Forty-six million children out-of-school in South and East Asia
More children are attending school than ever before in the countries of South and East Asia, but vast numbers of them drop out before the end of the primary cycle and the region still accounts for the world’s largest share of out-of-school children, according to a new report published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics*.
The South and East Asia Regional Report presents the latest education data for the region**, ranging from the Philippines in the East to Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the West, and including five of the world’s most populated nations.
The Report shows that an estimated 46 million children are out-of-school in the region, 32 million of them in the countries of South and West Asia. Nonetheless, enrolments for boys and girls rose substantially in most countries over the decade from 1990 to 2000. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Bangladesh net primary enrolment ratios for boys and girls rose between 15 and 20 percentage points.
But enrolments are only part of the picture. The Report also reveals that only half of the children who enter primary school in India, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar, will reach grade five. Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh follow closely behind, with between 35 and 38 percent of children dropping out before the end of the primary cycle.
This trend is confirmed in the data for secondary education which shows that “even though many children are enrolled in primary education, very few will have a chance to enrol in lower secondary education.” According to the Report an estimated 233 million pupils of all ages are enrolled in both lower and upper secondary education with girls making up some 43 percent of the total enrolment at this level.
The Report shows there are some 33 million students in tertiary education throughout the region. China alone accounts for 12 million of them, which is more than all of the countries of South and West Asia combined (11.3m). Some 61 percent of tertiary students are men, states the Report, and in the five countries that provided data on fields of study - Brunei Darussalam, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao PDR, Macao (China) and Viet Nam - most students graduated from Social Science, Business and Law programmes.
The Report estimates there are about 13 million primary teachers throughout the region, nine million of whom are in East Asia. This means that, on average, there is about one teacher for every 21 pupils in primary school in East Asia, compared to one for every 40 in South and West Asia. Bangladesh has the highest ratio with 57 pupils for every teacher. In order to decrease the numbers of children out-of-school, states the Report, countries in South and West Asia will need to recruit a very large number of qualified teachers.
Across the region, the Report shows that 50 percent of primary teachers are women, although the figures varies greatly from country to country. In Nepal, for example, the Report states that only one in four primary school teachers is female, whereas in Macao (China) almost nine out of every ten primary teachers are female. These figures are important, says the Report, because “the presence of female teachers especially at pre-primary and primary levels is often an incentive for parents to send their girls to school.”
The adult literacy rate (persons 15 years and older) is now estimated to be about 86 percent in East Asia. This means that there are about 180 million illiterates, of whom 72 percent are women. In South and West Asia, the adult literacy rate is now 55 percent. About 412 million adults are illiterate in this sub-region, of whom 61 percent are women.
Of all the countries in South and East Asia, Malaysia devotes the highest percentage of its GDP to education (6.2 percent), and Myanmar the lowest (1.4 percent).
* The South and East Asia Regional Report is available online at: www.uis.unesco.org
**East Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Macao (China), Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam
**South and West Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka