Four out of every five of the world’s children aged between 10 and 15 are today enrolled in lower secondary education, which is now considered as part of compulsory education in most countries, according to UNESCO’s Global Education Digest 2005. The Digest, published by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, presents the latest global education indicators. This year’s edition also features a special chapter on trends in participation and gender parity in secondary education.
The Digest shows that secondary education is expanding rapidly worldwide, with enrolments increasing from 321 million in 1990 to 492 million in 2002/03. The fastest growth has occurred in South America which, along with Europe, now enjoys the world’s highest gross enrolment ratios at this level, at almost 100 percent. North America, East Asia and Oceania follow with enrolment ratios of over 90 percent. The figures drop sharply for West Asia, where lower secondary pupils represent 69 percent of the school-age population. It drops further still for Africa where, although enrolments at secondary level having been increasing by five percent annually since 1998, the lower secondary ratio is still only 45 percent.
At the upper secondary level, according to the Digest, the global gross enrolment ratios stand at only 51 percent. Europe is the exception, with enrolment rates exceeding 100 percent, due to young people enrolling in multiple programmes. In the Americas, 70 percent of young adults are enrolled in upper secondary courses, followed by East Asia with 48 percent and West Asia with 40 percent. The enrolment ratio is lowest in Africa, with only 29 percent of young adults in upper secondary education.
The Digest also looks at gender parity in secondary education. Reaching equal opportunity in access to education is an important component of internationa goals. The first time-bound Education for All and Millenium Development Goals require that girls and boys should have equal access to primary and secondary education by 2005.
The Global Education Digest finds that, although there are signs of progress at primary level, there is still a noticeable gap at secondary level. Overall, gender parity on entry to lower secondary education has been reached in 60 out of 133 countries reporting data. In 46 countries, most of them in Africa and Asia, girls are less likely to enter lower secondary school than boys. The opposite is true in 27 countries.
At the upper secondary level, the disparities are far more pronounced, with only 13 percent of children of the relevant school-age living in countries where gender parity has been achieved.
Despite the regional differences, the Digest concludes that the overall trend is one of strong, continuing growth at secondary level, and improving gender parity in most countries, fuelled by increasing demand and facilitated by a slow-down in world population growth.
Global Education Digest