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Economic Status Impacts Educational Access, Achievement

The economic status of the world’s youth is a principle indicator of educational access and achievement, with the out-of-school percentage among the world’s poorest youth being more than four times that of the richest.

This was a key finding in a U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released Sept. 19.

Only 5.2 percent of the youth in the richest quintile are not enrolled in a primary school program (which roughly corresponds to elementary school in the U.S.), compared to 23.4 percent of the youth in the poorest quintile.

At the secondary school levels, the out-of-school rate among the richest youth is 6.7 percent for lower secondary (roughly corresponding to middle school in the U.S.) and 16.2 percent at upper secondary (roughly corresponding to high school in the U.S.) compared to 28.2 percent and 50.4 percent, respectively, among the world’s poorest youth.

A majority of the estimated 1.3 billion adolescents (aged 10 to 19) currently live in low- and lower-middle income nations.

Differences in education access and attendance based on gender are most notable when looking at nations rather than looking at global data.

“Although the gender gaps in attendance may appear small at the global level, in some countries, especially those dealing with emergencies, adolescent girls are much less likely to attend lower secondary schools,” the report explained. “For example, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries with conflict.”

A significant disparity exists in attendance and completion rates between nations that are impacted by emergencies and natural disasters and those that are not.

In countries facing crises, 82 percent of adolescents enroll in, and 58 percent graduate from, a primary education program. By comparison, 95 percent enroll in countries not facing crises and 85 percent complete primary school.

The trend continues at the secondary education level, with 54 percent of youths in crisis-impacted nations beginning a secondary education program and 29 percent completing it, compared to 80 percent and 55 percent, respectively, among youths in nations not impacted by an emergency or natural disaster.

“When it comes to out-of-school children at the primary level, more than half of out-of-school children live in emergency countries,” the report said.

Of the top 10 nations in terms of total numbers of out-of-school youths at the secondary level, only one, Guinea, is classified as a “non-emergency” country.

The full report is available here.