International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 2000
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Goal: Enrol all children in primary school by 2015

In developing countries 1 child in 3 does not complete 5 years of schooling

Providing universal prim airy education remains a great challenge—and a great opportunity. Success will give millions more the skills to rise out of poverty. But failure will fuel an educational—and social—crisis in the decade ahead.

Rising enrolment-—but too many children out of school

Net primary enrolment rate (%)

Enrolment rates are up in most regions, but the quality of education has been suffering—and far too many children remain out of school. To increase enrolments and provide better education, school systems have to invest in training teachers and improving facilities. They also have to increase family and community participation—and eliminate gender bias that limits the demand for girls’ education.

“I want to learn to read and write, get good work, so that I can send my children to a good school, so that they will be able to get good work.

Education reform in Malawi

In 1994 Malawi made primary education its top priority—addressing poor access and inequality, high repetition and dropout rates and poor infrastructure in its school system. More government money for schools and the elimination of fees boosted enrolments by 50% and focused Malawi’s education system on helping the poor. In 1994-95 the poorest fifth of the population received 16% of all public education spending, up from 10% in 1990-91, while the share going to the richest fifth declined from 38% to 25%.

In most countries, disparities in enrolment rates continue between rich and poor. For some countries, primary education is practically universal—for others, attainment is dismal. Low retention rates reflect poor schools, poor access and the cost to the poor of keeping their children in school.

113 million children out of school

Primary school age children (millions), 1998

Can we meet the need?

Change in primary school age population (millions), 2000–15

Because of declining birth rates, the world’s school-age population will increase by only 9 million in the next 15 years. But there are large regional differences. As a result of reduced fertility rates in East Asia, the school-age population there will decline by 22 million. But in Sub-Saharan Africa it will rise by 34 million. Added to the 46 million not in school in 1998, that means building schools, training teachers and providing textbooks for an extra 80 million children in the next 15 years. South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa also face significant challenges.

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