United Nations: India has been able to decrease its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2012, driving the progress in South Asia, but it still has 1.4 million children not attending primary school, a United Nations report said.
The biggest decrease in the number of out-of-school children was seen in South Asia, where their numbers fell by 23 million between 2000 and 2012, according to a new joint report 'Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children was produced by UNESCO and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)'.
Much of the global progress since 2000 in decreasing the number of out-of-school children has been driven by a small number of countries, with India alone decreasing its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2011.
In relative terms, 42 countries were able to more than halve their numbers of primary out-of-school children between 2000 and 2012, including Algeria, Burundi, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Iran, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia.
However, despite such impressive progress in many countries, about nine per cent of all children of primary school age worldwide eight per cent of all boys and 10 per cent of all girls were still out of school in 2012.
The majority, 31 million of the 58 million out-of-school children, were girls. India has 58.81 million girls and 63.71 million boys of primary school age. As of 2011, 1.4 million children of primary school age did not go to school in India, with 18 per cent girls out of school and 14 per cent boys.
The other countries with more than half a million out-of-school children include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan. India had 14 per cent of children in the 7-14 years age category involved in child labour.
The report said that while India has made significant improvement in primary education enrolment, the figures for children with disabilities are staggering.
Out of 2. 9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged 6 to 14 years (34 per cent) are out of school.
The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48 per cent), speech impairments (36 per cent) and multiple disabilities (59 per cent).
"India has made tremendous efforts to make its education system more inclusive. Under the Right to Education Act, all children have the right to go to school...To accommodate a greater number of children with disabilities, further progress is needed," it said.
The report credited initiatives such as abolition of school fees, cash transfer programmes and school feeding programmes in ensuring more children attend and stay in school.
The largest school feeding was implemented in India with 120 million school children benefiting by 2006 and has been credited with a significant positive effect on both school enrolment and attendance rates.
The report further said that one in five adolescents worldwide is not in school, which means that some 63 million young people between the ages of 12 and 15 are denied their right to an education, mainly because they are marginalized and poor, the joint UN agency report said as pressure mounts to include universal secondary education in the post-2015 global development agenda.
"This report serves as wake-up call to mobilize the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said.
The data found that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases.
One in ten children of primary school age is out of school compared to one in five adolescents.
The study also found that in total, 121 million children and adolescents have either never started school or dropped out despite the international community?s promise to achieve Education for All by 2015.
The report added that "business as usual" has not worked and there has been almost no progress in reducing the number of adolescents out of school since 2007.
Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination are most affected.
And without major shifts in policies and resources, previous education gains may erode.
"If current trends continue, 25 million children 15 million girls and 10 million boys are likely to never set foot inside a classroom," it said.
For a concrete policy shift, the study calls on governments to provide robust information on marginalised children.