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Access to Education

In recent decades we have seen dramatic increases the number of children enrolling in primary school across the developing world.  We are working closely with our partners to do all we can to ensure that this progress is sustained and that education for all becomes a reality.  

Children look through a window in a school

61 million children still out of school

According to the 2012 Global Monitoring Report, the number of children who are out of primary school has fallen from 108 million in 1999 to 61million today. The percentage of girls in school has also dramatically increased.

South Asia and Northern Africa have seen the biggest improvement, with increases of around 20%, while sub-Saharan Africa has shown an improvement of 7%.

The challenge of achieving primary education for all by 2015

However, the Report also shows that there is a danger the goal of primary education for all by 2015 will not be achieved.

Primary net enrolment ratios for low-income countries in 2010 averaged at just 80%, and only 3 out of 40 countries with adult literacy below 90% in 1998 will halve illiteracy rates by 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30 million children are still out of school.

The Global Monitoring Report has estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa alone there are more than 28 million children out of school.

Poverty is a key obstacle to education

High levels of poverty limit households’ ability to cope with the costs of schooling. Children living in slums, remote rural areas or conflict-affected zones are typically among those most likely to experience difficultly in accessing education.

While many countries have abolished school fees, there are still costs associated with going to school that prevent the poorest families from sending their children to school. These include the cost of text books and transport to and from school.

Poor families are also more likely to keep children out of school to do farm work or work outside the home to earn extra cash.

Our response

We are committed to supporting and strengthening the capacity of Ministries of Education to deliver education services and achieving universal primary education.

We do this in our partner countries and through our support for global initiatives. Our partnerships with civil society organisations help ensure that parents and communities have a say in the education of their children.

Support for delivery of education plans in our partner countries

We work closely with Ministries of Education in four of our partner countries; Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Uganda. In the last decade, we have seen the enrolment in these partner countries improve.

For example, the number of ‘out of school’ children in Mozambique has jumped from a massive 1.6 million in 1999 to just under half a million today. Zambia too is very close to achieving universal primary education.

On a rotational basis with other donors, we co-ordinate all donors’ dialogue with Ministries of Education in those countries to ensure a coherent and joined up way of working with partner countries.

Our global support for education in over 50 countries

We work closely in partnership with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which supports governments to implement national education plans designed to reduce the number of out of schoolchildren and improve quality.

The Global Partnership has a strong focus on getting more girls into school. Countries that received support from the Global Partnership are now getting more children, especially more girls, into primary school. 

Many of these children live in countries emerging from conflict or natural disasters where the capacity of government institutions has been weakened.

Ireland contributed €4 million towards the work of the GPE in 2102. As a member of the Board of Directors of the GPE, we have been able to use our voice to ensure that countries with large out-of-school populations are prioritised for financial support from the Partnership.

Our partnership with civil society organisations

We provide assistance to our non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners such  as Concern and Plan Ireland who play a key role in mobilising participation and involvement in decision making by parents and communities as well as  improving  access to education for disabled children, for girls and for children living in fragile states.   

Monitoring   global commitments to education

Finally, as part of Ireland’s commitment to results and accountability, we provide support to UNESCO for the production of the Global Monitoring Report, which helps track progress on education. This widely-used annual publication also serves to put pressure on all stakeholders to maintain their focus on and commitments to education.

Read the Global Monitoring Report 2012

Download UNESCO’s latest Global Monitoring Report 2012 for details on how the education for all is being progressed by the international community.