The number of primary-school-age children not in school fell by 2 million worldwide between 2005 and 2006, according to new estimates published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).
The 72 million figure reported for 2005 and published in the EFA Global Monitoring Report has been revised upwards to 77 million, based on new population estimates released by the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) in 2007. Both sets of figures confirm a 25% decrease since 1999 in the number of out-of-school children.
From a regional perspective, South and West Asia reported the greatest progress. This was mainly due to changes in India, where the number of children out of school fell by over 12 million as participation in primary education significantly improved for girls (accounting for more than 75% of the decrease).
Sub-Saharan Africa also made important strides, with a reduction of 10 million. This was largely the result of progress reported by the Governments of Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania.
These figures are part of the latest release of UIS education data for the pre-primary to tertiary levels. The UIS Data Centre offers access to these new statistics, which encompasses more than 900 education data variables, including raw data on enrolment and teachers, as well as derived indicators to measure access to education.
In addition, historical data (or time series) since 1991 have been updated based on the latest population estimates released by the UNPD in 2007.
New population estimates result in more accurate estimates of out-of-school children
Every two years, the UNPD releases new population projections and more accurate estimates for previous years based on recent population censuses or changes in migration, mortality and fertility patterns. These population estimates are a key component in the calculation of many UIS education indicators.
Therefore, the Institute systematically revises its data according to the new estimates in order to provide the most accurate information possible and to compare trends over time.
Revised estimates for high-population countries can have a significant impact on national, regional and global calculations of the numbers of out-of-school children. Consider the example of India, where the number of children not enrolled in school rose by one million following a net migration adjustment for the total population.
Improvements in the classification of education systems
In some cases, there were also changes in the way national data were reported to the UIS. One example is Ethiopia, where basic education is defined as a single cycle of eight years rather than divided into primary and lower secondary levels, as categorized by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED97).
In the past, the dividing line between primary and lower secondary education was designated as Grade 4, with the agreement of Ethiopian national statisticians. But after further consultations in 2007, this was changed to Grade 6, when the national curriculum becomes noticeably more difficult for pupils. The change better reflects the conditions in Ethiopia and, therefore, permits more accurate comparisons to be made internationally.
The classification change was applied to new data reported in 2007 and to previous years. In particular, it translated into a large increase in the number of out-of-school children, because the indicator now covers a wider age group (7 to 12-year-olds). All of these children were previously not taken into account in international statistics because the official definition covered 7 to 10-year-olds.
It is important to stress that these revisions provide greater precision in tracking trends over time. The revised time series confirms that Ethiopia has still made significant strides in reducing the number of out-of-school children, which fell from 5.1 million in 2005 to 3.7 million in 2007.
All UIS education data are available at the Data Centre, which allows users to create their own statistical tables or to download pre-defined tables and country profiles.