global generation 10: 115+ million children out of school

Okay, here we go, back to discussing global education for children.

I just got my hands on The UNESCO “children out of school” global research study (it is a study focused on The UN Education for all Campaign and Millennium Development Goals in which, worldwide, it attempts to ensure that no child is excluded from receiving a primary education).

Official title: The study from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in Montreal – Children Out of School: Measuring Exclusion from Primary Education.

This study is amazing.

Particularly if you care about what kids are, or are not, learning globally.

And particularly if I needed a specific tangible objective for project global generation children’s education initiative.

Let me state some things (before I go into one of my diatribes).

Globally, 28% of all children at official school entry age are not in school (that translate into almost 18% of ALL global children are not in school).


Think about it. That’s almost one in 5 of all children. Just less than 30% of all kids who should be getting an education.

This is the kind of stuff that really gets me going.

This is the kind of information that makes me believe a web based children’s education initiative is THE way to future education success.

And while one in 5 is scary … I believe the numbers are understated (in terms of the issue).

UNESCO did an excellent job of isolating kids in school versus kids not in school (and normalizing the numbers from country to country).

But there are a couple of things which makes these numbers scary.

They did not measure dropout (and this is a MAJOR issue when discussing a lot of global rural communities).

They did not measure quality of education (that’s another discussion for another day).

And the numbers (issue) is certainly skewed toward emerging countries … and we in the industrialized countries certainly understand what issues reside in the education system we have today (and the numbers don’t isolate that issue).

The historical data shows a decline in the number of children out of school. But they also indicate that the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015 is most likely out of reach.

And I am going to show some numbers that may make it appear like we are being successful in creating a global education base (the graph plots trend data on the number of children out of school calculated by UNESCO for the period 1999-2005 and by UNICEF for the period 2002-2006 and the 2002 estimate in the latter trend line is based on joint work by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics):

But we need to look beyond ‘the numbers.’

The truth is a little more disturbing.

If we assume that the reduction in the number of children out of school continues at the same average rate as over the past years (which is a big assumption because trends tend to flatten over time) more than 30 to 40 million children will still be out of school by 2015. We will certainly have failed in our effort to secure primary education for all children.

In addition.

The study reflects, as they isolated issues, that children who do NOT enter education at the appropriate entry age are significantly more likely to drop out (stop) education.


Let’s stick with the issue as of today.

The study states that there are almost 115 million (out of a possible 650 million) children who are not gaining an education.

Unacceptable my friend … unacceptable.

So lets move on to seeking solutions and where to start by sharing some thoughts concluded from the study:

–          Mothers matter (more than dads). The presence of a mother in household increases likelihood of education .. as well as NOT likelihood of education. If a mother has no education a child is significantly less likely to go to school. In fact 2 times more likely to be out of school.

–          Poverty matters. 84% of out of school children in Latin America come from the poorest 60% of hhlds.

–          Religion has no (statistical) significance.  For all we pontificate about the suppression within some religions from a statistical significant it ain’t a dot on the map compared to other factors.

–          Gender is also not significant (we just need more kids being educated … not girls or boys).

–          In terms of sheer numbers India leads the pack representing almost 23% of the total

–          In 14 African countries 50% or more are not attending school (which is scary because this country represents a significant growth population in the global economy).


Those are some facts.

Some thoughts (because I still do believe in a global web based kid’s education initiative).

Let’s go to the big one.

Year one is important.  REALLY important.

If you don’t start a kid at the right time … well … the odds of them getting the knowledge you desire decrease significantly.

You have to get them started.

In my eyes that is all about engaging their innate curiosity (that isn’t a research thing that is a Bruce thing).

I tend to believe part of the value of getting into the game early is that it sparks the natural/inherent internal engine inside each child.

Funding & getting kids in the game


Let’s take a minute on “getting in the game.”

The Guardian just had a nice commentary on why poverty matters and financing/funding for The UN Education for all Campaign and Millennium Development Goals.


Just in case you don’t know … this is the specific Millennium Development Goal (number 1 is directed toward Poverty and there are 8 goals in total).

–          Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education targets

Target 2a: Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

– Net enrolment ratio in primary education

– Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach last grade of primary

– Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds, women and men

Will we reach the Millennium universal primary education goal by 2015?

No way. Not with the numbers I showed earlier. It will be a combination of children not even having the opportunity combined with the drop out rate.

The only way we can attain the goals (and all of the above, not some, are imperative to meet) without some innovative financing and thinking.

Here is the Guardian article on the funding challenge:

The MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) promised education for all, but to avoid failing the world’s most disadvantaged children, we need a global fund.


Unfortunately money does matter (even where this is good intent).

Do I agree with a global fund? You bet.

Do I believe it should be private investment driven rather than UN driven? You bet.

Why? Well … as I outlined in my Global Generation funding aspect … I believe someone with a truly philanthropic perspective (a betterment globally for all) is the only one who will have the kahones & fortitude to forge what needs to happen … across all geographic boundaries.

But funding of what (because just having the dollars is not enough if the idea is flawed)? This is where some innovative thinking should be kicking in. And there needs to be some innovative thinking because to truly have a global education initiative it needs to accommodate a couple of things:

–          This Poverty issue (or what can someone afford). Why? Because poverty is a root cause of students dropping out of school. For example .. the Cambodia SES Survey found the literacy rate in rural Cambodian areas was a mere 64%. In the area around Kravanh, one of the remote SC locations, poverty is widespread. Making matters worse, many students live so far away from larger villages that they are unable to get to a traditional school. And with the poverty, their families can’t afford the school supplies, supplementary class expense or transportation to help their children continue in school.

(I mention that because a web based education system resolves lack of urbanization and supplementary class expense)

–          Lack of urbanization. While emerging countries are urbanizing the fact it globally we are dependent upon a thriving rural community. Dependent not only from an economic point of view but also from a sustainable point of view. and if you combine a lack of affordable transportation infrastructure we need to find a viable non-brick & mortar education infrastructure to provide the access.

Of course I have a point of view on the innovations in the education infrastructure.

Global access (and the web)


Let me attach another factoid (because I mentioned Africa earlier and that continent is an important segment of the global challenge).

Africa has over 600 million mobile phone subscribers.

This more than USA or Europe (I didn’t make that fact up).

Yes.  More than USA or Europe (surprising isn’t it as we walk up & down our streets and seemingly everyone has a mobile phone).

I state that to make the point there is an education opportunity here beyond the tried & true brick & mortar school system.

And while we in the industrialized world may not get it, or understand it, there is an entire world out there existing off a mobile technology platform (for more than texting, calling & sending pictures).

So often we focus on what is right in front of us rather than seeing the big picture. The big picture isn’t face to face.  The big picture is mobile technology.  “Cloud” education and collaboration.

This probably sounds wacky to many of my readers but you need to take yourself out of your own situation and see yourself in a different place in a different environment.

Mobile technology is going to drive the emerging economy and world.

Think about this.

Today Africa emerging countries) only represent 2.5% of total global economy.

And while having 600 million mobile phones only 10 percent of the geography is mobile enabled.


And while it may be easy to think they don’t have the leadership to allow it to happen this portion of the world is encountering a higher level of peace & stable government (whether we like it or not) then ever before.

If you examine generational trends you would see that the emerging countries (let’s just say Africa) or on the cusp of their own industrial revolution … with an internet engine which past industrial revolutions have never had before).

Ok, my friends, we will never see something like this ever again.

This is like having etch-a-sketch minds … millions of brilliant innovative intelligent minds … with NO preconceived notions (a blank etch-a-sketch) creating new ideas.

I hate to tell everyone here (in the good ole USA and any industrialized countries) but they are gonna think of shit we have never thought of ever before (and it will be good shit … things we can all benefit from).


Beyond Africa specifically … we are talking about 115 million untapped minds.

This is about potential and “what could be” (ok. what will be).

I am not going to go through all the characteristics to showcase how all the emerging economics are simply in the neophyte stage of “what has already been” because if you don’t just believe it inherently than all the facts I may show you won’t convince you.


The point of all this is:

–          There is a global education issue.

–          There is a global education opportunity

–          There is a need to look at education in a non traditional way to maximize the opportunity.

In the end, Bruce opinions aside, there are 115 million kids not getting an education. For chuckles add another 84 million who drop out, for a variety of reasons, and say we have 199 million kids who are going to be uneducated adults.

What a waste of mind power.

What a frickin waste.

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Written by Bruce