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  • Writer's pictureAbdul-Qudus Oyekanmi

Education: Facts, Countries at the Bottom of the US Education Index, and Ways to Improve Access

Updated: May 22, 2021

A person studying.
(via Pixabay)

One in six adults on the planet can neither read nor write. Around 600 million women and 300 million men, 99 percent of them in developing countries, are still illiterate. Around 115 million children between the ages of six and eleven - one in five - do not go to school.

Of those who go to school, one in four drops out before completing five years of basic education - when research shows that adults with less than five to six years of education are not numbered and functionally illiterate. South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are the three regions where these problems are most severe.

Also, the quality of primary, secondary, and higher education in developing countries rarely meets the standards required by the new world economy. And, globally, we are far from developing a much-needed system of international accreditation.

Here are some interesting facts you should know about global education,

1. As of 2012, 31 million elementary school students worldwide had dropped out of school. Another 32 million repeated a class.

2. In sub-Saharan Africa, 11.07 million children drop out of school before completing primary school. In South and West Asia, that number reaches 13.54 million.

3. While girls go to school less often, boys repeat school grades or drop out more often.

4. According to UNESCO, 61 million primary school-age children did not go to school in 2015. Of these children, 47% were expected to never go to school, 26% to go to school but drop out, and the remaining 27% are expected to go to school in the future.

5. Children living in rural areas miss school twice as often as urban children. Besides, children from the richest 20% of the population are four times more likely to attend school than the poorest 20%.

6. In low-income developing countries, each additional year of education can increase a person's future income by an average of 10%.

7. Women with less education have more children during their lifetime, an average of 2.5 children, compared to women with higher education an average of 1.7 children.

8. Women with a primary school education are 13% more likely to know that condoms can reduce their risk of contracting HIV / AIDS. Education can help reduce the spread of this virus by promoting safer sexual practices.

9. 53% of the out-of-school children are girls, and 2/3 of the illiterate people are women.

10. Education empowers women to make healthy choices about their lives. For example, women with secondary education or higher in Mali have an average of 3 children, while women with no education have an average of 7.

11. The literacy rates for young people in South America and Europe are among the highest at 90-100%. However, there are areas on the African continent with less than 50% literacy among children under the age of 18

Access to quality schools is a problem that is most difficult in Africa. Nine out of ten counties with the highest proportion of children who have never attended school were in Africa in the 2000s. And today, the ten countries that ranked lowest on the Education Index of the United Nations Human Development Report are also African. While school enrollment has increased in the region in recent years, these poverty-plagued countries still face major challenges in providing access to education, keep children in school and promote learning.

Here are the 10 countries at the bottom of the United States education index:

1. Niger

This West African country of 21 million people ranks at the bottom of the United States' education index with an average school-age of just 1.5 years. The world's least educated nation (just over 15 percent of adults can read and write), only 5.2 percent of citizens have secondary education, and nearly 31 percent have dropped out of elementary school. In Niger (as well as in Guinea) the statistics for young women are even worse. In 2012, 70 percent of the poorest girls in these countries had never attended primary school. It was a serious financial struggle for those who left. School supplies and school materials made up almost 75 percent of the education expenditure of the poorest households.

2. Eritrea

Four years of schooling is all that people in a nation of 6 million in the Horn of Africa experience on average. The conflict-ridden country cannot contribute much either: Eritrea only spends 2.1 percent of its GDP on education. To make matters worse, 69 percent of elementary school students who do not drop out are unlikely to get a lot of individual attention when they have problems with the class. But Eritrea is making progress: the teacher-student ratio is 41:1 compared to a previous class size of 55.

3. Burkina Faso

This volatile West African nation of nearly 19 million people, the third-worst country on the US education index, doesn't expect students to survive eight years of school. After all, Burkinabe spends an average of fewer than 1.5 years in the classroom. Only 29 percent of adults have literacy skills, and only 2 percent of citizens have any secondary education at all (the student-to-teacher ratio is a grim 46: 1). On the plus side, thanks to government policies and support, Burkina Faso has made improvements in reducing gender gaps in education.

4. Chad

The student-to-teacher ratio in Chad is a staggering 62:1 - and 35 percent of those elementary school educators aren't even trained to teach. Perhaps not surprisingly, 49 percent of young students drop out. But the world has not turned a blind eye. The Global Partnership for Education awarded the semi-desert country an emergency grant of US $6.95 million to support schools for refugees and short- and long-term returnees from Chad.

5. Guinea

"School fees often prevent children from going to school in developing countries," said UNICEF. This may be the case in Guinea, one of only 13 low- and middle-income countries that incur fees for secondary education. The West African nation of 11.8 million people has only 38 percent of the secondary school-age population. (41 percent drop out of elementary school). Guinea's 44:1 student/teacher ratio is better than some of its neighbors.

6. Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, the land of "blood" diamonds, Ebola, and early school leavers. Despite 100 percent of primary-school-age children in the West African country enrolling in school, a heartbreaking 52.2 percent drop out. (The average number of years citizens spend in school is only 3.1). Adults are also not academic. More than 84 percent have no secondary education, and 56 percent are illiterate.

7. Mali

Proper education in Mali could be viewed as a gamble; elementary school students essentially have a 50/50 chance of their teacher being trained to teach, as only 52 percent live in the 18.2 million West African nation. And while the student-to-teacher ratio of 41:1 doesn't sound good, it's a step forward in Mali, where the expected school years total eight years. According to UNESCO, the country has more than doubled primary school enrollment while reducing the student-to-teacher ratio by about 14 students per [teacher].

8. Djibouti

Described by the World Bank as one of the poorest countries in the world, Djibouti has 828,000 citizens (it's smaller than the state of New Jersey.) In East Africa, children are only expected to spend about six years in school. A shortage of teachers and textbooks, as well as overcrowded classrooms and early school leavers, have made educational progress difficult. And while the World Bank reports that Djibouti has made significant progress in increasing school enrollment to around 60 percent of school-age children, they add that enrollment rates are lower for rural students and dropout rates are higher for girls.

9. Sudan

The conflicts and humanitarian crises in Sudan do nothing to improve education, let alone economic and gender equality. The World Bank announces that the Household Health Survey in Sudan shows that 53.4 percent of children in the poorest households do not go to school, compared to 3.6 percent in the richest households. Girls, who are often at higher risk, do not complete their formal education. The North African nation of 36 million people has its average number of years of schooling for citizens at three.

10. Ethiopia

With so few adults with literacy skills (39 percent) and secondary school students (29 percent) in this east African country of 99 million people, it may come as a surprise that the World Bank reports that school enrollment has quadrupled in the past 20 years. But here's the problem: as the poorest children go to elementary school, they also increasingly drop out at higher levels. Unfortunately, let us call it one step forward, two steps back.

Here are five ways access to education could be improved,

1. Reduce the cost of education

Several African countries have abolished their school fees. Each time the move resulted in a sharp increase in school enrollment. For example, school enrollment increased 12 percent in Ghana, 18 percent in Kenya, 23 percent in Ethiopia, and 51 percent in Malawi after the school fees were abolished.

2. School feeding programs

It has been proven that malnourished children learn poorly. However, according to the 2009 World Food Program, 66 million schoolchildren are hungry. The provision of food during school will alleviate these children's hunger during class and encourage regular school attendance. School feeding programs have shown an improvement in math grades, student concentration, and overall performance. For example, providing iron-fortified vitamin pills to children in rural China, many of whom are anemic, had an immediate positive effect on learning.

3. Educating Parents

Parents’ investment in education is critical to their child's success. However, 759 million adults are illiterate and lack the awareness necessary to improve both their living conditions and those of their children. Educating parents about the value of education will be critical to increasing and maintaining school enrollment.

4. A New Model of Education

Investing in test scores and performance is no longer a viable way to focus on education, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. A new educational model should combine traditional content with important financial, health, and administrative skills. Students should practice teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking. You should also look into entrepreneurship projects like identifying and capitalizing on market opportunities through business ideas like recycling in the community. This departure from standardized learning prepares students to have a positive impact on the social and economic well-being of their communities.

5. Improved resources for teachers

Computer-assisted learning will inevitably improve education in developing countries and improve the educational experience of teachers and students. The computers should have age-appropriate educational software and technically trained staff who know how to maintain them.

Help the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability Improve the educational standard of countries around the world. We’ll continue to research and implement methods of improving education in developing countries, encourage student enrollment, and most importantly, ensure that children stay in school and learn more while they are there.



Abdul-Qudus Oyekanmi is a Nigeria-based full-stack digital marketer and activist at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.

Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.


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