Worldwide, 264 million children and youths between the ages of 6-17 years have no access to education.  Even for those children who go to school, completion rates remain low:

From 2010-2015, only 83 percent of primary school children (ages 6-11 years) completed their school year, while the completion rate for middle schoolers (12-14 years) hovered at 69% and that for secondary schoolers (15-17 years) at a mere 45%.  Such are the findings in the 2017/18 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report “Accountability in Education”. The report goes on to outline which global actors bear the responsibility for a sound education system.  Its authors call on governments worldwide to enforce the right to education. 

Far From Equal Opportunities

The foundations for a successful education are laid in early childhood.  Yet, so far only 17 countries worldwide provide a year of free and compulsory early childhood education.  Studies in developing and emerging countries have shown that, for the years from 2010-2015, a 3-to-4-year-old child’s chances of going to an early childhood education center were five times higher if the parents were among the wealthiest rather than the poorest.  Only 66 percent of countries worldwide have achieved gender parity in primary education. The percentage is even lower when it comes to secondary education:  Gender parity in lower secondary education was only achieved in 45% of countries worldwide, and in 25% of all countries for upper secondary education. 

US$39 Billion Finance Gap for Education Worldwide

Every year, the finance gap for providing a quality, equal-opportunity education amounts to around US$39 billion worldwide.  On average, countries spend 4.7% of their gross domestic product, or 14.1% of their total public expenditure on public education.  The percentage of total aid spent on education fell for six years in a row, from 10% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2015. The authors of the GEM Report stress that an appropriate legal framework and beneficial political strategies can only be provided where there are sufficient financial means.  


The authors of the GEM Report call on governments to:

  • Fulfil their responsibility to provide a quality education system, and to hold schools and instructors accountable in a manner that constructively fosters the quality of education without overburdening educators.
  • Develop a legal framework ensuring that education systems provide quality education that is free of discrimination.
  • Make the right to education justiciable, which is currently not the case in 45% of the world’s countries.
  • Clearly communicate the education system’s strengths and weaknesses, discussing and evaluating them together with the concerted actors.


The UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report evaluates global progress in implementing the Global Education 2030 Agenda, an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations in September 2015.  Governments around the world have pledged to reach the global Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  The agenda’s educational goal aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by the year 2030.

Click here to access the complete UNESCO GEM Report: