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Primary School Completion Rate Hits 88%

September 24, 2010

  • Developing countries saw a huge expansion in schooling over the last decade, but millions of children are still out of school.
  • World Bank to provide an additional $750 million in financing for basic education in countries off-track to meet Millennium Development Goal 2 by 2015.
  • Financing will help countries hire qualified teachers, provide teacher bonuses and student scholarships, and offer cash transfers to bring girls into school.

September 24, 2010—Developing countries saw one of the biggest schooling expansions in
history in the last decade, with an estimated 89 million more children enrolling in school in Africa and South Asia alone. The global share of children enrolling in and completing primary school has risen from 82% in 2000 to more than 88% today.

But some 69 million children—typically from poor, rural or socially excluded families—still aren’t getting even a primary school education. Almost half of out-of-school children—31 million—are in sub-Saharan Africa. More than a quarter, about 18 million, are in South Asia.

As the 2015 deadline nears for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education, the World Bank is stepping up assistance to those countries most off-track to reach the goals.

World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick announced on September 13, 2010, that the Bank would provide an additional $750 million in grants and zero-interest loans for basic education in countries lagging in MDG achievement, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier this week, Elizabeth King, Director of Education for the World Bank, explained that the additional financing “will help address some of the biggest obstacles to education in poor countries, including hiring more qualified teachers, bonuses for high-performing teachers and schools, scholarships, early childhood development and nutrition programs, and cash transfers to families which depend on sending their girls to school.”

Bringing Girls, Disabled Children Into School

Girls and the disabled are more likely to be out of school than other children, according to the UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2010. For girls, such exclusion increases the chance of teen pregnancy, jeopardizing their health and diminishing opportunities for social and economic advancement, adds the report.

The Bank, as developing countries’ largest external education financier, has backed efforts, such as conditional cash transfer programs, to encourage families to send their children to school. A CCT program in Malawi reduced the drop-out rate among adolescent girls by 40% and helped to protect them from HIV.

An increasing number of countries are using the World Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response Program and Crisis Response Window to fund school feeding programs for vulnerable children. Such programs have not only fed children but improved their ability to learn and increased enrollment rates. Their success has several countries planning national school feeding programs.

The Bank has steadily increased funding for education since 1990, when it signed the Education for All declaration. Since 2000, it has committed nearly $24 billion to support education, including more than $12 billion for countries that receive assistance from the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.

In the wake of the global economic crisis, the Bank increased support to an all-time high, surpassing $5 billion in 2010.

Learning for All

Achieving quality learning will hinge on the capacity of systems to deliver an education that prepares young people for work and life, and is aligned with the needs of the modern labor market.

The Bank is preparing a new education strategy to strengthen education systems, improve student learning and education quality, and coordinate with other education donors to make best use of global knowledge and funding.

“To get all children into school, people need to be convinced that going to school, and staying in school and achieving some number of years of schooling, is going to help them in their livelihood and in being productive and able to provide for themselves and their families over the long term,” says King.

“Even in advanced countries with trained teachers and well-funded schools, you don’t necessarily achieve the learning goals you want. That’s the kind of investment and attention we really need to focus on. Countries have managed a big increase in their enrollment rates. The learning side is a lot harder to achieve.”

Education by the Numbers

  • 50—the number of countries that have achieved universal primary education.
  • 69 million – the number of children out of school, down from 106 million a decade ago
  • 76% – the percentage of African children in primary school, up from 58% a decade ago
  • 3 million – the number of teachers trained over 10 years, with support from International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries
  • 300 million—the number of text books purchased and/or distributed over 10 years
  • Three-quarters – the fraction of countries on track to meet the education MDG in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.
  • 96 – the number of girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school in developing countries