|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Launch of ‘Global Education Digest 2011’
As the role of secondary education in reducing poverty, spurring economic growth, increasing wages and fostering healthy behaviour gained traction, secondary-school enrolment was rising from Algeria to Zambia, according to a publication released at Headquarters today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
As many as 600 million students had been enrolled around the world in 2009, 80 million more than in 2000, according to the agency’s Global Education Digest 2011, published under the theme“secondary education: the next great challenge”. Driving that increase were concerted steps to expand access to secondary education in heavily populated countries of East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia, as well as success in implementing the second Millennium Development Goal, on graduating children from primary school, notably in sub-Saharan African and South and West Asia.
“As more countries near universal primary education,” said Albert Motivans, Head of Education Indicators and Data Analysis at UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, “this new report sets out how secondary education should be recognized as a key element of the post-2105 development agenda, especially because it raises issues which are important not only for developing countries, but for more developed countries as well.”
The 308-page report provides a detailed breakdown, by country and gender, of primary and secondary school enrolment, completion rates, access to education and expenditures on public education. It also contains disaggregated data on primary and secondary school teachers, and on technical education and training. According to the report, sub-Saharan Africa made the greatest gains of all regions, with gross enrolment ratios rising from 28 per cent to 43 per cent for lower secondary education and from 20 per cent to 27 per cent for upper secondary education — grades 10 through 12 — between 1999 and 2009. Girls’ enrolment was also improving — up from 69 per cent to 79 per cent in lower secondary school and from 43 per cent to 55 per cent in upper secondary school over the same period.
However, the report notes that full commitment to secondary school education remained a challenge in many places. One third of children worldwide lived in countries where lower secondary education — grades seven through nine - was compulsory but not enforced. Children in some 20 countries who reached the final grade of primary school, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, had at best a 75 per cent chance of making the transition to secondary school.
Also speaking today, Reda Abou Serie, First Deputy to Egypt’s Minister for Education, emphasized the importance of upper secondary education for acquiring job skills and preparing students for higher education. Although not compulsory in Egypt, there was huge demand for it among both boys and girls, he said, stressing also the value of the report’s comparative data and policy implications.
Asked to cite the countries showing the most surprising trends, Mr. Motivans pointed to spiking secondary school participation by both boys and girls in Cambodia, as well as Tunisia, in the run-up to the latter’s revolution.
Questioned as to whether the report’s data reflected a decline in the percentage of students graduating from secondary schools in the United States, he said it did not capture that data specifically, but such a decline would not be surprising.
Regarding the increase in the number of teachers, and trends towards gender parity among educators, he said a chart in the report showed the distribution of teachers by region and level. More women than men were teachers in developed countries, while the reverse was true in less developed ones, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where an increase in the number of secondary teachers was noted.
Concerning upper secondary education trends in the Baltic States, he cited the vast expansion of all types of education in the early 1990s. More recently, education programmes were geared to prepare students for service jobs in banking and insurance, which had replaced the industrial workforce. There was also much pressure to seek jobs overseas, due to a lack of domestic labour-market opportunities, he added.
Asked about data on the quality of secondary school education, he said the evidence base was not strong in that area. The study “Trends in International Mathematics and Science”, conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, and the “Programme for International Student Assessment” survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assessed student achievement at the secondary level. They revealed that the overall quality of education was better in high-income countries than in middle-income or low-income ones, he said, adding, however, that stronger national analysis was needed in that regard.
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