Seen over the period 1980 to 2001, East Asia/Pacific has made steady progress towards the goal of universal primary education. The region appears to be on track to meet the 2015 goal of universal primary education. Most countries in the region need only to maintain their AARI over the years since 1980 to attain the target.
Yet the overall statistics hide a more complex story. Net primary enrolment in East Asia/Pacific actually fell in the 1990s (8), when the economic crisis had a real impact on enrolment rates in Indonesia, the Philippines and the countries of the Mekong subregion. There was also a fall-off in China, where primary enrolment had been almost universal in 1990 but dipped substantially in the ensuing decade.
Many less populous countries are a long way from reaching the goal. The lowest school attendance in the region is in Timor-Leste, still recovering from the trauma of its recent national birth. At independence in 2002, under two thirds of primary-school-age children attended school.
In Cambodia the NE/AR in 2001 was just 65 per cent, which means an AARI of 2.5 per cent would be required to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Other countries that require significantly greater annual rates of increase to meet the goal are Papua New Guinea (1.9 per cent), Myanmar (1.3 per cent) and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (1.2 per cent).
The other key education goal, on gender parity, has been broadly achieved in the region at primary level, thanks to an AARI for girls of 0.7 per cent from 1980 to 2001 compared with boys’ 0.3 per cent. As a result, UNICEF projects that there will be a GPI of 1.01 in 2005. Seventeen countries are on course to meet gender parity at primary level, including the most populous nations.
The countries and territories that have the hardest work ahead to meet the gender parity goal in primary education are Papua New Guinea (GPI 0.90), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (0.92), Palau (0.93) and Niue (0.94).