Without more investment, Asia-Pacific’s out-of-school populations will remain at a standstill

Without more investment, Asia-Pacific’s out-of-school populations will remain at a standstill

A new factsheet from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) highlights the fact that despite decades spent trying to get every child into the classroom, millions of children, adolescents and youth still have little hope of receiving an education in Asia-Pacific.

High out-of-school numbers remain in Asia-Pacific

The new factsheet, “One in Five Children, Adolescents and Youth is Out of School”, shows that Southern Asia is second to Sub-Saharan Africa as the region with the highest out-of-school numbers in the world across all age groups. In 2016, 22% of children, adolescents and youth of primary and secondary school age (about 6 to 17 years old), a total of 95.8 million people, were out of school in the region. Eastern and South-Eastern Asia had the third highest number of out-of-school children, adolescents and youth in the world in 2016, with 31 million.

In Asia-Pacific, out-of-school rates and numbers increase as the ages of the groups studied increase. For instance, 10.3 million, or 5.6% of children of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years old), were out of school in Southern Asia in 2016. During that same year, 18.2 million, or 17.2% of adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years old), and 67.3 million, or 48.4% of youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years old), in the sub-region were not in school.

Gender inequalities in out-of-school rates persist in Asia-Pacific

Gender parity, measured by the adjusted gender parity index (GPIA)[1] of the out-of-school rates, shows that primary school-age girls face a disadvantage in many parts of Asia-Pacific. In 2016, for every 100 out-of-school boys of primary school age, 127 girls were denied the right to education in Central Asia. This is the widest gender disparity in the world.

In contrast, male adolescents and youth of secondary school age are more likely to be out of school in some parts of Asia-Pacific. The largest disparities worldwide among upper secondary school age youth were observed in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, with a GPIA of 0.66, meaning that boys of upper secondary school-age have a higher probability of being out of school.

More investment is needed to reach out those who are denied an education

The data in the UIS factsheet reinforce calls for far greater investment in education to ensure that every girl and boy completes quality primary and secondary education by 2030. This requires comprehensive approaches to reach those who are denied an education because of who and where they are, and to ensure that they learn what they need to know once they are in the classroom.

Such approaches are built on a foundation of good data. The UIS is developing new indicators for those of upper-secondary age who are the most likely to be out of school, and so often join the ranks of those who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). The UIS is exploring the insights that disaggregated data on NEETs could provide on, for example, youth levels of educational attainment, basic skills acquisition and preparation to enter the labour market.  

Investments must be made for more resources for data gathering and analysis to monitor the pace and equity of the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4.



UNESCO Bangkok’s Assessment, Information System, Monitoring and Statistics (AIMS) Unit is the Asia-Pacific regional office of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). For more information about the UIS, consult the following resources:

Should you have any inquires, kindly contact us at aims.bgk[at]unesco.org

Photo: Shutterstock/ By Jimmy Tran

[1] The adjusted gender parity index (GPIA) compares females and males. GPIA of one means parity between females and males. A value less than one represents disparity in favour of males. A value greater than one represents disparity in favour of females for GPIA.

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