africa OOSCI Regional Study - English, French

Out-of-School Children Initiative Flyer - English | French | Spanish

Eastern Europe OOSCI Summary - English

South Asia OOSCI Regional Study, Executive Summary in English; Full report in English

TACRO OOSCI, Executive Summary – English, Spanish

Bolivia OOSCI, Full report in Spanish

Brazil OOSCI, Executive Summary – English, Portuguese, Spanish; Full report in Portuguese

DRC OOSCI, Full report in English, French

Ghana OOSCI, Full report in English

Kyrgyzstan OOSCI, Full report in English

Liberia OOSCI, Full report in English

Pakistan OOSCI, Full report in English

Romania OOSCI, Executive Summary in English; Full report in English

Sri Lanka OOSCI, Executive Summary in English; Full report in English

Tajikistan OOSCI, Full report in English, Russian



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