Significant progress in achieving universal primary education has been made over the past decade, as the global number of out-of school children (OOSC) dropped by 45%, from 106 million. However, much of those gains were achieved between 1999 and 2004, and progress in reducing OOSC has stagnated in recent years (GMR 2015). Despite coordinated, global efforts to accelerate enrollment, OOSC remain a pervasive global problem. Over 57 million children of primary school age were expected to never enroll in school, start school late, or had already dropped out in 2010 (UIS 2014). Nearly half of these children were expected never to enroll in school, while the rest either had already dropped out or expected to enroll late.
R4D contributes to the global push for universal basic education by applying economic analysis to the out-of-school challenge. To date, we have done this principally by estimating the economic, social and health losses associated with out-of-school children in different settings, and projecting the cost of reaching enrollment targets.
Our analyses underscore the urgency of mobilizing resources to achieve universal enrollment worldwide. For example, in Exclusion from Education, we used two statistical methods to estimate the economic loss associated with out-of-school children in 20 countries and found that in countries with the highest burden of out-of-school children, the loss is equivalent to over a year of average GDP growth.
In Financing Needs for Out-of-School Children (R4D’s chapter in UNESCO/UNICEF’s global report on out-of-school children), we present a model that provides policymakers with a picture of the cost implications of addressing out-of-school children. Most recently, in The Economic Cost of Out-of-School Children in Southeast Asia, we estimate the economic cost associated with out-of-school children in seven Southeast Asian countries.
Through our Center for Education Innovations (CEI), we also spotlight over 100 programs that are strengthening school systems to address out-of-school children, including the most marginalized and hardest to reach. For example, the joint CEI-UNICEF report Journeys to Scale offers a case study on Can’t Wait to Learn, a program that addresses the lack of access to quality education for Sudanese out-of-school seven- to nine-year-olds through the provision of open-source math learning based on Ministry of Education curricula.