Latest Global Education Indicators releasedChildren everywhere are spending more time in school than ever before, but there remain substantial differences between countries and regions, according to UNESCO’s Global Education Digest 2004*. According to the Digest, a child in Finland, New Zealand or Norway can expect to receive over 17 years of education, almost twice as much as in Bangladesh or Myanmar and four times as much in Niger or Burkina Faso.
This new edition of the Digest, published by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics and available online from today, presents the latest global education indicators, one example of which is school life expectancy (SLE), or the number of school years that a child, on average, is likely to spend in the education system.
It shows that children in Europe, South America and Oceania spend the most time in education, with an average school life expectancy from primary to secondary of over 12 years. North American children follow with just over 11 years, while children in Asia can expect to spend, on average, nine years in school. In Africa, the average is 7.6 years. The lowest school life expectancy in the world of just over two years for the 2001/02 school year is in Afghanistan.
In the high performing countries, states the Digest, “more than two and a half years of an average school career is due to participation in tertiary studies.” This is the case for Argentina, Bermuda, Canada and the United States in the Americas; Israel, Macao (China) and the Republic of Korea in Asia; Finland, the Netherlands and Norway in Europe; and in Australia and New Zealand in Oceania.
“An important exception is Africa, where levels of tertiary education remain marginal even in countries with a long school life expectancy,” says the Digest. “Tunisia is the only country where school life expectancy attibutable to tertiary education exceeds one year.”
Despite the gaps between countries and regions, the figures show a marked increase in participation in primary and secondary education over the past decade all over the world. The greatest changes, according to the Digest occurred in Africa, where a number of countries showed increases in school life expectancy of two and three years, and in Uganda and Comoros, over four years. In a few countries, school life expectancy fell. “The most dramatic situation is in the Congo,” states the Digest, “ which showed the highest level of primary to secondary enrolment amongst African countries in 1990. In 2001, school life expectancy was over four years lower than it was in 1990.”
The increases in participation across the world, although to a lesser extent in Africa, are driven by longer periods of compulsory education, which in most countries, now extend to at least some secondary education.
The Digest reveals a clear link between school life expectancy and national wealth. But it also shows that low GDP need not stand in the way of progress. For example, Djibouti and Angola have similar levels of per capita income to Viet Nam, Lesotho, Uzbekistan and Bolivia. Nevertheless, in the first two countries average duration of schooling is only five years, compared to ten or more in the others.
The Digest, which presents detailed global data on pre-primary through tertiary education, teachers and finance, also looks at progress towards international education targets and national standards for compulsory education based on statistics and indicators provided by UNESCO’s Member States and complementary sources, including international household surveys and student assessment programmes.
*The Global Education Digest is available online and can be consulted at: http://www.unesco.org/education/docs/EN_GD2004_v2.pdf