United Nations: India has made "impressive" progress in providing primary education to its children but it is still struggling to achieve similar results in lower secondary education and has the largest number of out-of- school adolescents, a UN study said today.
According to the study by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFR GMR), 124 million children and adolescents are now out of school while international aid to education continues to remain below 2010 levels.
"India has made impressive progress in the provision of primary education but is struggling to do the same for lower secondary education," the report said.
In 2011, the latest year with data, more than 16 million young adolescents of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school in India. In addition, Bangladesh, Mexico, Indonesia, Niger, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic each had more than 1 million out-of-school adolescents.
The report noted that India is providing financial resources to help children with disabilities attend mainstream schools and adapt school infrastructure. In addition, teachers are being trained on inclusive education, with resource centres established to support clusters of schools.
India, which has the largest number of out-of-school adolescents, has seen a reorientation of external support from basic to secondary education between 2012 and 2013: aid to basic education in India fell from USD 100 million to USD 27 million and aid to secondary education rose from USD 21 million to USD 232 million between 2012 and 2013.
According to the latest UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, there were more than 0.5 million out-of-school children of primary school age in at least 19 countries.
At least one million children were denied the right to education in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.
India had 1.7 million out of school children of primary school age in 2012.
The latest numbers show that some 24 million children will never enter a classroom with girls remaining the most disadvantaged cohort figuring in the study.
In South and West Asia alone, 80 per cent of out-of-school girls are unlikely to start school compared to just 16 per cent for their male counterparts.
UNESCO's Director General Irina Bokova pointed to warnings that unless countries "make serious commitments" towards increasing education aid, the ambitious targets made by the international community promising 12 years of free and equitable access to quality education "could remain elusive for millions of children and youth."
Despite a six per cent increase in aid to education, investment levels are four per cent lower today than in 2010 and risk stagnating for the next few years.
"Aid needs to be shooting upwards, not creeping up by a few percentage points," declared Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA GMR.
Estimates suggest that it will cost an extra USD 39 billion to provide the 12 years of education to everyone in low and lower-middle income countries.